Cal Guard war veteran
still serves Soldiers, Airmen

Honoring our heroes during
Veterans Day 2020

Retired Sgt. Maj. Arne F. Eastlund dedicated 14 years to the California Army National Guard in various military police roles and continues assisting Cal Guardsmen in the Work For Warriors program.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Arne F. Eastlund dedicated 14 years to the California Army National Guard in various military police roles and continues assisting Cal Guardsmen in the Work For Warriors program.

by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza, reporting from Sacramento, Calif.
California National Guard Public Affairs

Nov. 11, 2020


Arne F. Eastlund doesn’t hear very well, stemming from a 2006 ambush in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

PHOTO OF 3 SOLDIERS IN BAGHDAD, IRAQ

In 2005, U.S. Army Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund, right, of the Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade shares a moment with 1st Lt. David Yenne and Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson in Baghdad, Iraq. A few months later, Eastlund and Lawson were hit by an improvised explosive device while on a convoy mission, an attack that killed Lawson. Eastlund survived despite despite suffering broken hand bones, shrapnel in his lower body and hearing loss. Eastlund continues serving Cal Guardsmen as a veteran staffing consultant in the Work for Warriors program. 

In 2005, U.S. Army Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund, right, of the Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade shares a moment with 1st Lt. David Yenne and Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson in Baghdad, Iraq. A few months later, Eastlund and Lawson were hit by an improvised explosive device while on a convoy mission, an attack that killed Lawson. Eastlund survived despite despite suffering broken hand bones, shrapnel in his lower body and hearing loss. Eastlund continues serving Cal Guardsmen as a veteran staffing consultant in the Work for Warriors program. 

Yet he listens perfectly, especially when it comes to helping California National Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

For the past two years, the retired U.S. Army sergeant major has been serving Cal Guard service members through its Work For Warriors program.

He listens to former and current troops’ needs for employment and locates openings throughout the state. He has successfully helped nearly five dozen service members find civilian jobs in his short tenure as a veteran staffing consultant.

“My post-military retirement goal was to establish employment with an organization with direct ties to the veteran community,” said Eastlund, a former military policeman. “The Work For Warriors mission is a solid one. It absolutely benefits veterans and their family members who take advantage of the program.  We make sure they are highly marketable in the civilian employment sector.”

This is the 60-year-old Eastlund’s trademark: Helping Others.

Eastlund logged twenty years of military service, including three deployments, dedicated to something other than himself. Even during the June 5, 2006, moment in Baghdad where he was inches and milliseconds from death, Eastlund was on a mission for something greater than his own cause.

It’s tough to erase that day from memory, that moment when he was driving a military humvee through a village en route to a forward operating base. Eastlund, then an E-5 sergeant, was in the third of four vehicles. With him was Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson whom Eastlund declares, “was not only my comrade, he was my friend, and he knew no foe.”

For months they bonded as Soldiers and traveled on missions together many times. 

But as the convoy coursed its way through village streets, Eastlund’s vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). Lawson succumbed to the powerful explosively formed projectile (EFP) while Eastlund received shrapnel throughout his lower body and suffered hearing loss. The blast was so powerful, it easily pierced the vehicle's armor.

Eastlund survived physically, but mentally he still bears the scars and horror.

“It was by the grace of God that I survived that attack.”
– Arne Eastlund

“It was by the grace of God that I survived that attack.  I truly believe God saved me to be there for my father who contracted cancer during my deployment,” Eastlund said. “I was able to return home after that deployment to care for him up until he passed away some 10 months later.”

Added Eastlund, “I was lucky beyond belief to have walked away.”

Sgt Eastlund photo receiving Purple Heart

U.S. Army Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund of the 49th Military Police Brigade, Cal Guard, receives the Purple Heart from Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) in August 2006, two months after Eastlund suffered injuries from an improvised explosive device that also killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson. Eastlund retired 2017 after 20 years of service, but still supports service members and their families through a Cal Guard employment program.

U.S. Army Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund of the 49th Military Police Brigade, Cal Guard, receives the Purple Heart from Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) in August 2006, two months after Eastlund suffered injuries from an improvised explosive device that also killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson. Eastlund retired 2017 after 20 years of service, but still supports service members and their families through a Cal Guard employment program.

Of the four vehicles, only Eastlund’s was targeted. It was Lawson who earlier decided two other Soldiers would ride in another humvee since their air conditioner wasn’t working, with Lawson and Eastlund being the only ones to bare the Baghdad heat. 

The convoy consisted of then-captain and now Lt. Col. Jonathan M. Shiroma, Cal Guard's public affairs director, and then-colonel and now retired Brig. Gen. Donald Currier, who commanded Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade during an Iraq return three years later. The rest of the Soldiers hailed from the Oklahoma Army National Guard and served as security detail.

Only Lawson died. Today the 49th’s headquarters in Fairfield bears his name — the Isaac S. Lawson Memorial Facility. 

“(Isaac) was a Soldier's Soldier who cared deeply about his family, his religious beliefs, his friends, his Soldiers and his role in the war on terror.”
– Arne Eastlund

“(Isaac) was a Soldier's Soldier who cared deeply about his family, his religious beliefs, his friends, his Soldiers and his role in the war on terror,” Eastlund proclaimed.

Veterans Day honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace — dead or alive — although it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices. It is on days like this when Eastlund recognizes others who have similar war scars, and he remembers his fallen friend who perished right in front of him.

PHOTO OF 2 SOLDIERS IN BAGHDAD AT HUMVEE

Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund of the Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade was nearly killed in 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. An improvised explosive device destroyed his military vehicle and killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson. Eastlund survived and has continued serving Cal Guard even as a retired war veteran.

Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund of the Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade was nearly killed in 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. An improvised explosive device destroyed his military vehicle and killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson. Eastlund survived and has continued serving Cal Guard even as a retired war veteran.

“I come from a family of patriots.  I love our country,” said Eastlund. “I am proud to be able to say that I served my country.  More importantly, I was able to do so with the support of my wife and family which made it a hell of a lot easier.”

Eastlund returned to Iraq 2009-2010 with the 49th, then deployed 2014 as first sergeant of the 670th Military Police Company in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In his 14 Cal Guard years, all were served in the military police field.

When he went back to Iraq, Eastlund found the opportunity to return to the site where his life was altered. He described that moment:

“We were headed back to the scene of the crime four years later to the day. For me, I wasn’t going back there to obtain closure. I wasn’t going back to get in touch with my feelings or to find inner peace. For me, I was going back because we were in Iraq again and this is where Isaac left us and I wanted to stand on that very same spot again. But this time, I wanted to and would stand tall and I would pay respect to Isaac while not having my bruised and bleeding butt shoved into a humvee for extrication from the scene this time.”

“I wasn’t going back to get in touch with my feelings or to find inner peace… I wanted to stand on that very same spot again. But this time, I wanted to and would stand tall and I would pay respect to Isaac.”
– Arne Eastlund

Eastlund continued, “I wanted to see what had become of this stretch of road out in the middle of nowhere. And yet, I wasn’t sure what I wanted.  I do know I wasn’t ready or anticipating what I was about to see and feel.

As we arrived on scene, I walked to a large electrical pole grounded on a mound of dirt, knelt down and dug down a bit with my (knife) and set a small cardboard-backed picture of Isaac against the pole, out of plain site. I then dug down a little further and dropped one of my Soldier coins in the void I created and pushed dirt over it.  It should remain there for quite some time. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed at the emotions that came out of nowhere during this mission. I believe it helped me with the survivor’s guilt that had manifested in me for the four years since the incident.”

When opportunity arises, Eastlund shares his story — My 18 Minutes of War — to service members, a story that recounts that Iraq moment. He shares with war veterans with whom he listens and relates.

“Thanks to some great surgeons, I still believe I can effectively respond to calls when my country is in need,” he said.

“I am not alone. There are thousands of veterans just like me that still have that burning desire to be needed, to be around his/her own kind – those that can truly relate to each other about what it means to be a veteran.”


Photo of Soldier below Victory Arch in Iraq.

Not long after this photo was taken in 2006, Sgt. Arne Eastlund nearly died from an improvised explosive device during a convoy mission. The same blast killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson.

Not long after this photo was taken in 2006, Sgt. Arne Eastlund nearly died from an improvised explosive device during a convoy mission. The same blast killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson.

SGT ARNE EASTLUND PHOTO 2005 IN BAGHDAD

In 2005 U.S. Army Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund of Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade stands  in central Baghdad, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A few months later Eastlund, now retired, nearly died from an improvised explosive device that destroyed his military vehicle and killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson. Eastlund survived and has continued serving Cal Guard even as a retired war veteran.

In 2005 U.S. Army Sgt. Arne F. Eastlund of Cal Guard’s 49th Military Police Brigade stands  in central Baghdad, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A few months later Eastlund, now retired, nearly died from an improvised explosive device that destroyed his military vehicle and killed comrade Sgt. 1st Class Isaac S. Lawson. Eastlund survived and has continued serving Cal Guard even as a retired war veteran.