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Three generations of serving the Air Force

  • Published
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Going back to 1961, when television stations still broadcast in black and white, telephones were rotary dial and humans had not yet visited the moon, the Wehunt family has had someone in the United States Air Force.

Today, at a time with hundreds of color cable networks, smartphones and the moon visited multiple times, three Wehunts wear a uniform.

Serving in 2016 are Lt. Col. Shane Wehunt, 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, and his son, Senior Airman Dylan Wehunt, 21st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, at Travis Air Force Base, California, with his daughter, Senior Airman Laura Wehunt, 59th Dental Training Squadron dental assistant, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas.

They follow Shane’s father, Ray Wehunt, who served 26 years as a loadmaster and retired at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 1987.

“I knew from just my experience in the Air Force with him that that’s what I was going to do,” said Shane. “There was no other option in my head. That was what I was going to do and serving my country was part of it from an early, early age.”

Shane’s service picked up where his father’s left off, enlisting in 1987. After spending time in Boy Scouts in his youth, the Wehunt patriarch said he wanted to “be part of something bigger than myself, something that carried that spirit into my adult life.”

Shane was a loadmaster like his father during his first 14 years in the Air Force. He became an officer and was returned to Minot as a second lieutenant in 2001.

Like Shane, Dylan felt a strong pull toward the service. Around eighth or ninth grade, he knew he was going to join after participating in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps while the family was in Germany as well as Boy Scouts. After high school, Dylan joined and graduated basic military training in June 2011.

Both children stress that their father never pushed them to be in the Air Force, but to make their own choices.

“It was never ‘this is what my family does,’” said Dylan. “It was never ‘I want you to join the military and I want you to be a loadmaster.’ ”

Laura echoed her brother’s comments.

“The big phrase in our house was, ‘It’s your picture to color. I’m just here to keep you in between the lines,’ ” said Laura.

Although Laura is Dylan’s elder by five years, she has slightly less time in rank. Her path to service was less determined than her father and brother.

After spending nearly two decades moving around the globe because of her father’s job, Laura wanted stability immediately after high school.

“I really felt like maybe I wanted to settle down,” she said. “I just didn’t see myself being strong enough to be able to join the Air Force. I didn’t have the right self-esteem to do it.”

After a few years waitressing and working other odd jobs, attending Dylan’s graduation ceremony lit a spark in Laura.

As soon as she returned home, she met with a recruiter. Within six months, the Wehunt family met again in San Antonio for her graduation from basic training.

“I’m the stubborn one,” said Laura with a laugh. “Even though I made it a little bit later, it’s still the best decision I ever made.”

Additionally, Shane’s spouse, Teejae Wehunt, works in civilian personnel at Travis. Though all but Laura are at Travis now, at one time, they were spread across the globe. In 2013, Shane was in Guam, Dylan at Travis, Laura in San Antonio and Teejae working for the Army in Germany.

The four came together in Germany for the holidays that year. Christmas morning brought a pleasant surprise as Shane got the news he would command the 860th AMXS, the unit that provides aircraft to Dylan’s squadron.

“That was an incredible Christmas gift,” said Shane.

After nearly three decades in the service, Shane knows how special and rare it is to be able to see his son daily and share in his life.

Regardless of location, one word keeps coming from the mouths of all three Wehunts when they talk about wearing the uniform: Pride.

“Pride. Pride is the only word that comes to mind,” said Laura.

Shane said the same.

“I could not be more proud,” said Shane. “The pride isn’t specifically with Dylan and Laura, although that is epic in its own right. It’s all of us having the same core values, having the same objectives for ourselves and our families.”

Shane will hit the 30-year mark in 2017. Both Wehunt children expressed a desire to stay with the Air Force into the future, but are unclear what shape that will take whether as officers or cross training to other career fields.

For Dylan, whose six-year enlistment ends next year, said that he doesn’t see the Air Force as a job, but as his life.

“This is it for maybe the next 20 years,” said Dylan, glancing at his father and adding with a laugh, “Or 30 years."