This week is part two of my profiles on a local Woman Veteran, to commemorate National Women’s History Month. The story of this young woman’s beginning and ending of her military life sounds similar to last week’s profile though their military branches and jobs were different. Let me introduce you to Anne Reathiford’s journey.
Anne was born in 1969, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and moved to Tennessee when she was 14. She grew up with a family who had served in World War II and Vietnam, which helped fuel her patriotism. To add to her “military bearing” following high school she married her first husband who was a member of the 101st Airborne and had served in the Gulf War.
They had a daughter in 1991, but the relationship ended in the next couple of years. Anne said, “After our divorce I found myself a single parent of a two-year-old with only a high school education. The influences in my life lead me to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in August of 1993.”
Basic training was a great boost to Anne’s confidence. Anne remembers, “Basic training was actually my favorite part. I was the flight chief and I was asked several times if I would be interested in becoming a training instructor. I would have accepted if I hadn’t been a single parent.”
After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, she went across the state to Sheppard AFB, for aircraft sheet metal training. This led her to be sent overseas to the United Kingdom Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath. “Going overseas was another highlight for me though a bit intimidating, being single and 23 years old at the time. They have a great museum that displays aircraft from the “World Wars” and I received an achievement medal for helping to refurbish them.”
During her tour of duty she was also awarded the AF Achievement Medal, AF Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, AF Overseas Long Tour, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon/Rifle, AF Training Ribbon.
I asked Anne is there were some lessons she learned in the military that she still uses today. She said, “This question was funny to me because I grew up within a military family and so I didn’t really learn anything different than what I knew from my childhood. Here are a few examples; Look people in the eye when speaking, Pay attention to detail, Give 110% in all that you do, Never stand around with your hands in your pockets, If you see something that needs to be done, don’t wait to be asked, and Take pride in your appearance, it’s people first impression. I feel that my time in the military has just validated what I had learned earlier than most.”
In the summer of 1996, Anne injured her ankle. This injury and another health issue led her to be given an Honorable Discharge, with a 20% disability rating in September of that year. Her husband was still on active duty and they stayed in England until he was transferred to Okinawa in 1998. When he retired in 2003, they started a dairy farm in Vermont.
Then life got difficult. Anne shares, “One day in 2005, on my dairy farm, I woke up and could barely walk or talk. I went for help at the VA and they doped me to the gills telling me, ‘I was crazy’. I was never diagnosed with anything. This caused the end of my marriage and I moved back to Tennessee for my family’s support. Not long after I met Ricky, he became an important part of my life.”
“When we met, the VA had added more medications to my treatment, she continues. I was in a wheelchair and he had to help me do everything. It was crushing for my daughter Andrea who was only 14 when it began. I missed out on her high school experience. Though the Doctors could not give me a clear diagnosis, we finally got the medication under control and Ricky and I married in 2009.
“Ricky has a daughter Rachel, who was born in 2001, that I adopted and helped raise since she was 3. (Rachel graduated early from Cosby High School and is currently going to VoTech in Morristown.) We lived in west Tennessee until 2012 when we moved to Jefferson City and started looking for property in the country.
“In November of 2015 we found our little homestead outside of Del Rio. It was quite a job, but we got the place fixed up. We uncovered a building, with a lot of history, on the other side of the road and made it into a little store that we opened in 2017. We call it Annie’s Pork and Beans Country Store. Living almost off the grid we were having quite a few issues with the electricity staying on.
We were close to the end of the utility lines and any big winds would knock our freezers. Then from the Discovery Channel the Raney family from “Homestead Rescue” came to help in June of 2018. Before they were through the Raney’s had helped add storage to our store and installed a waterwheel to give us electricity. You can find the program by searching for “Homestead Rescue”, Season 4 Episode 3, “Shock and Awe” which first aired January 19,2019.”
“I have mostly focused on being a parent and a wife since my discharge. For work I have been a dairy farmer, and now am a homesteader and small business owner. I love the solitude and the animals. Being mostly self-sufficient helps me in so many ways emotionally and physically.”
Annie’s Pork and Beans Country Store is located at 1575 Old 15th Road Del Rio (or find them on the Facebook page by the same name). They are open Wednesday/Thursday/Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Stop by and say Hi to Anne and her family, her husband Ricky who is also a Veteran. You can give them a call at 423-487-5909.
UPDATE FROM ANNE:
As I was finishing up Anne’s profile, she sent me the following information about a new doctor and a diagnosis she has been waiting for years.
Anne said, “Yesterday I was seen by a neurologist that told me I am being sent to Vanderbilt for surgery and that he can’t believe I’m not dead.
“The diagnosis was that I have been suffering from Myasthenia Gravis. It is a breakdown of communication between the muscles and nerves. It is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any muscle under your voluntary control. There is no cure, but treatment can help relieve the symptoms. The surgery will be to remove the tumor in the thymus gland called a thymoma, doctors will surgically remove the thymus gland (thymectomy).
“I’m am pretty proud of what I have accomplished in the past 7 years (farming, homesteading and small business owner) medication and doctor free, considering my muscles at best operate at 30% and that many things with this disease could have killed me. I am now 100% disabled permanent and total through the VA. After this surgery I hopefully can reclaim a lot of my life.
“Ricky and my goal is to homestead, have peace and happiness. We also want to leave a legacy for our girls.”
I ask everyone to add Anne to their prayer list asking God to bring her healing and good health so she may continue the rest of her life to find that peace and happiness.
VIETNAM VETERANS LUNCHEON:
This week Smoky Mountain Hospice, UT Hospice, Amedisys Hospice, Avalon, and American Legion Post 41 have come together for the 2nd Annual “National Vietnam War Veterans Day”. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act. This designates March 29, every year, to recognize the service and sacrifices made by those who served during the Vietnam era.
Through the “We Honor Veterans” program, Smoky Mountain Hospice, UT Hospice, Amedisys Hospice and Avalon gratefully acknowledge their military service men women and families. This mission of the program is to serve the nation’s veterans, who have served their country so selflessly, during their end of life journey.
This year the “Welcome Home” commemoration will be held on Monday March 30 at the Newport Community Center, 433 Prospect Avenue, Newport. There will be a light lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a short program beginning at noon.
The keynote speaker will be local resident Charles Lewis Moore, Lt. Colonel US Army, Retired. Col. Moore spent 2 tours in Vietnam lasting a total of 27 months. He was shot down three times and was awarded numerous medals and awards including the nation’s second highest, the Silver Star.
The event is free and open to all Vietnam Veterans, their family members, caregivers and anyone who wishes to thank our Vietnam veterans for their service. To learn more about the event, call Debbie D. Williams at 423-623-0233.
NEWS OF NOTE:
Elections: This is the time of year that local Veterans organizations are nominating members who will become the Commanders and Officers for the upcoming term. It is important for members of each organization to come together and choose who they feel will do the best job.
AMVETS Post 75 meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Newport Community Center, beginning at 7 p.m. You can contact the Commander Richard Holt at (423) 608-2902.
American Legion Post 41 meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Cocke County Memorial Building, beginning with a light dinner at 5 p.m. and meeting at 6 p.m. You can contact David Mills, Commander at (423) 237-6896.
Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102 meets the third Thursday of each month at their Hall at 148 Pine Street, beginning at 6 p.m., with a covered dish dinner, and meeting at 7 p.m. This year DAV 102 is also amending their bylaws and will have the second reading at the next meeting. You can contact Larry Hartsell, Commander at 423-623-5112.
Rob Watkins is a totally disabled, Air Force, Vietnam combat veteran. He has worked with Veterans for over 40 years. As a member of local organizations, he continues his path to help others. Please send information, dates for events, two weeks in advance, questions or suggestion; by mail to 565 Caney Creek Road Cosby, TN 37722 or c/o Newport Plain Talk, email; email@example.com, Facebook/View from the Bunker, or call 423-721-8918.