|Answering the Call of Duty|
By Lena Basha
Volume 140, No. 6, November/December 2006, Page 4
When Patty Strecker wants to talk to her three daughters, sometimes she’s not able to get in touch with them. But it’s not because they don’t want to talk to her. Her three daughters—Sarah, Laura and Julie—have all committed to careers in the U.S. Army. And as Mrs. Strecker quickly learned, easy communication isn’t always possible.
Take Sarah, for instance. Stationed as an Army Captain for the past 14 months in Kuwait—thousands of miles from her parents in Longmont, Colo.—Sarah, a 2003 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the 300 other members of her battalion are responsible for processing thousands of soldiers who fly into or out of the Middle East each day. She calls home about once a month, but relies mostly on e-mail—and the care packages her mother and sisters send regularly—to keep in touch with her family.
Mrs. Strecker is not complaining, though. She and her husband, Don, have always tried to instill in their daughters a profound sense of patriotism and love of country.
“My father was a great fan of Mark Twain, and one of his favorite quotes was ‘Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.’ I was taught to support my country all the time, and that’s something I tried to teach my girls,” she says. “But maybe I overdid it a bit with the patriotism.”
Her daughters would disagree. Laura, a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, serving as a nurse at the Brooke Army Medical Hospital in San Antonio, says growing up in a patriotic home helped spark the interest that led her into the military.
“My sisters and I grew up hearing that we live in a wonderful country, but you can’t really comprehend that as a child,” Laura says. “Until you gain an understanding of the world on your own, you can’t fully appreciate it. The more I learn about other cultures and other countries, the more I realize just how wonderful our own country is. I don’t know exactly why I was blessed enough to be born in this country, but I am honored to have been so, and I don’t plan on taking advantage of that.”
Julie, the youngest Strecker and a junior at Marquette University, plans to serve her country, too.
“It’s important to me,” says Julie, who received a full scholarship through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for the Army, a program Laura completed in 2005 at St. John’s University. “So many people complain about living here, so I want to do my part and defend what I believe in.”
Despite their high level of commitment, the Strecker women admit their day-to-day lives can be difficult. Worrying about the safety of each other, staying in touch and trying to be together for the holidays are just a few of the everyday struggles the Streckers endure.
“We have a unique relationship,” says Sarah of her sisters. “We try to write every few weeks. Even though we’re not able to see each other that often, whenever we do, it’s like no time has passed, and there’s no distance between us.”
Julie, who talks to both Laura and her mother regularly, says holidays are the hardest. “We always remember who can’t be there and call them, but it’s not the same as all being together as a family.”
Mrs. Strecker, a DAR member since 2002, also credits her Longs Peak Chapter, Longmont, Colo., for helping her daughters feel close to home despite the distance. The chapter recently honored Sarah and Laura, both members since 2003, with Outstanding Junior awards. The chapter also sends monthly care packages to Sarah’s battalion in Kuwait. Julie joined the chapter when she became eligible in 2004.
Even though they have little time to participate right now, the Strecker sisters say joining the DAR was still important. “It gives you an automatic bond with someone that you might not normally have,” says Julie, who recently found out that her ROTC Captain at school is a fellow Daughter. “I’ll always be a member. One day, I want to be a part of my own chapter, and when I have kids, I want to carry on the legacy, just as my mom did with us.”
That’s all Mrs. Strecker, an active Daughter herself, could ask for. “I love the DAR,” she says. “I love being in a group of ladies who are patriotic and are trying to foster true patriotism and love of country. I don’t have to apologize for being patriotic, and I don’t have to explain why my daughters chose a military career. The DAR ladies understand it.”
Credit: Photos courtesy of Patty Strecker