Who is this?
I am Lana, in print Elana, and when in trouble with my mom Elana Michelle. I grew up in the suburbs next to Newark, NJ and decided after college, a little work, and then a decade of military service to move to New York City.
I fully maintain there is no shame in being a nerd.
At age 5 I watched the tragedy of the Challenger explosion unfold live on a box-style television wheeled into my classroom. When I got home from school, I told my parents I wanted to be an astronaut. I understood what I’d seen; even in kindergarten I saw risk as a necessary by-product of adventure.
I hardly wavered from that goal for the duration of childhood, focusing on astronomy and robotics and computers and math. I was good friends with – and sometimes dated – less than savory characters, but kept myself out of anything that would jeopardize my chances of heading to space. I ended up at Cornell University to study engineering, when a mentor I’d acquired at NASA realized my eyesight rivaled that of a small fruit bat with inadequate sonar. Deterred, I switched majors to Operations Research Engineering – modern-day data science – and ended up graduating after four years with both a bachelors and a masters.
I worked in civil engineering for a year, optimizing spreadsheets and rolling a ruler across blueprints to calculate linear feet of drywall. Adventure was outside, I couldn’t see a window from where I sat, so I quit my job and enlisted in the Army. My dad was thrilled.
It was 2002: we’d been in Afghanistan less than a year and Iraq was still just a rumble. I enlisted as a counterintelligence agent and human intelligence collector, and cross-listed as an interrogator.
In 2004 I was in western Afghanistan. If I think hard enough, I can still taste the air. Air support was at least 24 hours delay, and the nearest allied base several days drive on unpaved roads. I learned to drive manual on a minefield.
In 2005 I was in central Iraq, popping about Baghdad and Balad and Mosul and Taji and wherever else. Hostage rescue, special operations support, infantry support, convoys every day, all for a paycheck I calculated to somewhere below $5 an hour with no overtime. Late in the deployment I was in a Series of Unfortunate Events including a car accident and shortly thereafter a roadside bomb. Ultimately these events would provide me with multiple surgeries, lots of rehabilitation therapies, and in 2019 the amputation of my right leg.
I served in various tactical, strategic, and secret squirrelly-type units. I interrogated people who tried to kill me and investigated people who thought about killing me. I loved every minute of my job, hated many minutes of the Army, and I planned on a career until my medical issues from combat crossed the wrong radar. In 2012 I was handed my Purple Heart and my walking (ha… because of the leg thing) papers.
And now here we are. I helped create a non-profit dedicated to disaster response. I co-founded a content creation and editing company. I saw a problem in the military and veteran community and built (with quite a bit of help) an AI platform to fix it.
I have three cats, a passion for Star Trek and all things sci-fi, and unabashedly a fan of ska, punk, glam, metal, Frank Turner, and really most music. I rock climb and SCUBA dive, and love the beach and the mountains equally.
And at some point, I still want to find a way into space.