Thank you for your service

By Scot Pearson


President Gerald R. Ford got the holiday back on track and returned the observance to the annual November11 date in 1978, which at this time had already been expanded to include all veterans of any US conflict.

Today people celebrate in many ways from attending ceremonies, participating in parades and visiting the grave sites of those lost in conflict. And for the Emerick's of Raymond, Veterans Day will be a quiet one at home with family.

Neal and Colleen Emerick met during training in Texas, both looking to become military police for the US Marine Corp.

"It was just one of those things when I met Neal. I just felt safe and knew that he was the one for me. I cannot explain it. And bam here we are 30 years later," said Colleen about her husband.

Colleen, a graduate for South Bend HS, Neal coming out of Michigan, both had similar ideals about a military life and ended up meeting during Marine Corp Military Police Academy in San Antonio, Texas.

"I did not even know the women were allowed in the Marines. My sister was in the Navy and I did not want to do that. The recruiter spoke with me and I ended up going to MP school," said Colleen.

As Colleen was making the decision not to go into college and start her life in the military, Neal had already made up his mind and was attending the same school, but had a change of heart and went into the infantry.

"Things were heating up in Beirut at that time, and he wanted to go fight. He changed his career and went off to infantry training, I stayed to finish the MP school."

The couple stayed in touch and the three-month courtship went quickly jumped to the next level.

"I had only got a couple of kisses from her in that time. We decided to get married," said Neal.

Colleen returned to finish her assignment in Texas and Neal was heading to California, but as soon as the official marriage certificate came through, the couple could be assigned together, as long as it did not interfere with their military missions. Colleen was able to exchange her initial assignment to Quantico, Virginia, and join her new husband at Camp Pendleton, just south of their wedding site in Long Beach.

Together they set up home and Colleen finished her military career working as a dispatcher, off the road from her other MP duties canvassing military bases.

"I was going to be assigned to Okinawa, Japan, and had a decision to make. Leave the family and continue my Marine career or stay with the family. I stayed and finished my two years service in California," said Colleen.

For Neal, he would take two trips overseas starting in 1984. After his return he was assigned to Quantico, Virginia.

"We all packed up and went to Virginia. There I was training officers for the Marines and finish my nine-year career as a drill instructor at Paris Island," said Neal.

After his nine-year hitch, Neal was granted a medical discharge and the family returned to his home in Michigan.

"There I was, out of the military, a wife, two kids, no place to go and not really any money," said Neal.

The family made it to Michigan where Neal worked a short time in sanitation and eventually tested for the post office, where he still works today.

"I was promoted to the Post Master position in Michigan, and found a position in Raymond."

"We had always talked about moving back out here when we retired. We had been with his family in Michigan, so were where going to the west coast when the time was right," said Colleen.

That happened a little sooner than later, as the position became open sooner than anticipated, and as it was their plan to move to Washington eventually, they just made it happen a little sooner, where Neal serves as the Post Master in Raymond.

"Everything happened so fast, like it was meant to be," said Colleen of their move to Raymond.

Much like her mother, Tara Emerick was not looking to enter college when the time came.

"I saw what my brother (Jacob) was going through. He is just a year older and it looked hard to get all of those loans, and possibly go into debt. I didn't want that. So I talked to my parents about going into the military," said Tara.

The advice she got from her parents made it clear what she was going to do..."We told her to join the Air Force...she joined the Marines," said Neal with a shrug.

And also like her parents, Tara followed their path of joining the military police.

"After basic training I went to Iraq," said Tara.

For Tara her path became more global with a stint in Africa, time in Iraq and other Middle East locations. Tara also married into the military, finding another Marine, just like her parents. Her time in Iraq was involved with many facets of the military at that time of the war; convoy security and working with detainees. The young couple ended up taking civilian security jobs with the military overseas. And she returned as recently as 2013.

"My visa had expired and I had to leave the country. I decided to return to stay with my parents."

In her time Tara also became a certified diver, working in Australia for several years, traveling around to Taiwan, Cambodia and Vietnam. When her visa expired, she came back to visit her parents and was able to secure a job in the new marijuana industry as security.

"I went down to the port, as I heard they were looking for people to trim the plants and were paying a good wage. When I got there, they said that they were not hiring at the time. I asked them what they were doing for security and they said they only hired ex-military...so I got hired as security," tells Tara.

Of all the things that the three recall from their experience in the military, there is a common theme; it was the lessons they learned about themselves, and the people that they encountered.

"When I started thinking of the military as a career, I wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force," said Lance Corporal Colleen, "But my eyesight was just not good enough for what they required. The recruiter talked to me about the possibility of military police. If I had not gone into the military, I do not think I would have found one of the things that I am passionate about, police work."

Colleen served as a patrol officer in Michigan and now works for the Pacific County Sheriff's Office as a dispatcher.

"It was the best thing that I have done and the best experiences," said Sergeant Tara of her time serving her country.

"I have and met some of the best people through the Marine Corps."

And for Sergeant Neal and all of his experiences overseas and his nine years fighting for our country..."Meeting my wife."

The family plans to spend a nice, quite Veterans Day with each other, having done so many activities in other places they have lived, the parades, the ceremonies, sometimes it is just nice to have a quite day alone with your own military family.