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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? WYOMING VETERANS

In honor of Veteran’s Day on November 11, we bring you a Wyoming Veteran of each major branches of the service: the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Marine Corps! When we reached out to learn more about them and their time in the service, we asked each of them the same series of questions about their lives, the challenges and rewards of their service, their first and last days in the service, and what makes them most proud to serve. We kept their answers in their own words to best capture their individual personalities. Enjoy getting to know these local heroes.  

Brittany A. Baldwin-Vonderhaar:  United States Air Force

E-4, six years of service
Locations served:  Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas; Fort Devens, Ayer, Massachusetts; RAF Chicksands, Bedford, England; Elemendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska.

Brittany Baldwin-Vonderhaar at age 18 when she enrolled in the United States Air Force. 
What motivated you to enlist in the service? 
My father was in the Army. I was also not ready for college. I wanted to travel and see the world outside of Arkansas.
Why did you choose the branch of service that you did? 
Because my dad was in the Army, and he said don’t join the Army. No seriously, the Air Force has the nicest chow halls, accommodations, etc. There is a reason we get called the Chair Force. But, hey an E-4 in the Air Force sitting in a remote location "listening in" gets paid the same as an E-4 in the Army or Marine Corps crawling through the muck, and I didn’t want to spend months on a boat. The Air Force recruiter also promised me overseas assignments. Maybe the Space Force will make us look tough.
Where was your favorite place that you served? 
Royal Air Force Base Chicksands, Bedford, England. A short train ride outside of London. I was 18, free, had money in my pocket, and could get in the pubs!
What was your primary job? 
Intelligence Operator - I worked for the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency in a joint operation.
What do you remember about your first day of service? 
Standing at attention, getting screamed at in the middle of San Antonio Airport as people walked by. I distinctly remember my hair in my face but I couldn't move it.
How did you feel on your last day of service? 
Bittersweet. To this day I count it as the best six years of my life, but it was time to move on. I am so grateful for the opportunities it afforded me and the great friends that 20 years later I still see and talk to.
Today Brittany is proud to have served in the service and experienced a part of the world she might not have otherwise known. 
What was the biggest challenge? 
I loved my "job" and excelled at it but I didn’t always do well with the politics involved with a military career.
What was the greatest reward? 
Comradery with my fellow airman and seeing the world. To this day I am an adventurer and never meet a stranger.
How does your military service affect your life today? 
Being from a rural small town it really opened my eyes to what the world is and what you can accomplish no matter your background.

Zachary Green: United States Marine Corps

Corporal / Officer Candidate, nine years of service
Locations served:  Parris Island, South Carolina; Camp Lejuene, North Carolina; Ft. Sill, Oklahoma; Camp Pendleton, California; and Twentynine Palms, California.

Zachary served in the Marine Corps for most of the 1990s. 
What motivated you to enlist in the service? 
Always wanted to serve my country. When I was younger my friends played soccer and on their bikes, I played GI Joe in the woods. 
Why did you choose the branch of service that you did? 
The toughness, traditions, and elite background is what attracted me to the U.S. Marine Corps.
Where was your favorite place that you served? 
Every place was more miserable than the next but the comradeship with my fellow Marines made every location memorable.
Zachary with his fellow servicemen – each was attracted to the United States Marine Corps. 
What was your primary job? 
I did fire direction control for 81mm mortars for a cold weather infantry platoon.
What do you remember about your first day of service? 
It was not what the recruiter said it would be...
How did you feel on your last day of service? 
I was ready to move on. You spend so much time talking about how long it is until your contract is up. Every day was 50 days and a wake-up, 10 days and a wake up, etc. I couldn’t wait to get out but now that I’m out I miss it dearly. Time cures all wounds. I miss being part of such an elite unit.
What was the biggest challenge? In U.S. Marine Corps recruit training everyone breaks. I remember my lowest point was realizing I wasn’t as good as the arrogant 18-year-old me thought I was. It was when I was at my lowest that I surrendered to the training and allowed myself to be molded into a Marine.
Today Zachary enjoys travelling with his family, knowing we are only the land of the free because of the brave. 
What was the greatest reward? 
Serving with such valiant warriors.
How does your military service affect your life today? 
Mission accomplishment comes before troop welfare. Nothing should ever stop a Marine from accomplishing their mission both in service or as a civilian. I always recognize that we are only the land of the free because of the brave. We should always honor the flag, it represents those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. 

Brian Pitman:  United States Army Reserves 

E-6 Staff Sergeant, 10 years of service 
Medals or citations earned: Multiple Army Achievement Medals, two Physical Fitness Command Sergeant Major Awards, Physical Fitness Commander’s Certificate, 2002 810th Quartermaster Soldier of the Year, 2002 633rd Quartermaster Battalion Soldier of the Year, Army Commendation Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Overseas Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Recognized as the Cincinnati Reds Hometown Hero April 2017 
Locations served: Home Station for Army Reserves: 810th Quartermaster Company in Kings Mills, Ohio, Served in Operation Iraq Freedom: Kuwait; Umm Qasr, Iraq; and Baghdad, Iraq.  

What motivated you to enlist in the service? 
I had a desire to join the Marine Corps right out of high school, but some obstacles got in the way so I went off to college. After two years in college I was sworn in the Army as a reservist after I was medically cleared. I wanted to serve my country in some capacity. I always had a love for our country and felt I needed to serve. 
Why did you choose the branch of service that you did? 
As I stated, my first choice of the Marine Corps, but it didn’t work out. My dad and many of my family members were Army Veterans so I thought that I would follow in their footsteps. I am so glad I did. 
Where was your favorite place that you served? 
Serving out of the country was not my favorite place; however, looking back I would say it was the most rewarding. I also enjoyed training in Camp Atterbury, Indiana with the my 810th Quartermaster Family. My unit trained at Camp Atterbury multiple times. It was just close to home and offered a lot of opportunities to practice and strengthen different aspects of my military crafts. 
Brian Pitman when he returned from his service in Iraq as a part of Operation Iraq Freedom. 
What was your primary job? 
I was certified as a water purification and distribution specialist. In Iraq my unit I was attached to were responsible for distributed water to the local citizens, American volunteers, and military personnel. 
What do you remember about your first day of service? 
My first day of boot camp I got extremely ill. I was in the hospital for three days. I probably should have stayed a visit, but my drill sergeant paid me a visit and told me (in not so nice words) to get better quickly or life would be made very difficult. The next morning I joined my fellow soldiers in training and never looked back. He was one scary dude, to say the least. 
As far as Iraq, I remember getting off the plane after an almost 27 hour flight (with two layovers)...I was tired, it was hot, and it was raining. It was the only time it rained during my time there. 
Brian and his wife enjoyed a vacation with their large, happy family this summer. 
How did you feel on your last day of service? 
I was relived to be back with my family and back to home in Wyoming. I missed so many aspects of America and my hometown during my absence. I was honorably discharged from service two months after my return from Iraq. 
What was the biggest challenge? 
The biggest challenge for me (throughout my entire military career) was to only get to see Brooke (my 15-year-old daughter) for less than 48 hours (after she was born) prior to leaving for Iraq. It was absolutely heart breaking. There were quite a few other distractions when I was gone, but not getting to visit with your newborn (for more than I did) was the worst experience.  
What was the greatest reward? 
My greatest reward was being named the Battalion Soldier of the Year. Our battalion was made up of a number of units with many soldiers of different ranks. A close second was being recognized at the Reds game. Not many people knew it was going to happen, so the reaction afterward was overwhelming.  
How does your military service affect your life today? 
I think the effect on me is that I am even more patriotic in a variety of capacities. I kneel for God and stand for the flag. I absolutely adore this country.


John Seyerle: United States Navy 

Lieutenant, four years of service
Medals or citations earned: “It wasn’t the highest medal I earned, but the most interesting was the Korean Defense Medal for spending a month training at the DMZ.”
Locations served:  Marine Corps Base Kaneohe, Honolulu, Hawaii; Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.

John Seyerle was an Officer in the United States Navy.
What motivated you to enlist in the service? 
I thought it would be a good way to serve my country, and that it might be fun. They also gave me a scholarship to pay for medical school.
Why did you choose the branch of service that you did? 
My grandfathers were in the Navy and Marine Corp in WWII. Maria and I were engaged, and her father and uncle both attended the Naval Academy. 
Where was your favorite place that you served? 
Hawaii, of course!
What was your primary job? 
I was the physician for a Marine Corps battalion in Third Marine Regiment. I later was the doctor overseeing the clinic and Corpsman treating of USMC recruits at Edson Range clinic as they did their Crucible field training in Camp Pendleton.
What do you remember about your first day of service? 
I had completed Officer Indoctrination School and was scheduled to go on active duty when I finished medical school in about eight months. Then 9/11 happened. I remember watching the second plane hit the tower and thinking “This is an attack. We’re at war.” Knowing I was going to be in the Navy soon made me feel both scared and proud.
How did you feel on your last day of service? 
Grateful to have had the opportunity to serve, but happy to return home.
What was the biggest challenge? 
Deployments. We had young children at the time. We moved to Hawaii two months after Anna (our oldest) was born, so it was hard to be away from home. Fortunately, none of my deployments were long and I never went to war.
What was the biggest reward? 
Looking back, it was knowing I was able to contribute to protecting our country as well as participate in humanitarian efforts. I was deployed to Thailand after the tsunami there in 2005. While I was in the service, my favorite part was working with Navy Corpsman, who don’t get enough respect for all of the good work they do.
How does your military service affect your life today? 
I’m proud of the time I spent in the Navy, and I can still close my eyes and picture details of our time in Hawaii. Anna spent her first three years there and Sophie was born there, so it’s a special place for our family. We have friends all around the world we wouldn’t otherwise have met.


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