Local 4 News celebrates local veterans and what they have done and still do for the country.
Being a woman in the military comes with a lot of firsts, and a lot of sacrifice.
Tonight we meet Nela Swindale, a retired staff sergeant from the army– who served for 20 years.
Serving and raising a family creates some specific challenges.
“Every child has a dream and everybody always ask their children what do they want to be when they grow up. I can’t remember if I wanted to be a princess or a ballerina or a doctor or anything like that. But I do remember from the time I was about 10 years old I wanted to be in the military, and that just stuck with me,” says Swindale.
When Swindale joined the Army in 1998 military service quickly became a way of life.
“They break you down. They take you from your civilian life, and they mold you into what they need you to be in the military. It’s challenging mentally, physically, you name it it’s there,” says Swindale.
After two decades of service and many years passed, the retired Staff Sergeant recalls the moment she shot her first weapon in basic training.
Swindale says, “It was like ‘aaahhhh’ nerve-wracking, then you get out there and it’s like cool, cool, cool, and you can’t wait to go do it again.”
She also met her husband who also served in the military
“With him being a male spouse in the military he had his own challenges to face every time I would deploy or I was gone. It was like oh but you’re the dad, where’s the mom? Well mom’s not here. Mom is on the other side of the world defending our country right now,” says Swindale.
She says fortunately for her she was able to be there for both of her children when they turned a year old, but after that she was gone
“The challenges is that you go away, and they develop their own routine, their own way of life, and the next thing you know you’re coming back in, but you’re the outsider, you’re always the outsider,” says Swindale. “You have to reintegrate yourself inside the family. You can’t force them you can’t tell them it’s my way or the high way. you have to bring yourself to them, and meet them on their ground because they’ve been doing it without you for a year.”
She says although there were some challenges, she loved serving this country
“I think as a citizen of the united states, it should be everybody’s privilege to serve, and defend what this country was built on. The right to chose, the right to do what you want. The freedoms that we have today.”
Even today as she’s retired from the military, her service is never ending.
She says there’s so much to love about veterans
“Their pride, their honor, their integrity, their loyalty. Once you’ve been in the military, and you’ve gotten out you always have that family that brotherhood, that sisterhood of those of serve. They know what you’ve been through,” says Swindale.
Swindale is now studying at Western Illinois University in the Quad Cities to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
She plans to graduate next May.