Alumna fought enemy, history in Afghanistan

Celeste Gamache (BA ’86, JD ’89) says fighting for her country, especially during two tours in Afghanistan, caused to her realize just how much she loves America and Colorado.

“I’m willing to do anything to protect them, to include giving my life,” says Gamache, a major in the U.S. Air Force, who finished her second tour there in May 2008. She’ll retire at the end of 2009.

Gamache has been in the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps — the legal arm of the U.S. Air Force  — since 1989 when she graduated from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

Her dad served in the U.S. Air Force after World War II, and Gamache says serving in the military was something she always wanted to do.

“It’s something deep inside you. I’ve always found airplanes fascinating, so the Air Force was a perfect fit.”

Even so, she admits the U.S. military’s task in Afghanistan is a tough one.

“It’s difficult because we’re not only fighting the Taliban, but history,” Gamache says. “Many Afghans look at us as just another invader, much like the Greeks, British and Soviets; but we’re doing so much good for their country by building schools, roads and hospitals, and helping establish the rule of law, among other things. Hopefully, this will win the day.”

Gamache’s official role in Afghanistan was as an attorney to advise the U.S. forces commander on the legality of fiscal and contracting issues. But she also volunteered in a group that delivered food and clothes to people in relocation camps and gave toys to kids at a local children’s hospital.

She says the view in Afghanistan was bleak, noting how sad it was to see how poor the majority of Afghans were.

“It was very disheartening to see their condition. I was just glad we could do our small part to help,” she says.

Sturm College of Law Dean Beto Juárez says Gamache “exemplifies what’s best about the graduates” of the law school. “Her service to our nation is selfless and making a critical difference in the world.”

She’s currently stationed at the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver and hopes to find a job in the Denver area.

Her advice to today’s students: “You will have disappointments in your life. Don’t keep looking back; you can’t change the past. Look forward and make tomorrow better.”

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