HomeTop StoriesIron Range resident honored as Veteran Trailblazer

Iron Range resident honored as Veteran Trailblazer

IRON RANGE, min. — A woman from Minnesota is one of the best of the best. The Iron Range native has just been honored in DC by the First Lady.

Minnesota’s Iron Range is a cold place to live, but Shelby Setnikar says it’s also full of warmth.

“The Iron Range is my home, it’s where I grew up. It’s our culture, our music, our food, you can’t find it anywhere else,” she said.

Shelby Setnikar

CBS news

A childhood she enjoys, but she knew she wanted to leave as an adult.

“My father’s family is Slovenian and they all worked in the iron ore mines of northern Minnesota. It’s quite common for miners to want their kids to do better and go to college, at least with my generation,” Setnikar said.

She didn’t know how to get money for college, so she enlisted in the U.S. Army so that the GI Bill would eventually pay for her school.

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But she was about to receive a life lesson. It was 1990 and the Gulf War had just begun.

“They all called us together and said, ‘You’re going to bet in about a month,’ and we thought, ‘What’s that? What does this mean?’ And on Christmas Eve we did that and landed in Saudi Arabia,” said Setnikar. “There aren’t many women in the infantry division, so it was kind of scary, and I don’t think there were many women, if any, and then we moved into Kuwait and Iraq.”

She was on the front line.

“I knew I was way too close when they fired missiles from behind me and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ll never see Minnesota again,'” Setnikar said.

But seven months later, she did. She enrolled in college and continued, becoming a doctor of pharmacy. Now she works at the Minneapolis VA.

READ MORE: Vietnam War veteran reunited in Minnesota after 52 years with a box of medals and memories

“I think if you’re a veteran, there’s no better place than getting to work with veterans every day. I can empathize with them. We all have, all veterans have different stories, but there’s always something you have in common and you can talk about.” Setnikar said. “I talk to a lot of Vietnam veterans and occasionally World War II veterans, so that’s really nice. And when I tell them I was in the military, it’s like their face lights up and you just have something in common immediately, you know you do.”

“Sometimes they tell you stories and are hard to hear,” she continued. “But sometimes it’s best to take five minutes to listen and they just wanted to tell a little bit of their story. And it’s an honor. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best job I could have.”

And that job agrees with her. She has built quite a reputation in the hospital. A colleague nominated her as a trailblazing female veteran.

Out of hundreds, she was one of 21 winners.

“We were at the Library of Congress and the VA secretary was handing out awards and I was like, ‘Wow, this is bigger than I thought, this is a big deal,’ but it was such an honor. It was priceless” Setnikar said, “I was the only one from Minnesota, so you never expect something like that.”

Humble but strong, this hard-working Iron Ranger continues to serve.

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