Kalyn Scheidler doesn’t expect a parade for her birthday, but she always gets one anyway.
The 19-year-old, active-duty National Guard member turns 20 Nov. 11. She remembers a time in childhood when she thought Greensburg’s Annual Veteran’s Day Parade was thrown for her birthday, but she no longer views those parades through the eyes of childhood.
“When I was younger,” she said, “I didn’t understand Veteran’s Day. Now that I’m older, and I serve in the military, I understand what it means, and it’s so much more important to me.”
She certainly doesn’t mind the parades and public recognition that go along with Veteran’s Day, but neither does she crave them.
“I prefer a ‘thank you,’” she explained. “The parades are nice, but when someone comes up and shakes my hand and thanks me for my service, it makes me feel so proud. A ‘thank you’ means so much more than anything else.”
Given Scheidler’s background, it’s easy to suspect that military service is woven into her DNA; more, one might even argue that the stars have aligned for this Greensburg native so that serving in the military is part of her destiny.
Scheidler is a fourth generation veteran. Her Great grandfather, Frank Wilmer, was a German prisoner of war in WWII, while her grandfather, Edgar Scheidler, served in Korea. Her father, David, joined the Army in 1978.
Most strikingly, Frank Wilmer was released from captivity Nov. 11.
Scheidler herself joined the National Guard in May 2011 and left for boot camp in June of that same year after graduating from Greensburg Community High School.
“My dad left the Army before I was born,” she explained, “but growing up around him made me want to be in the military. He instilled in me all the necessary values: Honesty, respect, responsibility, hard work and respect for my elders.”
Scheidler joined the National Guard with an eye toward her future.
“I joined for the experience and the training,” she explained. “I expected to do the once-a-month thing on the weekends and basically live a normal life with my family the rest of the time.”
The military, however, had other plans.
Shortly after returning from bootcamp, Scheidler learned she’d be called for a nine-month tour to Afghanistan, which, following a two-month training stint at Ft. Hood, Texas, will commence in February or March 2013.
“To be honest with you,” she said, “I’m a little scared; it’s my first deployment. It’ll be hard being away from my family so long, but we have lots of experience in my unit — sergeants and other guys with multiple tours. Plus, we’re all very well trained, and we know our jobs. I’ve got some really good friends over there, too, so that will make it easier.”
Scheidler won’t be involved in direct combat, but instead serves in the 1438th Transportation Company.
“I’m an 88M Transportation Specialty,” she explained. “My job is to drive and maintain trucks. We’ll be shuttling supplies into and around combat areas.”
Of course, working in a war zone brings the constant risk of becoming involved in combat, but Scheidler feels adequately prepared for that possibility as well.
“They train you in combat in basic training,” she said. “We’re well trained in weaponry, navigation and convoy security. Plus, I’ll spend my two months in Ft. Hood getting additional training to get ready for deployment. This is what we’re trained to do; we know how to protect ourselves and how to protect each other; we know how to do our jobs. We have each others’ backs. I’m confident we can complete our mission without casualty, and I look forward to coming home and continuing my life in the military and with my family here in Decatur County.”
She continued, “It’s not easy getting into the military or getting through boot camp. There are so many people who want to serve, but can’t qualify, and I’m fortunate enough to have made it. It’s a great honor to be part of something so important for my country.”
This year, Scheidler will celebrate Veteran’s Day and her birthday with her boyfriend at the Marine Corps Ball in Terre Haute.
In 2013, she’ll turn 21 in Afghanistan.
“It’ll be hard,” she said. “being over there, away from home on my birthday, but I’m sure my friends will help make it the best experience possible.”
There certainly won’t be any Veteran’s Day/birthday Parades for Scheidler next year, then; but that’s okay. If there’s a heartfelt “thank you for your service” waiting when she returns home to Greensburg, “happy birthday” will be sufficient on Veteran’s Day.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.