It was 1989 when Anna McGlone graduated from East Carter High School and went straight into the United States Army. She was eager to learn and wanted to use the Army to further her education.
But she hadn't been out of basic training for much longer than six months, she remembered, when she found herself on her way to Iraq to serve as an intelligence analyst with the Army during the first Gulf War.
“Those key words that folks are listening for,” she explained. “Those came to me.”
She took the intelligence data gathered by other soldiers, put all the pieces together, and helped her superiors get a fuller picture of what was going on.
She served until 1997, using her G.I. Bill to earn a Master's Degree in school and clinical psychology and earning the non-commissioned officer (NCO) rank of sergeant before leaving the service to raise her family.
Still, she likes to joke about being pregnant with her oldest son, Joseph, while on active duty and driving a large truck with a poor suspension system. She said she likes to think he decided then and there, bouncing around in her womb, that this was the life for him.
SGT Joseph Angerer, 23, followed in his mother's footsteps, joining the Army and earning the same rank, even doing tours in Iraq, just as his mother had.
She's proud of him, as any parent is of their child, but she also understands the risks of his job better than most parents.
While deployed, she explained, there is little he can tell her about where he is or how he is doing. There is even less that she can share with those she has to confide in, because of the importance of maintaining operational security, or OPSEC.
One stray word, or unintentional slip, could not only place her child at risk, but the lives of all those serving with him.
It's a difficult thing to endure, and when Joseph returned from his second tour in Iraq, she was understandably emotional. It's easier to talk about now, and not just because of OPSEC.
Knowing that he is home safe, in Colorado where he is currently stationed and back to enjoying his time on the slopes with a snowboard, is a relief. But she also understands that he could be sent away again at any time.
This is the price all military families pay so the rest of us can live in security, she explained, and pride seems like a term too weak to encompass the feelings she has that not just one, but both of her sons have answered that call.
Her younger son, John, 20, is currently a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, earning a scholarship there to study for a degree in electrical and computer engineering. He'll come out of the academy with a degree and an officer's rank.
His older brother, Joseph, is using his G.I. Bill to study education, and their mother's pride in their accomplishments shines like a beacon.
Angerer's dedication to education may be second only to her love of service, and the two are inexorably linked.
“The education is important, because people need to know how much they can benefit from service,” she said.
That combination of education and service is also why, when she received some back pay from the Department of Veterans Affairs, she decided to make a contribution to the East Carter JROTC.
“They compete for a national spot every year, beating out dozens of schools across the district,” she said. “Finally going to nationals in Florida where they compete against all four branches and schools ten times their size. And they always bring home a first or second in the nation. Winning against David and Goliath type odds.”
She wanted to help them with that, and knew from her sons' time in the JROTC that they were in need of a good trailer. So, when she was able to, she bought one for them.
“I always wanted to donate and make a huge impact,” she continued. “Getting my back pay from years of fighting and finally winning my full veterans benefits gave me that chance.”
“But, more importantly, I wanted any kid that was considering the military as a career option to know and understand that they are supported by veterans such as myself and current active duty like my oldest and my youngest who will be a commissioned officer once he graduates,” she added. “Hence the idea that I made the donation in honor of our Country’s military; past, present and future.”
It's not an easy choice to make, she said. Or an easy path to follow. But it's one that gives you brothers and sisters in arms who will be there with you as long as you need them. And sometimes, like in the McGlone-Angerer family, those brothers and sisters are your actual siblings and parents.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.