Ask anybody in America and they can tell you where they were when 9-11 happened. For Kendra Lauruhn, it was more memorable than most. She had enlisted in the Air Force in the Delayed Entry Program while still in high school.
“I spent the summer home and then I was actually supposed to leave on Sept. 11, 2001,” Lauruhn said. “I was going to go to MEPS (Military Entry Processing Station) that day. We were going to ship off from MEPS in Denver. It was morning, we hadn’t left yet. Honestly, I’m still sleeping and my mom called me from work and she’s like, ‘I don’t think you’re going anywhere today.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
She turned the TV on to see what was going on when she saw the news about the terrorist attacks. She wouldn’t end up leaving for another week.
“I did have to go to Denver and secure a job, because that was kind of up in the air. So, I went with a guaranteed job as a dental assistant. … they gave me two choices. I could be a dental assistant or a plumber, and both of them honestly sounded like the worst jobs ever, but plumber was definitely not an option,” she said.
A week later when she headed back to Denver, Lauruhn said the topic of 9-11 didn’t come up much between her and her fellow enlistees waiting to report for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
“I remember when we took off for basic training a week after 9-11. We didn’t really talk too much about it. We were at a restaurant because we had time to eat right before we had to go and we just talked about how we’re actually getting paid right now. You know, there wasn’t a whole lot of worry or talk about it. It was just, we’re ready to go.”
Lauruhn said she joined the Air Force in part to be able to travel the world. After graduating from tech school to be a dental assistant, her first duty station was Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.
“Several of the other people around me (in tech school) were headed to Germany and no one wanted to trade,” she said.
Lauruhn, though, was able to advance her career by going to school to be a dental hygienist.
“In the Air Force, they teach you how to clean teeth. I was able to clean teeth with just in-house training. Then they started a program where at certain schools they would hold slots for Air Force people, so I applied, so I actually went to I went to school in Florida, at St. Petersburg College to be a dental hygienist. The Air Force sent me there on active duty while going to school. It was so great. I was a full-time student on active duty pay,” she said.
After graduating from St. Petersburg College, she was then stationed in Alaska.
“One of the cool things I got to do was go up to Brevig Mission … They needed extra manpower, so we went up, and I actually did dental hygiene up there. That was the one of the most exciting experiences,” Lauruhn said.
In total, Lauruhn spent just under 13 years in the Air Force before deciding she was going to enter the civilian world.
“I had our first son, and I remember going to work and they’re like, ‘Oh, by the way we’re working Saturday.’ I mean, it’s a woe is me story really, but I was right off of maternity leave. I wasn’t around family. We were back in Texas at the time. I worked Monday through Friday, you know, it was kind of a normal job essentially, but we were working that Saturday. I just was like, ‘Oh man, I just don’t know if I can do this.’ … I just knew it was time to move back home.”
The Air Force became a family tradition, of sorts. She has a sister and brother who also enlisted. All have returned to Gering.
“My sister did four years and my brother did 20, he just recently retired,” she said.
Now, back home in Gering, she is the Dental Health Coordinator for the Panhandle Public Health District.
Source: Star Herald