Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Panya Laona, who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan during his service.
Panya Laona grew up in Phetchabun, Thailand, and lived there until he was granted a U.S. visa in 1998. In February 2001, Laona enlisted in the Army. He completed basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before continuing on to advanced training as an artilleryman.
After finishing his training, Laona served at Camp Casey, South Korea. There, he served in the 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery as a cannoneer and gunner. In 2005, he transferred to the 2nd Battalion 82nd Field Artillery in Fort Hood, Texas. His unit deployed to Iraq in 2006, where he spent 15 months serving in Balad. In April 2008, he transferred to Germany, where he served as a platoon sergeant in the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Stryker Brigade.
In April 2010, Laona’s unit deployed to Afghanistan. While serving there, Laona helped capture six improvised explosive device makers and conducted 162 combat patrol operations. On Sept. 17, 2010, an explosive struck Laona’s vehicle. He spent three weeks recovering before release back to his unit. On Nov. 29, 2010, an explosive struck his vehicle again. While his battalion commander and battalion sergeant major suggested he return home, Laona requested to stay in Afghanistan while he recovered. He served the rest of his deployment on base in the orderly room.
In 2013, Laona deployed to Afghanistan again, where he served as forward operating base mayor.
Laona retired from the military in February 2021. At the time of his retirement, he held the rank of sergeant first class. During his time in the Army, Laona received a Bronze Star Medal and two Purple Hearts.
Laona is now a part of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, which connects Veterans who enjoy riding motorcycles.
Thank you for your service!
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Corinne Nicol
Editor: Katherine Berman, Julia Pack
Fact checker: Michael Veronda
Graphic artist: Grace Yang