Cats of Service: Sam Gunther

Molly Bobik, Staff

As kids, many saw war as a fun game to play in the backyard. For Sam Gunther, being apart of the military was always a real thing and it was something he wanted to be a part of-no matter the danger.

From the age of 9, Sam, a 2017 Latrobe graduate, had imagined himself serving alongside many of the other brave men and women in the military. He had always enjoyed listening to his father’s amusing stories of the days he spent in the Air Force. “It made me want to go more,” said Sam. Reflecting back on the times when he observed his father hanging out with his old friends from the military, Sam could not help but laugh.

Finally fulfilling his dream, Sam has spent the last eight months at Basic Military Training for the Air Force in San Antonio and Wichita Falls, Texas. He learned what it really meant to be a part of the military, which included the importance of being disciplined and tidy. Tidiness was definitely one of Sam’s biggest struggles. Going from being the average teenage boy who despises any sort of cleaning, to a clean cut military man who must be prepared for daily room inspections was difficult.

Not only was it mandatory that Sam’s living facility be clean, but he had to be as well. The entire military has a code of conduct for how to properly wear a uniform called the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It instructs how to wear the uniform, but it also informs that it must always be clean. Aside from that code of conduct, the Air Force has an entirely separate one known as the Air Force Instruction (AFI), which Sam also had to learn and follow on a daily basis

While Sam successfully kept himself and his room spotless during his time at basics, Sam said, “I’ll be honest, when I come home I don’t make my bed.”

Aside from the training and discipline Sam has been put through this far, he has also been attending school for free thanks to the GI bill he received. Through additional schooling, Sam is working toward attaining a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He recently earned his associate degree on February 1. To obtain his goal of a bachelor’s  degree, Sam plans to continue school online through Embry Riddle Aeronautical University at his next base in Dover, Delaware.

Sam has been able to put his growing knowledge of electrical engineering to good use in assisting the Air Force. He currently works in avionics, which is associated with the flight control of airplanes. His main focus is the autopilot and the indicators in the cockpit, such as the fuel quantity, oil quantity, angle tact indicator, etc. From there he monitors how the controls are functioning and troubleshoots any wires that may not be working properly.

In eight short months, Sam has transformed into an independent man and it is evident in him physically and in his character. While Sam said, “I don’t really notice because it happened to me,” he also added, “My parents say that they see I’ve changed.”

When seeing her son for the first time at his basic training graduation, Patrina Gunther, Sam’s mothers said, “I was so full of pride and honor, that I just smiled and cried,”

Sam’s recent visit to his alma mater has touched his former teachers. They are proud of what he has become. One teacher in particular could not be more pleased with the way Sam has continued to carry himself throughout this journey in his life. Mr.Saveikis, Sam’s former AP Human Geography teacher, was greatly involved with guiding Sam through his decision to enter into the Air Force. The two spent a lot of time discussing what was best for Sam. Mr.Saveikis said, “I just told him if you’re gonna go, make sure you explore your options.” Mr. Saveikis always knew Sam would be successful in whatever he chose to do, but he also attested that his success originated in his family. “His mom and dad did one heck of a job raising him,” said Mr.Saveikis, “He’s just a great kid. It’s just an honor to know him.”

As Sam continues his service throughout the next three years, he will be stationed in Dover, Delaware. When his enlistment ends, Sam is unsure of his future. He may remain in Dover or he may move back to Pittsburgh where he would join the Army Reserves or National Guard.

  Joining any branch of the military does not only take physical strength, but it takes mental strength. Many strive to achieve both, many believe they have both, only few actually have obtained both such as Sam Gunther.