Veteran’s Day hits at home in a special way for myself and my family. My father is a Commander in the United States Navy and has proudly served his country for 35 years. He joined the Navy at the age of 21. When he enlisted he and my mom were told this tale that when the Navy asks you where you want to be based at, either Maine or California, tell them the opposite because that’s where they will send you. So they said California and were sent to California, really wanting Maine. There they stayed for 6 years. I was born in California and although I don’t remember much because we moved back to Indy when I was 3 I do have slight memories of us going to cut down a Christmas tree or the apartment complex we lived at and the stairs. Funny things you remember as a child.
Coming back to Indy was made possible because my parents could purchase their first home with a VA loan. My dad joined the reserves and started his career then for the IRS. My dad would do his normal weekend gigs for the reserves and it was all normal for my mom, sister and me.
I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that not only do the soldiers serve this country and make sacrifices but so do the families. It always seemed as if my dad was gone on his drill weekends during what were important life events for my family. First Communions, graduations, proms, family gatherings and just normal family events.
I will never forget the day my dad told us he had been activated to go to Afghanistan. He was going to be going with NATO. I was a junior in high school, my sister would have been in 5th grade and we had one of my high school girlfriends living with us because her mom moved to Florida. So here I was thinking what in the world. My dad is in the Navy. I had never actually thought he would be on the ground sent to Afghanistan after what happened on 9/11. In my eyes, he was an old guy. Why would they send him? I should have seen the signs. Several of the other families we knew had been activated and they too were going through the same thing.
So, off my dad went. He left the fort to my mom, she in a matter of weeks became a single mom raising three daughters (that friend living with us practically became a daughter). Two in high school and one in grade school. If you can imagine all those girls, we had our struggles. My mom was left to run my dad’s rental company, pay the bills, work her job, get us to school functions, raise two sassy teenage daughters and one daughter who was on the verge of hitting middle school.
I remember my dad would call and my mom would direct us not to tell him of any problems at home. He did not need to worry about home problems she would say. Let him focus on what he is doing now so he can make it home.
Days, weeks and months crept by and before you knew it, I was a Senior graduating from high school. My mom had raised us for that year and a half. Through the thick and the thin we made it. We finally received word that my dad was coming home. Best news ever.
I am not the only one who has a story like I wrote above. Thousands of soldiers make the sacrifice to serve this country. The soldiers leave their loved ones behind to make sure the rest of the country is safe and to perform their duties that they signed up for.
Many people give their life for this country and many people make it back. I am forever indebted to the men and women who serve this country. I have the greatest, most upper respect for anyone that wears a uniform.
My sister and I could attend college for free because of my dad’s GI Bill that he transferred to us. To this day my dad continues to serve our country in the reserves. Recently he was nominated for a promotion to Captain and is waiting to hear back.
I want to thank every man, woman and military family for their service to their country and the sacrifices that they and their loved ones must make. We would not be FREE if it weren’t for those people willing to make sacrifices.
Navy brat Stephanie Sponsel
Daughter of Commander Jeffrey A. Wendel