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Davis Journal

Veterans serve to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy

Nov 04, 2022 11:51AM ● By Becky Ginos

The Harker’s daughter when she was 2 looks at her daddy’s picture when she realizes he’s gone. Courtesy photos

BOUNTIFUL—Veterans Day is a time to remember those who have served or are serving in the military to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy. Not only do they serve but so do their families back home as they often spend several months or even longer away from them.

“He hasn’t been deployed but he had to have his bags packed just in case,” said Jenna Harker about her husband Jon. “That’s just kind of the game.”

Jon has been in the Army reserves since 2008, she said. “He’s a Medic E-5 and working on becoming an E-6. We got married in 2014 and have a 6-year-old daughter.”

Harker said Jon speaks fluent Spanish so he goes on humanitarian missions to other countries to translate and check on people’s health. “He was in El Salvador for a month or so.”

He was active for almost a year and stationed in El Paso, Texas, said Harker. “It was the longest time we’d been a part. Our daughter is used to it. She knows that dad has two jobs and on the weekend he does drills and flies somewhere for the military.”

“I joined in 2008 mostly because I didn’t like my job and I needed a change,” said Jon. “I was 24, so a little older. I was smart enough to know what I was getting into. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

There’s always the fear of being deployed and gone for a year, he said. “Or worse, getting killed when you’re married and have a family. It’s hard, your husband or wife gets pulled into it. They go through the stress just as bad as the service member.”

Retired U.S. Army Col. Kathleen H. Switzer has experienced both sides as a military wife and as a service member herself. Two out of her three children are also in the military. “We’re quite a military family,” she said. “I’ve had a conventional private life but my work life has been non conventional.”

There weren’t a lot of opportunities for women in the military year ago, said Switzer. “When I was in high school I had aunts who were in the nursing Army Corps in WWII. I thought I would join the nursing core. I also wanted to be a lawyer but in the 1950s that was not an option for me.”

Switzer married a military man and she became a military wife. “For the first 40 years of my life I moved all over the next 40 years I lived in Bountiful.”

She worked as a civilian nurse as her children got older, said Switzer. “I was able to return to the plans I had 15 years earlier. In 1979 they started opening up for women to serve in the military.”

Switzer went into the nursing Army reserves. “My children were raised,” she said. “I decided against active duty so I joined the reserves at Fort Douglas. I was deployed to the Persian Gulf from 1990-1991. My husband sent me off just like I sent him off.”

 In the meantime, Switzer had finished law school. “I was a dual lawyer and nurse,” she said. “I was stationed in Germany. I was part of the active duty contingency plan for receiving a high level of casualties. Fortunately there were not nearly as many as what we expected but it became the model with plans in place to accomplish those things.”

It was an intense experience in Germany, said Switzer. “It gave me an appreciation for the kinds of people who serve in the military.”

When Switzer came back she retired as a Colonel. “I was the first woman commander of a brigade training medics and LPNs.”

Pete Sarris grew up living in Centerville and Bountiful and served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm from 1989-1991. “I’ve wanted to be a Marine since I was 8 years old,” said Sarris. “So I joined the Marine Corp and was deployed overseas to Asia, Japan, the Philippines, Tokyo and more.”

Sarris said in 1990 when the war broke out he was one of the first ones to go to Saudi Arabia. “It was quite an experience. Preparing for war is just about as big a rush as being in war. We created a lot of diversions for what we were doing.” 

When he did get deployed, Sarris was part of the 1-9 Walking Dead. “That was only done in wartime,” he said. “They were some of the craziest people but they were good at what they did. I was good at what I did. I was used to being around hot situations.”

He was also one of the first ones to liberate the Kuwait airport and Kuwait city. “They were happy to see us.”

Sarris said he came home with some PTSD issues so he’s focused on helping other veterans. “I take vets sailing. We’ve sailed by the Statue of Liberty and done some pretty crazy stuff. It’s saved my life volunteering my time.”

Jenna Harker said it’s hard to see the divisiveness in the country. “People are against the military but when we’re going to war it’s a whole different story. They say ‘where’s our military?’ They should support them and realize they’re there to help to make our country safe. They join to do good for the country. It’s hard for sure.” λ