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Local veterans invite you to help give back on Memorial Day

By Staff | Mar 23, 2012

Submitted photo Veterans Isaac Wisniewski and Jillian Morton are asking the community to honor Memorial Day in a new way. The pair served Army in the U.S.War on Terror In Afghanistan.

Just over a decade ago, Isaac Wisniewski and Jillian Morton were teenage sweethearts attending Jefferson High School. Back then, Memorial Day seemed to mean little more than hanging an American Flag on the porch and looking forward to a summer vacation full of lazy days-and of course rebellious teenage activities.

Senior year, however, was different. Sept.11 and the ensuing Global War on Terror awakened a calling in many teenagers to serve the nation, and when Memorial Day came around again, the reality of war, past and present, could not have felt more tangible. Isaac and Jillian were just two teenagers of many, who, instead of enjoying lazy days and rebellious activities after graduation, would “enjoy” quite the opposite as they joined the ranks of the U. S. Military.

Isaac and Jillian received their commission as officers in the US Army on Memorial Day weekend in 2006, when they both graduated from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. They returned home to West Virginia for just under 60 days (the longest summer vacation they had since high school!) before attending their respective officer training programs. Isaac was to become an Aviator, so he began flight school at Ft. Rucker, Ala., and Jillian went to Ft. Huachuca, Ariz. to become a Military Intelligence Analyst. Despite the distance between them, they maintained their roots in West Virginia and married on Dec. 30, 2006 in Shepherdstown.

Over the next couple years, Jillian and Isaac finished their initial training, welcomed their daughter, Anna, into their family, and began pre-deployment training with their assigned unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault!) at Fort Campbell, Ky. Before their daughter turned two, they received their official deployment orders to Afghanistan. Isaac would serve in Kandahar, and Jillian would serve in Jalalabad-two very different regions of Afghanistan. While both of them would have to go their separate ways, their biggest challenge would be leaving their daughter for an entire year. Fortunately, Anna was able to move in with her Oma and Opa, Susan and Michael Wisniewski, who, along with what seemed like the entire “village” of Shepherdstown, would lovingly raise her for a memorable year. Memorial Day 2009 was a special one for the entire family: Isaac and Jillian served in one of the nation’s wars and received their promotions to the rank of Captain; Susan and Michael embraced the challenges of being a military family, and Annawell, Anna discovered her love of flags that weekend!

Isaac and Jillian have since settled back into their family life as much as a military family can. In the past couple of years, they have moved across the country twice, from Tennessee to Arizona and then to Alabama. They will move again next spring, when they attend graduate school before going back to West Point, this time as academic instructors. Isaac will teach Economics and Jillian will teach Systems Engineering. The couple also welcomed their baby boy, Isaac Edward, in mid-January and look forward to raising him in the supportive military community that they have come to appreciate whole-heartedly.

This Memorial Day, Isaac and Jillian Wisniewski expect to have at least two hours to reflect on their service together as they run their first half-marathon just outside of Boston, Mass. They will join many of their fellow service members in a race that will benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which serves United States military personnel wounded or injured in service to our nation, and their families.

Like many residents of Shepherdstown, Isaac and Jillian have family members who served overseas as well. Jillian’s brother, Sergeant Jacob Morton, served multiple tours as an infantryman in Iraq where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds he received when his squad became the target of a suicide bomber. Jillian’s grandfather, John Morton, served in the Korean War as an airman in the U. S. Air Force, and her step-grandfather, J.C. Basinger, served in WWII as part of the initial Army forces that stormed Omaha Beach. Also, Jillian’s great-uncle, Jim Gourley, served in Vietnam with the Army. Isaac’s uncle, John Wisniewski, was also an Army Vietnam veteran, and Isaac’s grandfather, Edward Wisniewski, served in the U. S. Marine Corps.

This commitment to military service transcends generations and deeply affects the Soldiers and family members alike. Although Jillian and Isaac had a positive experience serving in Afghanistan, many soldiers return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, injuries, or even head trauma. Most of these afflictions deeply affect their personal lives and create a need for long term care well after their service obligations have ended. Many soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice and never return home at all.

The Wisniewski family would like to honor these service members and their families by raising money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to directly support them through their many challenges.

If you would like to assist Isaac and Jillian in their efforts to support the Fallen Heroes Fund, please visit www.crowdrise.com/teamwisniewski to make a monetary donation or to sign up for the race.

Jillian and Isaac would like to thank the Shepherdstown community for its support to their family, and would like you to know that although they do not reside geographically in Shepherdstown, they still very much consider it their home.