“Boots on the ground” is an often used phrase, but to many parents, military service involves committing the life of a family member to serve the nation in high risk situations.
Luther’s director of training and education, Dan Bradley, has known the feeling for nearly five years. His son, Shawn, served as a machine gunner in Afghanistan with the Marines.
“These guys are the real heroes,” said Bradley. “They are living in extremely grueling conditions, yet there’s no complaining. They’re putting life on the line every single day, every step they take could be the last one.”
Bradley said his son wanted to be a Marine since he was eight years old. At 23, he’s lived through some close calls with surprise attacks.
After a four month tour, he’s training soldiers in Twentynine Palms, California, and plans to return home soon. Shawn talks to his father at least once a week.
Another Luther employee, Warranty Administrator Kathie Vnuk at Brookdale Toyota, has a son-in-law who just completed a nine month tour in Afghanistan. Army soldier Chad Gullickson is with Horizontal Engineer Company whose job is to make repairs after demolitions,
Chad’s wife, Meaghan, who is Vnuk’s daughter, is waiting for him to come home after the soldier returned to Texas. Vnuk said the experience has opened her eyes, and it’s difficult to help people to understand the sacrifice that military families make.
“People take a lot for granted. They sweat the little things when there’s so much more to worry about, things to be concerned about,” she said. While missing his family, Vnuk said her son-in-law also missed life’s basics like running water and green grass.
The family stayed connected by sending cards and packages with snacks, little meals, comics and silly items like squirt guns. Sometimes they arrive in as little as 10 days. Skype or online video conferencing is the communication of choice for Vnuk’s daughter.