Jessie Anderson joined the military on Valentine’s Day 2000 with no intention of finding love, she said.
But soon after, she meets her husband, Nathan, an Apache helicopter pilot.
“I fell in love with a man who lives in Johnstown,” she said. “This has been my home for 20 years.”
While attending flight school in Alabama, Anderson was in Johnstown to care for their toddler and was pregnant with a second child.
“I was alone in a new state,” she said. “I felt lonely and disconnected. By this time I was no longer in the military and was taken under the wing of other military wives in Johnstown.”
Inspired by the support she received from others during her husband’s deployments, Anderson said she strives to be a voice for veterans and children of military families.
“We have all the military branches here in Johnstown,” she said. “It’s a huge military community, and it continues to grow.”
On Friday in the lobby of the 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial, a small gathering celebrated Military Spouse Appreciation Day, instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and recognized the Friday before Mother’s Day.
For the 13th year, a Military Spouse Appreciation Day event at the National War Memorial was hosted by Veteran Community Initiatives Inc., Wessel & Company and the American Red Cross.
Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic and Cambria County Chairman-Commissioner Thomas Chernisky delivered a proclamation, and Anderson was a guest speaker, military spouse, and retired Lt. Col. Sean Mullen.
Mullen and his wife moved to Johnstown from North Carolina in 2020.
“Pennsylvania is good for veterans, and during our research we found Johnstown. I learned it was ‘Charlestown’ in ‘Slap Shot,’ then I heard about the War Memorial”, did he declare.
Since moving to Johnstown, he has become an assistant captain of the Johnstown Generals, a veteran army hockey team.
Mullen spoke of two instances where his wife, Jessie, also a Marine, was deployed while he was staying at their North Carolina home.
The first separation happened early in their marriage, before they had children. Mullen’s challenge then was to decide how to spend his free time and how to reintegrate his life with that of his wife upon his return, he said.
The second deployment took place after their family grew.
“Four girls, two dogs, a cat – and I think we had a turtle – but I’ve never felt so alone,” he said. “Having been on active duty has given me a unique perspective. I can’t even imagine what non-military spouses (who don’t have military experience themselves) go through when trying to know where their loved one is and if they are even safe.”
Veteran Community Initiatives Inc. President Tom Caulfield urged friends and neighbors to help the spouses of deployed service members a little.
“You just have to visit them, cut their grass, cook a meal,” he said. “The feeling of isolation can be overwhelming.”