North Dakota is home to many veterans across all branches of service. Some families have multiple generations of veterans, some serving alongside one another.
Sgt. First Class Kim Unruh has spent over three decades in the National Guard. She said, “I hold two MOS’s, I’m a 91X, which is a maintenance inspector and an 88M, which is a truck driver.”
While Unruh was serving multiple tours around the world, her husband, Steven, was taking care of day-to-day tasks at home.
He said, “Whenever she’s been deployed, it’s been a group effort, my parents, Kaitlynn was I think 9 when she got deployed to Kosovo for almost a year and a half.”
Kaitlynn, also known as Specialist Morrell, now serves as a construction engineer in the National Guard, following in her mother’s footsteps.
“I went to basic training in Fort Jackson, just like my mother and my aunt,” said Morrell.
That aunt is Unruh’s sister, Staff Sgt. Teri Shipley, who serves as a supply technician.
“I went to a couple drills with her when she was out in Fargo, and started going to the gym with her at the armory, and after that I was kind of like, maybe I’ll join,” said Shipley.
Shipley and Unruh were both deployed to Kosovo, but just missed serving alongside each other, as Shipley deployed right as her sister returned home.
Shipley’s husband, Ike, says being married to a soldier gave him insight on the work needed to be fully dedicated to duty, while still being a mom and a wife.
He said, “When you’re working directly with it, you realize all the direct, the excessive, and even the additional dedication that is given beyond just an eight-hour day, and the passion that they have for America. It’s amazing.”
Of course, Unruh takes pride in her daughter’s service in the Guard.
Unruh, talking about her daughter, said, “She joined the year before I left for Afghanistan, so I kind of missed her high school graduation and prom and stuff, which is usually the par for the course, being in the service, you miss a lot of events and family things.”
Morrell actually joined the guard while still in high school, leaving for basic training the summer before senior year, and things were different when she got home.
“Everyone walked real slow, man it was hard in the hallways in school, you kind of detected disrespect a lot more,” said Morrell.
Her plans in the National Guard?
She said, “My major plan is to outrank my mom.”
Unruh plans to stay in for another nine years, making it a bit more challenging for her daughter to catch up.
Unruh and her daughter just missed out on a deployment to Kuwait together at the beginning of 2020.