Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

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June 29, 2014

Sisters bond through military training

FLORA — Katherine Deaton never doubted her decision to go into the military, wanting to do so as far back as childhood.

“I remember telling my dad as a kid that he would have to salute me one day,” she said. “He told me that I would have to be an officer for him to do that, and I should shoot for the stars and go to West Point.”

So she did.

Katherine’s May graduation from West Point wasn’t only a personal triumph but a family one. With her father, Wayne, a Vietnam veteran and her mother, Marilyn, a historic member of the first women’s Army Corps, her accomplishments were shared by her parents. But they were made more special after her sister, Elizabeth, recently graduated from Air Force pilot training.  Completing her nearly four years of training at West Point, Elizabeth swore in and pinned Katherine at the ceremony, making the sisters the newest generation of service members in the family.

“For me, that was a better feeling than pilot training,” Elizabeth said of being with her sister at the ceremony. “I was swearing her in and the look on her face was as if she truly belonged there. It was amazing.”

Katherine said going through training and finally seeing the end of the tunnel made everything real.

“I cried so hard when I got my diploma,” she said. “Every emotion I had felt for 47 months came to the surface, and I wept like a baby. It’s the greatest experience of my life.”

During her training, Katherine said she had to endure walking everywhere with her hands cuffed in front of her, unable to speak outside due to the academy’s rules, which are designed to build students into a unit.

She said it was difficult to deal with and many students decide to quit during a third year ceremony in which they must pledge to continue attending. She said she had no doubt she wanted to continue to be a part of the prestigious military academy.

“A lot of people do have doubts but never have I felt so confident that I was making the right decision,” she said. “You raise the right hand and you make a commitment. I put my hand up, and it was steady as a rock. I made the right decision.”

Elizabeth remembered similar difficulties learning to become a pilot. Heading to Loughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, in May, she was thrown into a training plane for the first time almost immediately, after never having piloted one in her life.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if God wanted me to be there or not. There were people in my class that had 3,000 flight hours, and I had nothing.”

Both sisters used each other and their families as a source of comfort and support through the training process, especially when times were difficult.

“Any time I wanted to complain, I could call her,” Katherine said.

“We didn’t really understand each other’s training, but I loved it,” Elizabeth said of her talks with her sister. “I have pictures of her all over my room. It’s definitely an inspiration.”

With their acceptance into military life, neither Elizabeth or Katherine have much time to relax.

Katherine is taking a few weeks of vacation to visit every baseball stadium in the continental states before being stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Elizabeth is preparing for further training in Little Rock, Arkansas. Both girls said the experience has shown them the strength they possess.

“If I tell anyone anything, it’s don’t judge your expectations of yourself based on what everyone else has done,” Elizabeth said

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