In the last few years, several students have chosen to continue their lives after high school in the United States military.
2015 graduates: Pablo (aka J.R.) Delos Santos – Army, Jacob Dragowski – U.S. Naval Academy, Jacob Major – Navy and Stanley Schramm – Army
2016 graduates: Ethan Jankowiak – Army, Alex Schmaltz – Army, Andrew Ford – Marines, and Doug Langone – National Guard
2017 graduates: Nick Lemon – Marines
2018 graduates: PJ Delos Santos – Army, Brianna Fisk – Marines, Avery Freeman – Marines
J.R. Delos Santos went into the army because he has always had a passion for defending the country. His father went into the armed forces and so did his stepdad. It has always been a dream of his and now it is his life. Delos Santos is now stationed in the state of Georgia and looks forward to coming home and seeing his family again, whenever he gets the chance. Being away from home has to be hard for both the family and the soldier.
“I am a Cryptologic technician. I can’t stand my job,” Major said. “I wouldn’t re-enlist even if the Lions won the Super Bowl.”
“I’m happy for him because he is following his lifelong dream,” brother PJ Delos Santos said. “It’s cool that he gets to shoot up tanks.”
Jacob Drogowski accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy. He came home for the Thanksgiving holiday then returned to Annapolis, Maryland. The Naval Academy gave him some extra leave time because he talked to schools and informing students around the area about the academy. Drogowski really enjoys his job and would not want his life any other way.
“What I do most of the time is school. I go to classes for most of the day every day, then I do homework in the evenings,” Drogowski said. “I also spend a lot of time working out and going to mandatory events for training.”
Andrew Ford joined the Marines and has his life set up just the way he would like it to be. He is engaged to a class of 2017 graduate, Pamela Braund. He has big plans for the future that contain Pamela and the lifestyle he loves in the Marine Corps.
“So to me the Marine Corps is my life. The way we go about stuff is unlike any other branch. The brotherhood is unbelievable. Every day is a new challenge. We are given the very least and expected to make the very best out of it. As far as after this enlistment it’s still up in the air,” Ford said. “Depending on where I am at the end of my enlistment, I might re-enlist. I plan on signing my GI bill over to Pamela to help her through dental school and using my TA for a possible degree in something or some sort of law enforcement like DNR. I am currently in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and will be home for Christmas.”
Being Ford’s fiance and being away from him has been a struggle. Pamela supports him all the way and has the best intentions of continuing to make him happy. Even though it is hard to be away from him as much as she is, she looks forward to what the future holds for the two of them.
“You have to mature to be able to do the long distance military thing. Life now is really complicated for both of us,” Braund said. “The distance isn’t a bad thing unless you make it a bad thing. We’re both able to follow our dreams and grow as individuals, as well as a couple.”
Alex Schmaltz who enlisted in the Army, loves his job and everything about it. He would not want his lifestyle to be changed in any way. Being away from home for him is a struggle, but he gets through it.
“I joined because I never liked the idea of college and my great-grandfather was in World War 2, my grandfather was in Vietnam war and my Uncle was in the war in Afghanistan,” Schmaltz said. “It is very hard being away from home at times, but they are always a phone call away. It’s unknown when I’ll be able to come back home at the moment.”
Alex’s family has hopes that he will be home from being stationed in Alaska for the holidays, but when it comes to the military, nothing is ever certain. Things can in within an instant and sometimes it is not in one’s favor. The Schmaltz family remains positive in hopes that they will be able to bring their soldier home.
Jacob Major, who is currently in Japan, enlisted in the Navy. He is engaged to another former graduate, Sydney Schoonmaker. Distance is hard for the two of them as they are many miles away from each other, but they make it work with trust and love.
“When he is deployed (or on a ship in the middle of an ocean), I might get a message from him once a day,” Schoonmaker said.
Being so far away from each other for such long period of time can take its toll on a person, but Major loves his job and knows this is a great way for him to support Sydney when he returns back home. After his four-year contract is up and he no longer has to serve in the military, he plans to return home and transition into a new chapter in his life.
“I am a Cryptologic technician. I can’t stand my job,” Major said. “I wouldn’t re-enlist even if the Lions won the super bowl.”
So even when Jacob will no longer have a job in the military, he will still be able to come home and continue a successful life with Sydney.
Ethan Jankowiak, who works on small arms/artillery repair, enlisted because he did not have any other plans for after high school and he knew this was the best way to support his wife, Taylor. His wife, the former Taylor Fletcher, also graduated in 2016. They got married a little over a year ago and moved to the island of Hawaii. Being stationed in Hawaii means many different things. The adventures are endless and there is no better way to kick off a marriage then to be in one of the prettiest places you will ever go.
“It’s mainly just a lot of different hobbies and spending time with Taylor,” Jankowiak said.
They got a lucky hand dealt them on their journey through the military. Ethan rarely spends time in the field and has not yet been deployed. This makes their marriage a lot easier than most military relationships, but this also takes a toll on the family life back in Indian River.
“I go to work and college just like anyone else,” Taylor Jankowiak said. “I’m lucky enough to be able to live in such an amazing place, but I definitely miss my family and friends back home.”
UPDATE: Ethan Jankowiak gave his wife Taylor a trip home from Hawaii for Christmas. Before the varsity basketball game on Dec. 1 Taylor surprised her sister Tyra.
These two have hopes of coming home to see their family in July. It is a long way from home, and getting leave time in the military is tough. It may be hard but both families love and support them and know that Hawaii is where they are meant to be.
Doug Langone, who enlisted in the National Guard, simply for a new opportunity. He wanted to get out of Wolverine, but still wanted to further his education and responsibility as a citizen of the United States. He is an Infantryman (11B). He is one of the bravest of soldiers, as he is the first line of defense in terrorist attacks both foreign and domestic. He enjoys his job an enjoys where he is stationed.
I’m currently stationed in Saginaw. I can come home whenever I want, really. The National Guard is extremely flexible with everyone’s civilian life.— Doug Langone
“I’m currently stationed in Saginaw. I can come home whenever I want, really,” Langone said. “The National Guard is extremely flexible with everyone’s civilian life.”
This is a lot easier on both Doug and his family members who wait anxiously for him to come home when possible. It is not always heartwarming when he is away, but in order to get out of the little town of Wolverine, the National Guard was a good choice. He enjoys what he does and looks forward to coming home.
Stanley Schramm, who is in the Army, came home from New York for Thanksgiving for only two days. His brother Todd Schramm drove 867.5 miles on Wednesday to bring him home to surprise his family. His mother Jane Schramm had no idea and neither did his younger brother, senior Ben. Stanley had to return to duty on Sunday. Todd made the drive to New York for the second time in five days. The family was ecstatic that he was able to come home, even if it was for the slightest time.
All the military personnel and families go through rough patches with the time they spend away from home and their loved ones. Any chance you get to admire and honor these soldiers and their loved ones, take it. Whether it’s standing for the national anthem or saying a quick prayer for the ones fighting for your freedom, it is greatly appreciated worldwide. The reason you get to walk on American soil without having to worry about many of the things that people in other countries have to worry about is because of the people who serve in the military.