By Joseph Siemandel, Joint Forces Headquarters, Washington National Guard
After committing themselves to each other, married couple Hunter White and April Talaiga vowed to serve in the Washington National Guard on Oct. 30.
They were approaching their first wedding anniversary when Hunter came home after talking with Staff Sgt. Marilyn Gerhardt, a career counselor in the Auburn area, about the idea of joining the National Guard.
“I wanted to serve in some aspect,” said Hunter, a para-educator at Auburn Mountainview High School. “I had considered it for a long time, but I didn’t want to be gone for a long time. I didn’t want to make this decision alone.”
After talking with his wife April about the opportunities, her initial response was not at all what he expected.
“I said ‘no,’ ” April said with a laugh. “I honestly think I was just making excuses and after listening to the benefits more, I thought, ‘Not only can he do it, but I can do this too.’”
Hunter called Staff Sgt. Gerhardt for a follow-up meeting and they both took the pledge and joined the Guard. Hunter is a motor transport operator while April, currently a student athlete at Highline College, will train to be an ammunition specialist.
“It was best to talk with both of them about the Guard,” Gerhardt said. “I had a chance to really lay out the benefits and the education opportunities while they talked together about what was best for their family.”
Both Hunter and April are excited to use their education benefits from the Guard to continue their education. After completing their training, each will be eligible for National Guard tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Washington National Guard conditional scholarship.
“I want to be a teacher, and the education benefits from the Guard will help me accomplish that goal,” said Hunter.
On Oct. 30, the couple joined others at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Seattle.
“It was easier at MEPS having someone there with you,” Hunter said. “It has been very easy on our end. Staff Sgt. Gerhardt has been super easy to work with and it has been fun.”
The couple recently completed their first recruit sustainment program drill in Kent, which gives new recruits their first introduction to Basic Combat Training and gets them on the right track mentally, physically, emotionally and administratively while preparing for their careers in the Guard.
The experience has been so good for the couple, April even talks to her teammate at Highline about joining the Guard.
“I already have meetings set up with one of her teammates,” Gerhardt said. “April is out here helping us bring more great people into the Guard.”