Upon entering the military, freedom took on a deeper meaning for four Seymour High School graduates.
As Independence Day approaches Sunday, they were asked what freedom means to them.
For Justin Muhlbach, SHS 2012 graduate, July 4th is his birthday.
“Freedom is the ability to express yourself as you want,” he said. “There is no uniform on how your life should be. In the United States, you have the freedom to choose your own moral compass by believing what you want to believe and raising your family the way you want. ‘uplift without persecution. “
For Bridget Huffmaster, a 2014 graduate, freedom is synonymous with diversity.
“We don’t have to worry about being different or choosing which religion we want to follow or what we want to wear or what we want to say,” she said. “This is what makes our country so great. And for that reason, I thankfully give up some of my freedoms in order to keep this country great.”
Dylan Day, who graduated from SHS in 2018, said he has the chance to do what he needs to do without having any worries or fears like in other countries.
“Being able to just wake up and enjoy life and say that you are an American citizen and that you are in America is just pure freedom,” he said. “Take it with open arms, but also don’t forget what’s going on and don’t forget who is fighting for your country. There is a reason that happens, and that is because everyone in every (military) branch does what it does, so people really have to consider what’s going on in order to be able to live their lives. “
2019 graduate Jalen Stanton said several things come to mind when he thinks about freedom and Independence Day.
“I think about family and the freedom to do whatever you want,” he said. “We have so much more freedom compared to other third world countries that have so many restrictions on what they can and cannot do, and I’m just happy to be from America.”
One of the freedoms these four had when they chose to join the military was to choose the branch that suited them best.
In 2012, Muhlbach enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve as an administrative specialist.
His first unit was Det 3 Comm Co. at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Kokomo. He then moved to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence.
“I think I’ve always wanted to join since I was little,” he said. “A large part of my family served and I wanted to follow in their footsteps. “
In February 2020, he transferred to the Indiana National Guard with Company C 2nd Battalion 134th Airborne Infantry at Seymour. He serves as an infantryman / parachutist at the specialist rank.
“I love the camaraderie and leadership that you learn as you serve,” said Muhlbach.
When asked how long he planned to serve, he replied, “Until I retire, if I can. “
“It means a lot,” he said. “I am happy to serve my country so that my children can grow up in a safe and free nation and to fight for those who cannot.”
Two years ago, Huffmaster changed careers.
“I was previously a licensed veterinary technician, and while I loved what I was doing, it was not the right career for me,” she said. “I grew up in a military family and knew from the start that I wanted to be in the Air Force.
So far in the military, she has had a variety of experiences.
“I went through two gas chambers to test my ability to operate in a stressful situation,” she said. “I was also on a deployment, to the United States in Maryland to help FEMA administer COVID-19 vaccines. It was very gratifying. People were very grateful. I also give a lot of instructions. in the military to other members at my facility as well. as brief commanders and create emergency management plans. “
Currently, Huffmaster is a Senior Airman, or E-4, stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas.
“My job title is Emergency Management, but basically I’m FEMA for the Air Force,” she said. “I am also a HAZMAT Certified Hazardous Materials Technician and CBRN Defense Instructor, or Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear.
Huffmaster said she is very fond of the military.
“You meet so many people who become such a big part of your life in a short period of time,” she said. “I love how consistent everything is. My job, my salary, my days off, everything is always precise and consistent. I also love what I do in the military. As an instructor, I can interact with a lot of different people every day. “
From now on, his plan is to serve for at least 20 years.
“To me, serving my country means standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. We are the guardians who keep the wolves at bay,” Huffmaster said. “It also means a sacrifice. I sacrifice a lot of my freedoms so that Americans can have theirs.”
Seven months after graduating from SHS, Day joined the US Marine Corps.
“I wasn’t too sure about college. I didn’t really like the school the way it was, so the military was always the option,” he said. “I always strive to be the best, so the Marine Corps is a perfect fit for that.”
He went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for training before going to school in Pensacola, Fla., And Oceana, Va., To become an aviation technician.
“I never really thought of doing this as a job,” he said. “That’s what the recruiter gave me, and I just went with the flow, but I like it in the sense that if I decide to go out, the many jobs I could work for… I could do six. numbers doing what we do in the civilian world. You get a lot of skills and different aspects of our careers, so there are so many benefits. “
Since 2019, he has been stationed in Beaufort, South Carolina, working on jets and electronic countermeasures.
The only time he was not in the United States was from March to September 2020, when he traveled to Japan to support the aviation technicians there.
“From the experience so far, I have met a lot of people from all over the country and around the world, so I understand their different aspects of life and how they live and how people do things that aren’t in Seymour, Indiana, ”Day says. “Then just the big picture, better discipline. I learned to socialize more. They teach you to become a man in a way… and to do things on your own.”
Being able to serve the country means a lot to Day.
“I like being able to give back. It was almost like an obligation in my mind to be able to give back to the country,” he said. “It makes me feel good to know that I let people wake up every day and that I can go about their usual daily work, without seeing missiles flying over their houses and all that.”
Day recently submitted his re-enlistment file and will either go to school to become a drill instructor or stay in Beaufort as an aviation technician.
“Everyone tells me to re-engage, so I take their advice and run with it,” he said. “Like any job, there are days when I want to go out and come back and enjoy a civilian life because there are a lot of things that people don’t see that we have to deal with in the Marine Corps. because it has its own operating system. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. “
After graduating from SHS, Stanton said he decided to experience life a bit and move from job to job.
He didn’t like it and said he decided to choose something bigger than himself: join the Marine Corps.
“I just didn’t feel like I was doing enough, so nothing better than serving your community and your country,” he said. “I really didn’t have a plan. It came out of nowhere. The recruiter texted me, and I was like ‘Huh’. I thought about it because my brother was a Marine. said to myself: ‘Why not?’ “
His older brother, Damon, was in the US Army, while his other brother, Brandon, was in the Marines.
In February 2020, Jalen attended training camp near San Diego. He then trained at Camp Pendleton in California and Missouri before returning to Camp Pendleton, where he continues to work in auto transport today.
“You do a lot of different cool stuff that you wouldn’t do if you worked in a factory or college or office job,” Stanton said. “You make the best friends. You don’t think you would have such close friends, but you do make a lot of very close friends.”
Stanton and his brothers take pride in carrying on the family’s military legacy, as two grandfathers and a great uncle all served in the military.
“It means everything to us,” he said. “We got to see some cool stuff, and every time we get a call to go somewhere, we’ll be ready to ship and do what’s right and help our country.”
Damon and Brandon are not in the military and currently live in Mitchell and work in Bloomington, and Jalen plans to complete his four years of service and then go to college.
“I want to be a state trooper or at least a cop every time I go out, for Indiana of course,” he said, “just to serve my community after serving the country.”