There is one particular way of life that is very different from most others.
Not everything is different, but in some ways, nothing is really the same as when you’re the child of a career military servant.
You move a lot. You change schools. You make and remake friends. You master new routines in a lineup of ever-changing cities, every couple of years. You have to adapt. You learn to be flexible.
This same is true, too, for the service member as Luis Sanchez, an Army helicopter mechanic, should know. At 17, he joined the Army and throughout his lifetime of service has weathered four long deployments: in 2006 for 15 months, in 2008 for 12 months, in 2011 for 12 months, and in 2013 for nine months.
Anytime a service member is called to duty, it’s difficult for the family members they leave behind. But this was certainly true in 2006, when Luis had to leave his son Titan, who was just three months old at the time.
By the time Luis returned from duty, his son was 18 months old.
“The hardest part was missing everything that he did for those first 15 months and, intermittently, from June 2008 until around 2014, when I was able to see him every weekend” he said.
In 2015, Titan reunited with his father to live with him full time.
Until then, they stayed in touch as much as possible via phone and video chats when Luis was out of country, and kept up with each other in daily conversations when he was assigned to bases in the U.S.
Luis remarried and has been stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Satellite Beach since 2017, after assignments in Hawaii, Texas, and Savannah.
He was stationed in Savannah when he married his wife Tammy, who lived in Palm Bay and wanted to remain there for her kids to finish school. “I travelled back and forth until I got stationed [at Patrick] in 2017, [and then we] were all together again,” he said.
Tammy and Luis share their lives with Jordin Sanchez (20), his adopted daughter from his current marriage, daughter Jaydin Ulp (16), and son Titan (14).
“Jordin plays college soccer, so we try to watch or attend as many games as we can. Jaydin plays club soccer, so our weekdays and weekends are full of practices and games. Titan played baseball for two seasons and now runs track, so overall our daily schedule (is pretty hectic),” he said.
To relax, the family uses travel time for quality time, discussing life and checking in with each other on the long car rides to and from meets and games. Other times, they bond by watching movies, swimming, playing board games or card games, and occasionally breaking out the old-school Wii device to sing, dance, and bowl together as a family.
Luis knows that the sacrifices he’s made have been difficult at times for his family. But his goal is similar to that of so many men and women who’ve chosen to serve in the Armed Forces: to make the world a safer and better place for his children.
“As much as I wanted to be with them, I had a job to do…I wanted to help make this world a better place for their future.”
“It’s a job I love, for a country I love, and one that has given me so much.”