Lauren Caggiano
Freelance Writer
November 4, 2009 // Local

Military service teaches veteran to appreciate blessings

Lauren Caggiano
Freelance Writer
Matt Till is shown with his family, wife Auralea and two boys, Tyson, age 6 and Colton, 1.

Matt Till is shown with his family, wife Auralea and two boys, Tyson, age 6 and Colton, 1.

By Lauren Caggiano

FORT WAYNE — At age 25, Matt Till is a husband, father, son and perhaps most notably, a veteran. Till is among the millions who have selflessly served the country in times of war.

The military has always been a significant part of his life. His father and grandfather were career Air Force men, so joining the Air National Guard was a likely path.

“I grew up around it and it’s all I knew,” he said reflecting on his upbringing.

Till signed a contract with the Air National Guard in 2002, making him the ninth person in his extended family to serve in the armed forces. The Bishop Dwenger High School graduate said his decision to join this branch of the service was strategic. Unlike the Army or Navy, which requires a solider to relocate, the Air National Guard allows him or her to remain locally. This meant he could spend more time with his family, who are an important part of his life. Till is the oldest of 10 children.

Till said the element of predictability the Air National Guard offers was also a factor in his decision.

“I always like to know what exactly is going to happen,” he said. “I knew what my job was going to be and knew when I was coming home.”

Soon it was time to do the job he signed up for — serving tours in Iraq and Kuwait, totaling 18 months. With the service came some great challenges.

Till said he was always concerned for his family’s well-being and at times felt “helpless,” being on the other side of the world.

At the same time, however, these experiences allowed him to reflect on his blessings.

“(The tours) made me appreciate the small things in life,” he said. Things we take for granted.”

For example, luxuries like hot showers, a warm bed and high-speed Internet became faint memories. And with one day off a week, there wasn’t much time to relax or connect with family overseas.

While deployed, Till worked 12-hour night shifts, often alone in the desert. This was an opportune time to reflect on his life and “a good time to say some prayers,” he said.

God brought him safely back to Fort Wayne, where he has started a family. He and his wife Auralea are raising two boys: Tyson, age 6 and Colton, 1. He still works at the base full-time.

In hindsight, Till said military service is not necessarily something for everyone.
“You either know whether it is or isn’t for you,” he said.

However, civilians can still support the troops, even miles away from the front lines. Till wants people to view his service as a job, as opposed to a political mission, regardless of personal opinion on the wars.

“My job is to protect freedoms under the Constitution … to go where I’m told and do what I’m told” — even if it means being away from family for months on end.

It’s clear that Till does not take his family for granted, “I’m thankful the military has allowed me to have and raise a family.”

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