OKEECHOBEE — Veterans Steve and Tina Lynn met while serving their country in Germany and have been together ever since.
Steve grew up in Wauchula, but in 1978 moved with his grandmother to Indiana. Three months after turning 17, he joined the Army and headed for Germany. “I told them when I went in that I didn’t want to go overseas. I wanted to stay in the States, but they had a list of places I could go, and that was the only one that sounded interesting. I wanted to drive a tank. I was 17!” He said it turned out well. He was able to see most of Germany and had a lot of fun.
“I got to serve on the East German border.” He learned to do ground surveillance radar and walked along the border. In certain parts of the border, there was no fence and he walked side by side with his counterpart on the other side of the border. Some areas were separated by a river. “There were a lot of mines on the other side, and we could hear them going off at night, mostly from animals.” In the towns near the border, they did not often see young children, because they were moved out to safer areas. “As the people got older, the towns were basically disappearing, because all the young people were gone.” Later, after the border came down, he was able to fly over in a helicopter. “It was like going from Manhattan into the ghetto. It was a huge difference.”
Steve served three tours, nine years, in Germany. He was able to roam the country on his off time and was even able to visit Paris. His favorite place there was the Louvre. “I got to walk up the Eiffel Tower, but going up was much better than going down, and I will never do that again!” In his opinion, the German people were much friendlier than the French, and he found German people were patient with Americans trying to speak their language. In Paris though, if you did not know how to speak the language properly, they preferred you not speak it at all.
In between those tours, he served in the States and spent a lot of his time teaching. Among his many adventures and achievements during his almost 17 years in the service, he learned to fly tank helicopters, learned to drive a bus, took a mechanic course, taught scout tactics to National Guard, taught a course on the Bradley (a tracked fighting vehicle), was promoted to course manager and ordered supplies, coordinated the ranges and assisted the battalion commander in making decisions on what resources were needed. “I learned they could make anything look good on paper,” he said. “It was my job to show what the real deal was.” Later, he taught a scout commanders’ course. You had to pass this course in order to go to a calvary unit. He taught swimming lessons and took an EMT course, serving as a volunteer firefighter. “As a kid, I always wanted to be a paramedic, but this changed my mind. They don’t make enough.” He retired as an E6 and said he was grateful he never had to go to combat, “I enjoyed pretty much everything I ever did in the military.”
Tina is originally from Virginia. “As a little girl, I always knew I wanted to be in the military,” she said. “My grandfather was a colonel in the Marines. Hearing his stories made me want to serve my country too.” When she graduated from high school in Arlington, Va., she and her grandfather went to MEPS (military entrance processing station), and he swore her in to the National Guard. “When I got home, my father was very upset. He did NOT want me to join the military.” Her MOS (military occupational specialty) was logistics or supply and demand, and she was sent to Bowling Green, Virginia. Later, she moved to New Mexico and then Fort Hood Texas and served there.
The National Guard serves one weekend a month. They are usually called for missions within our country. “They are like the first line of home defense," she explained.
After about a year in the Guard, she decided to go active duty and changed her MOS to finance and became an accounting specialist. She did her training at Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis. After she was trained, she was sent to Germany and it wasn’t long before she ran into Steve. They met in Hanau. Steve was line dancing at the Rod and Gun Club and doing it really well, she noticed. “I thought wow he’s really cute,” she said. “I didn’t think I had any chance with him though. He was older and several ranks above me.” Later, he asked for her information and showed up at her barracks when she was getting ready to go out on a date with someone else. “He ended up going with us and did that several times. The two were kind of rivals, but he won, so it worked out great.” One of their favorite things to do together was to take a picnic lunch out into a field of flowers.
Tina was discharged when her 3 years were up, but she came back to Germany to be with Steve until he retired and they returned to the States. For a short time, they lived in Tacoma and both worked for Olan Mills. Later, Steve worked for Schwans for 20 years, mostly in management. Tina stayed home to raise their children. When they boys were older, the couple went to work for the Veterans Administration. They moved to Okeechobee last year. “I love to fish, and this was a great place for that,” Steve said. “We plan to travel during the summer and stay here in the winter.”
Between them, the couple has five children. Steve had three before meeting Tina, and they have two boys together. Their two sons both joined the military as soon as they were old enough. Hunter lives in Washington State, and Kail is still serving in Poland.