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Woodstock family has always answered call to duty

By Sally Voth

A tradition of patriotism and service that started nearly 250 years ago in Ann Grisdale's family continues to this day.

The retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and her husband Ernie, also a retired lieutenant colonel, have raised a trio of soldiers.

Three of their four children -- Leah, 31, works in banking in Richmond -- are in or were in the Army and have been deployed to the Middle East.

A Woodstock native, Mrs. Grisdale met her future husband when both were stationed at Ft. McClellan in Alabama. She later retired from the reserves, while her husband retired from active duty after 20 years.

Grisdale served in Vietnam, and said both his father and his wife's father served in World War II.

"Ann's family, in terms of service, dates back to the Revolutionary War," he said. "They can trace it back that far."

Both parents said they feel immense pride in their children's service.

"I was very proud, very, very proud," Mrs. Grisdale said. "It's difficult when they're deployed, but you can't really think about that. You have to just keep moving ahead and send them lots of packages and pray that they will be safe, and welcome them home with open arms."

While he has made a full recovery, youngest child, David, 26, was shot in the hand while in Afghanistan. Like his sister Katherine and brother Aaron, David joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps while in college.

David was only 2 when his father retired from the Army, so he didn't grow up in the military lifestyle, he said in a phone interview from Ft. Riley, Kansas

"That's just what I always wanted to do," the captain said. "I always played Army when I was a little kid. It's come to the point where I don't know what else I would do. Right now, there's no inkling to get out."

From April 2011 until January, David was in Afghanistan. He said he thinks that even if someone doesn't want to go into the military, there are other ways to give back to this country, whether that is through joining the Peace Corps or volunteering for the fire department.

The oldest of the Grisdale children, Katherine Klus, served in the U.S. Army from 1999-2006. Klus, 35, teaches math at Strasburg High School.

While a student at Mary Baldwin College, Klus was in the inaugural class of The Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership. It is the only all-women cadet corps in the world, according to Mary Baldwin College's website.

Like her mother before her, Klus met her husband, Matthew, while stationed in the Army. The couple met in Germany.

"Really, it sounds cliched to say, but I really enjoyed serving my country," she said. "It's something I can't put into words. I just love that sense of duty and serving my country. I loved that sense of camaraderie. It's one big family."

Only obligated to serve four years, Klus ended up serving seven, including a stint in Iraq. She was a captain.

"I wasn't ready to get out," she said of her decision to stay in the Army.

Third child, Aaron, has been in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2005. He was deployed to Iraq three years ago. A captain now, Aaron is the director of zoning and inspections for Winchester.

His service has given him a broader perspective of life in America.

"Having a chance to serve and be deployed really opens up your eyes as to the quality of life that we have here," Aaron said. "[It] just really makes you appreciate what we have here in the United States."

Veterans Day is a time to reflect on others' service to America, the Grisdales said.

"Obviously, you think about all the young people that are in the service now and being deployed, or back from deployment," said Ernie Grisdale, who has taught at Lord Fairfax Community College since 1988. "Your heart goes out to them and their families. You wish the best for all of them."

Klus is proud of her family's dedication to duty.

"[Veterans Day] is a day that makes me feel very proud of my family," she said.

Five years after his combat death, Maurertown native Thomas Randolph Wilson, 21, remains in David's "constant thoughts."

"I grew up with Thomas," he said. "He's an inspiration. I think every person in the military has those people that they remember. I think that's the whole meaning of Veterans Day. Remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for all of your freedoms."

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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