They all knew the day would come when Ryan Wetschka would not be home with his family for Christmas. And while his family has accepted the reality of a son, a brother, a grandson and nephew serving his country in the United States Army, it doesn’t make the missing him any easier.
Wetschka, the son of Jenn and Tom Wetschka, is serving in the United States Army at Hohenfels Army Base in Germany. It’s just over 4,550 miles from home. He joined the U.S. Army after graduating from New Prague High School in 2019. Ryan committed to military service at 17, thanks to mom and dad’s willingness to sign for him. He re-enlisted last summer.
Looking for structure Unlike previous years, when he could schedule block leave time to make it home from Fort Carson in Colorado, this is the first year he won’t be at home.
While the Wetschkas understand Ryan was looking for the structure, training and growth opportunities the military offered, it comes with knowing he can be transferred to an area not readily accessible to home.
“The biggest thing is,” Tom said, “we don’t know when we’ll see them again.” Ryan was married last summer. He and his wife, Katie, enjoyed a send-off celebration with their families at Thanksgiving. For Ryan, being away from home means missing baking cookies, celebrating with the other members of the Wetschka family.
Yet instead of dwelling on the negatives and to prevent homesickness from setting in, the young couple is using the experience as a learning experience.
“We are both disappointed to not be with family in Minnesota, but very excited to start our own traditions in Germany and learn more about how Germans celebrate Christmas,” Ryan said via emails relayed through his father.
Surrounded by ‘family’ Ryan and Katie know they are not alone. They are surrounded by fellow soldiers and Army couples. There is strength in fellowship and activity. Katie is completing her college degree online.
“The Hohenfels army community has been very welcoming, and given us many Christmas cards/ care packages,” Ryan wrote. “We are very thankful they have welcomed us into the Hohenfels family and made us a part of their Christmas.”
They are also establishing their own family traditions as a married couple.
“We will try to make a Christmas meal incorporating dishes from both sides of our family as well as having our friend from Fort Carson that came with us, celebrate the holidays at our new home,” Ryan…
To see more on this story pick up the December 22, 2022 print edition of The New Prague Times.