Veteran helps through Legion

A U.S. Army veteran, Waterford resident Katie Wainwright Tucker’s job as director of the American Legion Auxiliary for the State of Ohio seems to be a good fit for her.

“I’m helping other veterans through the auxiliary,” she said. “My staff of three and I have 454 units we work with statewide, and with more than 45,000 members Ohio is one of the top states nationwide for women’s auxiliary membership.”

An officer with the army’s 172nd Infantry Brigade and 172nd support Battalion, Katie attained the rank of captain during her years of service from 1998 to 2006, and she can easily relate to other vets, old and young, male or female.

The 37-year-old graduated from Waterford High School in 1994, then attended John Carroll University in Cleveland on an ROTC scholarship, majoring in history and political science.

“I needed a way to pay for college, and had talked with my father, Steven Wainwright who attended John Carroll and had served in the military,” Katie said. “I also talked with my Aunt Diane Wainwright who had served during Desert Storm. So I decided to apply for the ROTC scholarship-but I really didn’t know what I was getting into.”

Soon after arriving at John Carroll she discovered ROTC students were treated a little differently than the others.

“When I showed up at school they said I would be issued a uniform to wear,” Katie said. “We had physical training every day, and each semester had to take a class in military science and leadership skills.”

The ROTC lifestyle took a bit of getting used to, but after the first month or so she began to take a liking to it.

“Once in I found I actually enjoyed it,” Katie said. “And I was getting 80 percent of my tuition and books expenses paid for.”

As graduation day neared she put in a request to serve as a transportation and logistics officer, a position that both her father and aunt had held during their military years.

“I graduated as a second lieutenant and had requested to serve in Alaska, so I was sent to Fort Wainwright (near Fairbanks),” Katie said. “It was just a coincidence that my last name was the same as the fort’s. Our family had no connection to the facility.”

Arriving at the fort in mid November, her units, the 172nd Infantry Brigade and 172nd Support Battalion, were on field maneuvers so Katie was immediately sent out to join them.

“We were to provide logistical support for the infantry units-food, water, fuel and transportation,” she said. “So I was sent to meet them in the field and spent the next 10 days there in a tent.”

Although there were other women officers with the units, Katie was the only female in her tent.

“There were five guys and I was the only woman in the tent,” she said. “But everyone was very professional about the situation.”

Katie noted that women and men soldiers receive the same training in the army. They traverse the same obstacle courses and go on the same road marches and runs.

“The military puts you in a lot of uncomfortable situations, but it builds character and confidence,” she said, adding that joining the military can be a great move for high school grads who aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives.

“They can learn a variety of skills and even travel the world,” Katie said.

Her husband, Troy, agreed. Although he was not in military service, both his father and grandfather served.

“There are a lot of opportunities and you’re guaranteed an occupation and an income,” he said. “I have a friend who retired after just 20 years in the service.”

Katie spent three years at Fort Wainwright, where she eventually became transportation officer for the entire brigade.

“We were responsible for getting soldiers from Alaska to their various duty stations, and as transportation officer I often had to travel to those locations in areas like Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines,” she said. “I was in Australia during the 2000 Olympics, but I also spent some time in Thailand which was like a third-world country. That was a real eye-opening experience.”

In 2001 Katie was transfered to the army transportation center at Fort Eustus, Va., where she earned the rank of captain and was assigned to a unit that trained transportation and advance individual training officers.

“I was commander of two headquarters companies with 250 to 300 soldiers in each,” she said. “It was one of the best jobs I’d had in the military, although there was a lot of responsibility. And the weather in Virginia wasn’t nearly as cold as Alaska where it might snow from August to May.”

By 2006, after eight years, Katie decided to leave the military.

“I wanted to get back home to my friends and family,” she said.

After her discharge Katie attended culinary school in Pittsburgh and worked in that area for a couple years before moving back to the Waterford area where she met Troy at an American Legion function one night.

They married in 2012.

Both are active with the local American Legion in Beverly.

“We spend a lot of time there helping out,” Troy said. “And we don’t mind. This is such a small community and we’re pretty close-knit.”

On Thursday Katie was asked to participate in activities honoring veterans at Fort Frye High School and Waterford Elementary School. She gave a presentation about her military service at the high school.

“But I was blown away by what the elementary school students did,” she said. “Every class did special songs honoring veterans. It really made me proud of our community.”

One teacher asked Katie how everyday citizens can show their appreciation for veterans.

“Just be a good citizen-do something meaningful with your life,” Katie answered. “Volunteer. Help others and become a productive part of our society.”

Ohio veterans can

use app for benefits information

Ohio veterans can now use a mobile app to find information about available benefits.

The Ohio Department of Veterans Services unveiled the app this week. Department Director Tim Gorrell says it enables veterans to find out quickly what major benefits they’ve earned and how and where to apply for them

There is also a portion of the app that provides contact information for each of Ohio’s county veterans’ service offices by name, zip code or location and map and directional information. The same contact, map and directional information is available for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Ohio.

The app is available free from the Google Play and iTunes stores, by searching the key words “Ohio veteran.”

The department’s website contains a link to the stores.