Across North Dakota, young men and women raise their right hand and vow to serve their country, with some enlisting while in high school.
Maj. Kayla Teneyck was a senior in high school when she enlisted and continues to serve to this day, some 20 plus years later.
Teneyck got her inspiration to serve from a popular military movie.
She had originally been attached to the 957 Multi-Role Bridge Company for several reasons — one being that she had friends in that unit.
And for the other, Teneyck said, “It gets really hot in North Dakota and if I’m going to do two weeks in the summer, in a tent, I want it to be close to water.”
This was in 2000, and the very next year, the attacks of Sept. 11 changed her life.
She describes feeling the need to serve the country but was also nervous to deploy to a war zone, as she left for Iraq in 2003.
Once she was there, she says she was “in her zone” and says there was plenty of good that came out of what she calls her time in the sandbox.
“The thing that I loved the most is the camaraderie that you build,” said Teneyck.
After returning from Iraq, she chose to go to nursing school in 2007 while still working as a bridge-builder in the National Guard.
After becoming a nurse, she was working on the oncology floor for a few years.
Then she took a big step in her Army career and changed jobs in Army National Guard.
Teneyck said, “There was an opening for an officer slot, and so I applied for that and then was chosen through that interview process and then became a nurse for the 814th area support medical company.”
With this new position, she traveled the world doing what she loves, performing medical exercises in Congo and Ghana.
She said, “The military puts me in situations where I get to help with tons of different people, and nursing also — and that is my heart, is people.”
Nursing is something that she continues to this day, at Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck.
She works to educate those that are newly diagnosed with cancer on their diagnosis as well as treatment plans that are available to them.
Being a veteran, she can easily relate to patients she sees that have a military background.
Teneyck said, “I myself have had to navigate through the VA insurance, Tricare insurance, things like that. It’s nice when you know the language.”
Overall, she said her passion is helping her fellow veterans as they are her brothers and sisters.
She continues to serve in the National Guard as a major and strives to save lives.
Teneyck says her time in the military and seeing what she saw overseas gives her a large sense of gratitude for the life she lives in Bismarck.
She also says a common theme that she noticed worldwide is that parents want to give the best life they can for their children.