Sunday is Veterans Day – an opportunity for us to honor the men and women who have served our country in war and peace. Here at Community Brands, we’re extremely proud of all our employees who are veterans, as well as those who continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserves. In addition, we’re honored to partner with our many nonprofit and association customers whose mission it is to support military members and their families.

In recognition of Veterans Day, we sit down with three employees who’ve selflessly served …

Kimberly Muenzel, Expo Logic Customer Support Manager, East Norriton, Pennsylvania

Q. In what branch of the military did you serve, and when?

Kim: I was an Airman in the Navy from 1986 to 1990, serving as a shore-based photographer.

There were only five of us on the team, so we got to do the job from beginning to end – go out, take pictures, go back to the lab, process the film. When you’re a photographer in the military you’re called upon to help capture and document all sorts of events. I had to have Secret Clearance and saw things I can’t even talk about today. One of my most memorable assignments was a helicopter crash near Treasure Island, under the Gold Gate Bridge. As they pulled bodies out of the water, I took pictures. You really have to have tough skin.

I also earned my certification in personal training while in the Navy. If you didn’t pass your PT test you had to come see me during your lunch hour. It was one of my biggest takeaways from the Navy – I’m still a Certified Personal Trainer and teach boot camp before and after work for the YMCA.

Q. Where were you stationed?

Kim: I was at Naval Air Station Alameda in Alameda, California, which is now a decommissioned base.

Q. What motivated you to join the Navy?

Kim: I was a Commercial Art major in college at the time. But I was working more and more and attending school less and less. I wanted to get out of that cycle, so after discussions with a recruiter, I decided to join the Navy. Since I’d already completed two years of college, I was designated as an E-3, and progressed through the ranks during my tour of duty. It’s a great way to not only get your education largely paid for, but it’s also a really great place to find yourself as a young person. I got to finish my schooling, while working at a great job that came with a tremendous support system. I also really wanted to serve my country and give back, and there’s no better way to do that than through military service.

Q. How has your service shaped who you are today?

Kim: First and foremost, having served and having been a military spouse for 19 years, I have tremendous respect for what members of the military and their families go through.

From a professional perspective, I learned a lot about teamwork. Consequently, I’m more passionate about work and working together as a team, because I understand the value. I care deeply about my team members – I want them to grow and succeed and I feel empowered to help them do the best they can.

Q. How will you spend Veterans Day?

Kim: I plan to go hiking with my daughter Lexi, who also works here at Community Brands.

Scott Leverence, GiveSmart Account Executive, Austin, Texas

Q. In what branch of the military did you serve, and when?

Scott: I served from 1987 to 1994 in the U.S. Air Force as a Staff Sergeant. I was a boom operator, also known as an in-flight refueler, on KC-135s. There’s what’s called a boom pod in the back of the aircraft. As a boom operator, you lay down in the boom pod and fly the boom, which connects with incoming military aircraft, refueling them in flight.

Military aircraft conducting bombing runs or reconnaissance missions are often loaded down with people, munitions, and other supplies, and so the crew doesn’t want to have to carry extra amounts of fuel. We refueled them in the air, so they could continue their mission without having to carry excess fuel or land the aircraft.

Q. Where were you stationed?

Scott: I was stationed at the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but had lengthy deployments in the Middle East during Desert Storm, as well as across the U.S.

Q. What motivated you to join the military?

Scott: A couple of things: My father was in the Air Force for 42 years, so he was an influence on both me and my brother, who is in right now as a Lieutenant Colonel. My father never really said anything, it just sort of happened. I also wanted to be able to pay back my student loans, which is the reason a lot of young people join the military.

Q. How has your service shaped who you are today?

Scott: It has shaped who I am today in a lot of ways. When you go into the military it forces you to grow up pretty quickly. It exposes you to life experiences you can’t understand until you go through them.

In addition, it instills pride, discipline, teamwork, and respect for others. One of the best things about the military is it makes everyone equal. In basic training, your race, religion, and socio-economic status don’t matter – everyone’s the same. Everyone’s on the same team. You’re only as strong as your weakest links, so you build those people up. It really makes you a family.

Q.  How will you spend Veterans Day?

Scott: I’ll reach out to my dad and brother to give my respects. And I’ll take time to reflect and honor those who’ve served and continue to serve. But mostly, I plan to relax with my dog and watch football.

Mike Knight, Configio Network Administrator, Spirit Lake, Idaho

 Q. In what branch of the military did you serve, and when?

Mike: I served in the Marine Corps from 2000 to 2004. When I left, I was a Corporal – a E-4. But, initially, I was a small computer systems specialist in a nice cozy office on Camp Kinser, a logistics base in Okinawa, Japan. Then September 11 happened. Directly after that, I started to train Marines in marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat. I volunteered for the position, because the Marine Corps was ramping up training and didn’t have enough trainers, so I did that for three years.

I had deployments in Thailand, South Korea, Australia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Guam, the Philippines – really, most of Asia. I trained U.S. Marines, but also taught Thai marines our way of hand-to-hand combat and Republic of Korea Marines cold weather training, jungle warfare training, and marksmanship.

Q. What motivated you to join the military?

Mike: My dad was drafted in the Vietnam War while he was still in high school, and my mom’s father served in the Korean War and her ex-husband was in Desert Storm, but I had no intention of joining the military. One day in 12th grade, my best friend said, “Hey, you want to join the military?” I thought, why not? So, three weeks after high school graduation, seven of us went down to San Diego to boot camp. I was the only one who stayed – the other six backed out.

At the time, I was only 17, so my parents had to sign a waiver for me to join. My dad didn’t want to sign it – it took three to four months to convince him. That’s why I took a desk job initially, even though I wanted to join the infantry and see the world. Of course, after 9/11, I did.

Q. How has your service shaped who you are today?

Mike: It’s mostly shaped my outlook on life. When you travel the world, you see things in a different light. Instead of forming my opinions based on what I’ve read or seen on TV, I base them on my personal experiences. I’m more respectful of different cultures and I’m a more positive person.

The military also taught me to take pride in what I do. If I can’t accomplish something the way I want it done, I’ll do it over. Repetition creates perfection. It’s the military way.

Q. How did you spend Veterans Day?

Mike: I’ll be celebrating more on Monday than Sunday, because my kids’ school is hosting a Veterans Day Celebration. They’ve invited parents who are veterans from all the military branches to attend. In years past, the kids have sung the Marine Corps Hymn – it’s really nice.