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Service to the nation was something my dad was very proud of. My dad immigrated to the United States from Germany with his family when he was only 4 years old. He joined the Navy during World War II, and he drove landing craft during the invasion of Normandy. With pride and sadness, he shared many stories with our family, but what I remember most are the stories he told about the camaraderie he shared with his fellow sailors. After the war, he left the Navy, but later in his life he said he wished he had stayed in. I could tell he loved military life and serving his country.
I started dating my husband in high school before he was accepted to West Point. Upon graduation he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. My dad was so proud. Forty years later, Ray and I never expected we would live the life we have had, filled with so many blessings.
Through the years, we have shared special bonds with so many amazing people, especially the relationships made during deployments. Everywhere we go, we are inspired by the resilience, strength and courage of the soldiers and their spouses and family members.
Our oldest son, Tony, also graduated from West Point and served proudly in the Army. He was injured in 2004 in Iraq and medically retired in 2007 and has been an inspiration to our family. Tony's occupational therapist, Harvey Naranjo, owns a therapy dog to help him with his patients. Through his work with the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America's VetDogs, an organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind, service dogs for our Wounded Warriors and the disabled and pet therapy dogs, I was introduced to Tootsie. I have been doing pet therapy for the past four years with Tootsie, who is yellow lab/golden retriever mix. We visit wounded, ill and injured patients and their family members in military hospitals wherever we are stationed. It is one of the most rewarding volunteer positions I have ever had and I feel it is an honor to visit such remarkable people. It's very special to bring a smile to someone's face and comfort them while they are in the hospital.