BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Kendra Lengel admits that the financial benefits are the main reason she joined the Air National Guard soon after graduating from Anthony Wayne High School in 2000.
During her six years of service, she gained an understanding of commitment, many friends, the routine of daily running and the title of veteran after serving in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Lengel was one of nearly 50 veterans who shared their personal stories with Anthony Wayne High School students on Veterans Day. The veterans included 2008 graduate Casey Lee Huepenbecker and 2017 graduate Catherine Moses as well as five employees and 17 parents of AWHS students.
It was an event organized to bring awareness about the contributions of veterans while showcasing career options available in the military.
Daniel Cannode joined the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after his 1966 graduation from Waite High School and served aboard an ice cutter in the Atlantic before heading to Vietnam in 1969. While there, Cannode was a “river rat,” using small boats to intercept boat traffic on the Mekong River and look for ammunition, explosives and important documents.
“The enemy tried to bring in supplies on land, but were intercepted, so they used the rivers,” Cannode said. “And yes, they did shoot at us.”
A Waterville resident, Cannode remains involved in the Military Order of the Purple Heart, an organization created to support those who received the Purple Heart – a medal bestowed in the name of the president to those who are injured or killed in the line of duty.
During Lengel’s deployment to Iraq, she never felt in danger, as her unit was in an area outside of the action, but she’s met plenty of veterans who did.
“I feel like a privileged veteran,” she said, explaining that the term veteran is for those who have served overseas for at least three months. “People I know served multiple tours and experienced hard things and came back with a heaviness.”
Being in the military gave Lengel an opportunity to work alongside people she otherwise never would have met. It also taught her the true meaning of commitment – something that can’t be achieved by quitting a job or a class, she said.
“If you have a terrible supervisor, you have to deal with it. If you have to use a porta-potty for three months, you can clean it to make it better, but you still have to deal with it,” she laughed.
Being in the Air National Guard requires a commitment of one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. Listen for the F-16s on a weekend and that’s a sign that it’s training weekend, Lengel noted.
The 180th Fighter Wing currently has an opening for a fighter pilot, and Air Force Lt. Col. Curtis Voltz said 160 applications came in from around the nation from those who want the position. He shared how several routes are available for those who want to become a pilot, including the Air Force Academy, the ROTC and even as a civilian.