Across the United States, units prepare to support Air Force missions across the globe. Amidst this dizzying array of logistics, of planning, of communications lies the one key to making all of these missions successful—the people.
Senior leadership recognizes that without the individual servicemember’s commitment, these missions will not be accomplished. With that commitment often comes sacrifice.
One family at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon is very familiar with those sacrifices. Erin and Daniel Waller are a unique dual military couple.
Master Sgt. Daniel Waller is an active-duty Airmen who was stationed at Kingsley Field with the 550th Fighter Squadron as part of the Total Force Integration. Tech. Sgt. Erin Waller is a traditional Air National Guardsman assigned to the 173rd Fighter Wing. Both of them came to Klamath Falls when Daniel was reassigned from Mt. Home Air Force Base to Kingsley Field. Erin then transferred from the Idaho Air National Guard to Oregon ANG after moving to the state.
The couple has spent the last three years in Klamath Falls, after Erin returned from Turkey. This is the longest stretch they have experienced without a deployment since they married six years ago.
“That man has been deployed every other summer since we’ve been together, with the exception of the time we’ve spent here,” said Erin Waller who has deployed overseas three times herself and attended two separate technical training schools.
At their six-year anniversary they tallied up how many days they have been called away for military duty of some kind. “He calculated he’d been gone 495 days —and that doesn’t include 300-plus of mine,” Erin said. Ironically, Daniel is currently assigned on a remote overseas tour that will guarantee one more follow-on assignment for his family before he reaches retirement eligibility. Their blended family includes two children, Chase and Gwendelyn, and each of the four are well-versed in adjusting to the toll a deployment takes on a family Erin sums up what these years have taught her with one word, “flexibility.” She then adds, “You have to know when to push, and when to ‘hurry up and wait’, and when to just be still. Know that it is not in your control, and roll with the punches.”
When asked why he serves, Daniel says he knew in the eighth grade he wanted to serve in the military and he says the last 18 years of service have provided him with rich experiences he can talk about when he’s “an old man.” He went on to say that the time away from family comes at a cost but that he hopes his military experience helps him embrace the time when he is home by being, “truly present and invested in their lives.”
The couple stays connected during these times away through technology, even using Skype to conduct the interview together.
During the conversation, he lists his previous deployments, which sound like a laundry list of odd-numbered years: “2005, 2007, 2011, 2013 …”
Daniel says this last assignment is part of a master plan as he approaches his 20-year mark in service to his country. “The idea is, I’m at 18 years. So a year here, and then I can take my family on a threeyear tour to Europe for kind of a last hurrah before I hang the uniform up — that seems pretty cool,” he says.
Daniel notes that his last assignment will likely include another final deployment. And following that, he intends to earn a teaching certificate back in Idaho and become a high school teacher.
In the meantime, Erin remains at home in Oregon with their two children, planning their next move, even now.Read comments