I was born at Sheppard AFB (Air Force Base) in Wichita Falls, Texas shortly after my dad enlisted. We lived there six years then moved to Altus AFB, just outside of Altus, Oklahoma. We lived there for three years and it was there that I started school, attending kindergarten through second grades. We then received orders to Hahn AB, Germany where I attended third through fifth grades. I remember visiting many castles and historical sites, from the Neuschwanstein Castle (model for Cinderella's Castle at Florida's Disney World), to East Gerniany and Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie. Not many children can say they have been as traveled as can my brother and I. We've been to the top of the Eifel Tower and seen the Mona Lisa. We've been behind the bookcase in Amsterdam, and my brother and I have each spit on the Berlin Wall. We have been to the Von Trap Family Estate, and seen the talent of the world-famous Lipenzaner Stallions. SIDE NOTE: The gazebo the elder Von Trap daughter, Liesel, and Rolf ran to in the rain, is several miles away from the estate in a park in town and there is NO lake behind the stately manor.

From Germany, Dad was re-assigned to study at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB. While he studied for his Master's Degree, I completed the sixth grade. The Air Force Museum there is QUITE spectacular and comes highly recommended if your travels ever find you in the vicinity of Dayton, Ohio. Seventh grade was in Belleville, Illinois, a city about a half-hour's drive from St Louis and home of Scott AFB. The first year there, we did not live on base, but rather rented a home off base. Of seventh grade, I remember, in music class there, the school had a small television studio where we had a semester project of developing our own product then producing and directing a commercial for it, complete with engineering and editing of multiple cameras and writing the script.

I finished junior high, and my first two years of high school, in Mascoutah as by then we had moved on base in preparation for my dad's year-long, unaccompanied tour in Korea. When he came back, we were PCS' d (Permanent Change of Station) to Dover AFB in Dover, Delaware and that is where I graduated from Caesar Rodney High School in 1989. He stayed there two years until he retired in 1991, but when I graduated, I came to Iowa to attend Iowa State University, my father's Alma Mater.

After college, and the expiration of the lease on my apartment in Ames, I lived with Mom and Dad for awhile. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. I considered returning to college to earn my Masters Degree and decided to join the National Guard for financial assistance. Having spoken to a recruiter, he assured me that enlisting in the National Guard qualified me for plenty of financial benefits towards my college plans. Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in the vast majority of these programs as they only applied to undergraduate studies. Naturally, I did not find THIS out until after I returned home from Basic and Advanced training, wholly committed now to my enlistment. I still hope to continue my education further, but with a family now, I would rather see my wife finish her education and my children get theirs before I continue further.

Having enlisted in the National Guard after graduating from college, I entered the service at the rank of Specialist E4. I served two years at that pay grade learning that though I was an E4, I was among many other soldiers enlisting as I had. We all came in as Specialists but with only so many slots for E4's the majority of us served in slots identified for lower grades. In order for us to get promoted to Sergeants, technically we still had to wait to get "promoted" in slots up to the Specialist rank we currently held. After serving two years in the National Guard, and earning "promotions" up to an E3 slot from the E1 I arrived in, and learning of friends from Basic Training who had enlisted in the Active Duty Army as Private E2's and Private First Classes now already wearing Sergeant's stripes, I lost faith in the National Guard. I sought and received transfer to the Inactive Reserves, which is where I stayed until September of 2001.

Thus far, my service in the Guard consisted of swearing-in at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Des Moines, Iowa. I was working and living at the time in Dover, Delaware, having moved out there to take a job at a motorcycle dealership owned by the man who gave me my first real job in high school, behind the counter of his auto parts store. Young and foolish, I spent money far faster than I made it, so I moved back to Iowa with my parents and enlisted. The fantastic thing about enlisting back here was, though he had retired by this point, my father still held his commission as an officer and therefore was eligible to swear me in to the service, which he did in November 1996. I left for Basic Combat Training in December, and then graduated from B Co., l st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, 4th Training Brigade, FT Jackson, South Carolina, early in March of 1997. From there I was reassigned to G Co., 244th Quartermaster BN, at FT Lee, Virginia for (AIT) Advanced Individual Training. There I went to 92A School (Automated Logistics Specialist) where I studied the Army's way of handling all manner of supply (except medical-pharmaceuticals and munitions). In June 1997, I graduated AIT and returned to Iowa where I served with the 1034th Quartermaster Co. at Camp Dodge in Johnston.

In addition to the lack of promised funding for college, my service in the National Guard had no tangible qualities to associate with it. In fact, this is something we should want as that means there were no wars to shed blood in, or natural disasters in which to shed tears. Even still, Camp Dodge did suffer damage from a tornado late in the week before one of our drill weekend. As a QM Co., we had in our motor pool all of the heavy equipment needed to clear the debris and make way for repairs or rebuilds as needed, not to mention the time given it was our drill weekend.

Instead, our company traveled around Camp Dodge with nothing more to do than to watch civilian contractors do that for us. I did, however, find those tangible qualities of service I was looking for in the Volunteer Fire Service in December of 1998, when I left the National Guard and joined the Woodburn Fire Department with my younger brother.

There, my service actually did some good for the community. I could see the results of my efforts and I truly felt a part of something. With the monies I was eligible for from my service, I did return to school but this time for an Associate's Degree in Fire Science and a Fire Specialist Certification.

In September of 2001, I was still in school. I was house-sitting for my aunt in Des Moines when a friend from Iowa State, living in Seattle at the time, called me at 0745hrs and shared with me the news of what would become my generation's "Where were you when..." moment. I sat up wondering what HE was doing up at what was for him 0545hrs, turned on the TV, and watched the second plane strike the second tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. One could have been easily construed as a tragic accident, but not two. Horrified though I was, I could do nothing but watch the further events as they transpired that day. By the way, September 11th, 2001, was my 30th birthday. The FDNY (New York Fire Department) lost 343 firefighters and EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) that day and it was in their memory I placed a mourning band on the firefighter license plates of my truck — a band which is still there to this day, though the plate hangs on my wall now. The country lost 3047 citizens that day, but it was FDNY' s loss that reaffirmed the decision I made to return to the military.

By October, I was back in the Army, now in the Reserves. I wanted EMT training and sought the Army's help with that and came back in this time as a 91W Combat Medic. After a year of fighting with my employer for the time off to attend the six month training, doing much of it on my own with tuition assistance from the Army, I reclassified again to 91J Medical Supply Specialist. At only two weeks long, Wal-Mart, my civilian employer at the time, was more willing to let me go for the training and have a job for me when I returned.

I served with the 4224th US Army Hospital at FT Des Moines US Army Reserve Center through September of 2005, completing six years active service, two years inactive service, and one additional year active by extension. I attended Annual Trainings at Madigan Army Medical Center in FT Lewis, Washington, just outside of Seattle, and Wurzburg Army Hospital and Heidelberg Army Hospital, both in Germany.

In 2003, not long before leaving Wal-Mart myself and with the news she was leaving for a job as a nanny in southern Florida, I finally screwed up enough nerve to ask out the woman who would become my wife for a date. I thought to myself, whatever, if it does not work out, she'll soon be gone and that would be the end of it. But for the next three weeks, we went out EVERY single night until she left. On October 30th, we went together and bought her a reliable car, which she would need to get to Florida and transport the children she was watching. The following month I saw her off.

Over the next month we spoke so often on the phone that to this day I wonder how she ever had time for her work. It was over the phone we decided we would marry, as I thought for sure I would soon be getting orders for my own deployment. In December of 2003, she returned home for Christmas. Her mother had made her a wedding gown, whereas I cheated and put all of my groomsmen and myself in uniform. My fire department arranged for a new pumper truck to take the place of the limo from the church to the reception, and they too were in attendance at the wedding. For having been so hurriedly scheduled and planned, everything went perfectly. . too perfectly.

The wedding was Saturday, December 20th. On Friday the 19th, on the way out the door to the rehearsal, my First Sergeant (and Best Man) called me to let me know that I was to report to the unit on the 22nd of December for deployment on the 24th. Like I said, too perfectly. On the way to the rehearsal I told my parents about the call and they told me not to tell Christina yet as we did not need her losing control of herself before the wedding. I thought that rather unfair and when I met her parents at the church, I told them, too, about the call. They also told me to keep it from Christina for now and for the same reason. The Pastor, too, told me the same thing. I remember watching Christina walk down the aisle at the wedding thinking EVERYONE here now knows that I will be leaving for the "sand-box" before Christmas. Everyone, that is, but her. When I told her in the "limo" on the way to the reception, she took it very well and maintained her composure until "American Soldier" was played at the reception. She and her mother disappeared for a while after that.

After a VERY short honeymoon, my wife and I reported o-dark early on Monday morning. All my paperwork was squared away and she was registered with DEERS (the military's registry of dependants) so that were anything to happen to me, she would be taken care of. My First Sergeant further informed us that I had been switched to the alternate position, given my recent marriage, and would only be leaving now if the primary could not ship. Fortunately for all, however, the unit that had asked for us, later that evening called and cancelled the request. It did put a damper on the honeymoon, but everything worked out quite amiably in the end. Later that month I saw her off again, this time by plane, as she returned to her job in Florida.

In February, I attended a two-week annual training at Wurzburg Army Hospital in Germany. I took advantage of the weekend to return to where Hahn AB had been (now closed and utilized as a civilian air-cargo terminal as well as a training center for the state police), and visit a few people still there from when I lived there as a child. The most remarkable occurrence I took with me from that visit, was seeing a Russian copy of our C5 Galaxy, sitting on the tarmac of what was once a Fighter Base whose existence was to keep the threat of communism within its borders, now transacting business as though the last 30 years of history had never occurred.

Upon my return to the states, I walked off the plane, collected my luggage, put it all in the back of my truck, and drove straight through to Orlando. I arrived at 0100 the day after Valentine's day with about 2 pounds of German and Swiss chocolate for my wife. We visited for about a week and when it was time for me to return to Iowa, her employers came to us and told Christina that it was not fair for us to be apart in the beginning of our marriage like we were, that she had done a terrific job with the kids thus far, and that she should return home with me.. . and she did.

Soon after our return, I left the employ of Wal-Mart for a civilian position at the Army Reserve Center in Des Moines. There I manage a computer lab, facilitating the training (both on line and via video teleconference) of the combat medic with continuing education hours to maintain their EMT certifications. As an EMT myself, I also instruct and grade their practical skills. Additionally, I assist in driver's training and marksmanship training as well as answering the odd IT question now and then.

On October 4th, 2004, after a rough night of my six-month pregnant wife not being able to sleep, I was at work at the Reserve Center. While assisting in the grading of an Annual Physical Fitness Test, Christina called complaining of general malaise and crampiness and asked to go to the doctor. I told her I did not know why she was asking me, but that she ought to make an appointment. A few minutes later, she told me she was feeling worse, but that she had made the appointment.

About 1100 hrs, my fire pager went off. That was the one and only time it has ever worked in the reserve center, but still, it worked only as much as to go off, but the message that followed was garbled. Something about it did not sit right and calls to the house and her cell phone went unanswered. So I called the sheriffs office and asked about the message body of the Hartford page. The dispatcher said, "27 year old female in labor. Water broke." I gave her my address in question of call location and when the dispatcher said that was the call, I told her to advise responding units that the spouse was en route from Des Moines and raced home. Christina's water had broken three months early. I arrived just in time to help load my wife into the ambulance. As a medic myself, I was allowed to ride in the back with my wife to the hospital. Also on board the paramedic service transporting us was a soldier medic from my unit and a firefighter from our department behind the wheel. I think the familiar faces really helped Christina a lot that day.

In spite of countless troubles with the ambulance en route to the hospital, we arrived safely and just in time. We went straight through ER and up to Labor and Delivery where our daughter Sylvia Rose was born within five minutes of Christina's transfer to the bed. Sylvia was born at 28 weeks gestation (barely long enough to be considered a viable birth even with the best

of care). She weighed 2 pounds, 1 1/4 ounces, and was only 14 inches long. When she laid in my hand, her feet barely surpassed the middle of my fore-arm, and her delivery was so quick that I blinked and missed everything from crowning to full delivery. Sylvia spent the first two months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and came home on oxygen as well as a multitude of monitors, but daddy's little girl is doing remarkably well now and has Daddy wrapped so tight around her finger it amazes me to this day that it has not fallen off due to lack of circulation.

In September of 2005, my Military Service Obligation expired and I decided not to reenlist. I took the family to New York City for ceremonies at Ground Zero and decided my service on the fire depatmentand as a civilian to the Army were sufficient.

To this day, Ground Zero exists as little more than a hole in the ground when the Pentagon has been rebuilt and the field in Shakesville, Pennsylvania has returned to its normal grace (with the addition of a memorial). The in-fighting over what kind of a memorial will be in NYC and who will be memorialized there saddens me. It is my hope that an even taller structure will be erected in its place as a sign of both strength and resilience. I hope to see it in my life time.

Since September 11 th, 2001 I have refused to celebrate my birthday on my date of birth. Instead, I recognized it as a memorial day. Every year, at 0745 (central), I lower my flag to half staff then fire the miniature cannon by it. I then fire it again 17 minutes later. Upon the

insistence of my mother, I began celebrating my birthday again, but not on my date of birth until this year. On September 11th, 2008, my wife gave me more than just a son for my birthday. She gave me back what I felt I had lost seven years ago in the 343 brothers from the Fire Department New York. A strapping young lad, Sam Houston (remember I am from Texas) was born at 7 pounds 9 ounces and 22 inches long, half again what our daughter was at birth. Sam Houston did not enter this world as quickly as his sister, but possibly with more meaning for me.

I grew up without roots anywhere. My family moved almost every three years and I have no place I can point to and say, "THAT is

where I am from. THAT is where I grew up. THAT is who I am." I have chosen Texas to say that of, but still, that is the disadvantage of having been a dependent in the military. The advantage, however, is that there is no place I can go now that I cannot find someone nearby that I know, and I have seen history first hand others my age just could not conceive of. I would not give up THAT experience for ANYTHING and would love to be able to give that to my family.

We all, Christina, Sylvia Rose, Sam Houston, and I, live happily now in Hartford, IA with Patches, my wife's cat, but I do hope someday to be able to share more than just stories of travel with them.




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Last Revised June 8, 2015