Two Storm Lake sisters carry on a family tradition of military service that spans back to the Revolutionary War, and they find it a source of pride in uncertain times.
Rachel and Holly Gouldin serve in the United States Air Force and Army respectively. Rachel, 19, is an Airman, and 22-year-old Holly is a Private First Class. Their parents are Dr. John and Cheryl Gouldin.
While they both had different reasons for joining the military, following Sept. 11 the sisters have found common ground as they serve their country.
"You find yourself realizing you are involved for a different reason then when you enlisted," Rachel said.
Rachel has been in the Air Force since June, while Holly signed up in August of 2000 on a delayed entry program.
Their mother, Cheryl, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, is proud of her daughters as they carry on a family tradition spanning back to the Revolutionary War.
Rachel and Holly's brother served in the Army during the Gulf War, their father served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and their grandfather was in the Army during World War II.
"The patriotism we see today is a real boost to the morale of the American people," Cheryl said. "To see our young join in be a part of it is really rewarding."
Holly said it is "absolutely wonderful" to carry on the family tradition.
"When I talk with my brother about his service in the Gulf War, he says how proud he is of us now," she said. "It's not an easy time to join the military. But you find people who are proud of their country, and how much they support you."
Rachel has been in the Air Force since June, while Holly started basic training at the end of October. Currently they are stationed only about an hour apart from one another in South Carolina, though that will change as Holly completes basic in the next two weeks.
Rachel, a 2001 graduate of Storm Lake High School, signed up for the Air Force during high school. "I wasn't ready for college and I always liked the idea of military service," she said. "When the opportunity came up I jumped on it."
College tuition assistance helped Holly decide to join the Army while she was in her third year at Iowa State University. She will be able to complete her college degree while in the Army. She enlisted in August 2000, but did not go to basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., until October of this year.
Post-Sept. 11, some friends still questioned Holly about her decision to join the Army. "People were asking why I was still going and telling me to stay here," she said.
"However, since Sept. 11, the decision to serve has become a source of pride," Holly added. "What an opportunity to serve the country at this time."
Both of the Gouldin sisters experienced that as they flew home during the holidays. "In Atlanta, and Cincinnati people would come up to us and say thank you for being here," Holly said.
The challenges of military service has helped make the two into better people, the sisters agree.
Holly said basic training has changed who she is. "I have done things I never thought I would do in my life," she said, from firing machine guns and throwing grenades to being in a leadership position in her platoon.
One of the challenges is learning how to be a leader and dealing with a diverse group of people.
"It's a challenge learning to deal with all the different people you come in contact with, and moving beyond that to learn how to become a team with them," Holly said.
She has risen to a leadership position and serves as the platoon guide, overseeing approximately 50 people in her platoon.
Also, she has has been selected as the soldier leader for graduation ceremonies at the end of January. She was one of five selected out of 1,000 new recruits. Her parents will be able to sit in the general's box during the ceremony.
As a platoon guide, Holly is responsible for keeping her platoon organized and informed of their duties, but there are times that discipline is necessary.
"It's difficult because ages range from 17 to 36 in the platoon," she said. "But usually when there's a problem it's not because I'm a woman - whoever is causing it just has a problem with discipline.
"I have had leadership opportunities that a normal 22-year old wouldn't have," she said. "I can't explain the wonderful feeling of being there with everyone back home supporting us."
At basic training it is women and men learning side-by-side. "Co-ed training provides for some difficult moments," Holly said.
While men and women have different physical test standards for the final physical exams, Holly pointed out that there are also different standards for the recruits in different age ranges.
Rachel did not experience the same level of co-ed training. "Marching drills were about the only co-ed training we got," she joked.
Also, Rachel's basic training was shorter, at only six weeks. She went on to a technical school and is now a certified air traffic controller. She is en route to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
When Holly graduates basic on Jan. 17, she will move on to Fort Rucker, Alabama, to train as an aviation operations specialist. She hopes to eventually become a helicopter pilot.