Veteran Joshua Pancake was born and raised in Southern Indiana. He considered going into the military after 911...
Instead, he entered the workforce and got married a few months later. He and his now wife, Andi, got together right after seventh grade and have been together ever since.
The plan was for him to work while she went to college and then for her to work while he went to college. Instead, he found a job he really liked and stayed on for four years but was laid off during the 2008 recession. “I worked as an assistant warehouse manager for a place called Utility Pipe Sales.” He said he really enjoyed the organizational aspect of the job and being in control of his day-to-day life.
At the time he was laid off, the couple had two children, and Andi was working as an LPN. It took almost nine months before Pancake found a new job, this time in a factory. The monotony of the day-to-day grind got to him though and he went home one day and asked his wife how she felt about him enlisting. “We considered the pros and cons and knowing we wanted to get out of Indiana anyway, we decided to pull the trigger.”
He began going through the process and left for basic training in August of 2011. Basic was at Fort Benning in Georgia. He did his AIT (Advanced Individual Training) there too and then went to Fort Drum, Ny. As he left for basic training, the couple realized Andi was pregnant with their fourth child. “We liked a lot of things about New York, but the winters were kind of rough.” They were there from December 2012 until December 2014.
His training was infantry which meant he spent a lot of time training and a lot of time in the field. “We were gearing up for deployment,” he explained. “I was actually looking forward to deploying. That’s why I joined the infantry.” Unfortunately, a leg injury and a change in the mission caused them to pull his deployment, and he was put in rear detachment. This is a group of people who either can’t deploy for medical reasons or for administrative reasons, he said. “They stay behind and keep the company running while the rest of the unit is deployed.”
During the rear detachment, he flourished. “I was put in charge of the training room and chemical defense equipment. I was a team leader, squad leader. I did basically everything. I wore a lot of hats there.”
By the time everyone got back from deployment, his re-enlistment opportunity opened up. The family decided they wanted to go somewhere it was not quite so cold all the time. The retention officer convinced him to give Fort Hood, Texas. By this time, they had five children. The oldest was only 9 years old.
The move went well, and they were optimistic about their new life. Unfortunately, their dreams did not come true. They loved the area, and the people were great, but he did not like the unit he was assigned to. “There was no camaraderie like I experienced at Fort Drum. It was every man for himself.” Not only that but he said they had no respect for seniority. Despite his experience as a team leader, he was placed under a man who had much less time in. “He had never deployed either, so there was no reason for him to be my team leader. He made my life a living hell…intentionally.”
Although he was supposed to do another four years, he ended up taking a medical retirement due to the earlier leg injury combined with the stress of the situation at Fort Hood in 2016.
When they left Fort Hood, they considered purchasing a home in Tennessee, but it did not work out. Instead, they ended up in Georgia, outside Fort Stewart. He got a job as a lab technician in a factory. “It was a lot of fun, but it only paid $10 an hour.” They also lost money during the move when they were not reimbursed for expenses as promised. “That was a big setback.”
Feeling they had no other options, they moved back to Indiana, found jobs and were in the process of getting back on their feet when they discovered Andi has a terminal illness. “It is causing her body to deteriorate quickly.” Pancake’s parents invited them to move in while they worked things out. “It’s a huge six-bedroom house. We thought it was all going to work out.”
Unfortunately, it did not work out after all, and the family had to move again when his parents decided to sell their home. This time, they moved to Okeechobee where he was offered a job by Detox of South Florida. “We used our tax return and the money we had saved up to buy a 35-foot motor home.” They moved to Okeechobee in June of this year.
Another catastrophe hit when Andi, who had just begun to feel better, had a seizure. As a nurse, she cannot work when the possibility of a seizure is present, he said.
Making the best of a difficult situation, the family settled into life in Okeechobee and then were hit by another blow when Hurricane Ian damaged the roof of their motor home. There is water damage in the walls, floor and the roof.
As if these things were not enough for one family to bear, one of their daughter is struggling medically as well and will need to consult with an endocrinologist as soon as possible. Doctors suspect Hashimoto’s explained Andi.
If you would like to help financially, the family has a fundraiser set up on Facebook. It can be found here: Veteran needs help
In addition, they can receive donations through CashApp at $AndiPancake or $joshuapancake or through Chime at $Joshua-Pancake