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Angie Hamilton knew she could be called to active duty at anytime. Still, the news was unexpected for the Neligh family, who have three children ages three and under.
They'll leave Neligh on Tuesday for 3 1/2 months as Angie, a nurse anesthetist, fulfills her military obligation in Washington.
"It's much more difficult now. It would have been easier when I was single or before the kids," said Angie, who is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. "Now we have three kids three and under, and they're all coming with us. It's just what we have to do."
On Tuesday, Chad and Angie (Wolfe) Hamilton of Neligh will begin a 1,500-mile journey to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., with their daughter Collins, 3, and twin sons Cash and Kendall, 13 months. The family will live near the base until the end of November.
The 38-year-old Clearwater High School graduate will treat soldiers, veterans and military family members at Madigan Army Medical Center, the Army's second-largest treatment facility. Although similar in job description to what she does now at the Antelope Memorial Hospital, her cases will be much different there, considering Madigan is one of only three designated Level II trauma centers in Army medicine.
As for Chad, Angie's husband, the transition is much different. He'll be leaving his new business, Hamilton Garage, and become a stay-at-home-dad - only not at his home. It'll be in an apartment in a new city.
"It is what it is," Chad said. "I've talked to my customers. It's for three months, and they understand what's going on. My place is with my family, and they are being very supportive of our family."
Angie enlisted in the U.S. Army on her brother's birthday - May 22, 1998, just three months before earning her LPN at Northeast Community College. A recruiter spoke to Angie's nursing class about the benefits of military assistance with education, so she enlisted and went through basic training in January 1999 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.
Angie then finished her degree in criminal justice through the University of Nebraska-Kearney in 2001 before earning a bachelor's degree in science from Creighton University in 2005, the same year she and Chad were married. She graduated from Bryan LGH College of Health Science as a nurse anesthetist in 2010.
The Hamiltons moved to Neligh in January 2011. They own TKO Anesthesia with Christan Ford, also of Neligh, and are contracted through Antelope Memorial Hospital and other facilities.
Angie's job in Washington will be very similar to what she is doing now, only on a larger scale, which is a great opportunity for more training that she can bring back to Northeast Nebraska.
"I'll be doing more than what we do in a rural facility," she said. "I'll be doing bigger, more intense cases. That's a benefit."
As if packing up the household wasn't enough of a challenge, Angie has also been preparing the business for her leave. TKO Anesthesia will continue providing services to rural hospitals, including AMH, during her absence.
"If I were someone's employee, it would be a lot easier," she said. "When you own a business, you have to find your own help and so forth."
Her partner, Christan Ford, agreed that having Angie gone presents its share of challenges, but she both understands the commitment and supports her partner's military service.
"She's obligated to serve, and I support her service to our country," Christan said. "Our responsibilities here are very important as well, so this does greatly affect our business. But we're working through this and will meet all of our obligations as a business. I wish their family nothing but the best while they are away."
Angie said that support, along with support from family, friends and the community, has made this transition a bit easier, especially since this is the first time she's been called to active duty. She received a call at 2 a.m. Sept. 12, 2001, asking her to prepare for possible activation, following 9/11. However, being a college student, she did not serve at that time.
When this notice came through via email, she was given nearly 90 days to get her affairs in order in preparation of her service. That was almost too much time, Chad said, because it meant they had months to think about how this would work with their children, family and jobs.
Collins was enrolled in the 3-year-old preschool program this fall. That has been put on hold, although they are hoping to enroll her in January.
The Hamiltons both said leaving, even for 3 1/2 months, isn't easy for any of them. They'll be counting the days until they can return and get back to their normal routine.
"I guess we'll see how fast three months fly by," Chad said. "Hopefully, it goes by pretty fast. You just do what you have to do, but we will be back."
Angie added, "Yes, we will be back to Neligh. It's tough on everyone, but we appreciate the support we've received."