If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then Sgt. 1st Class (retired) Mark Genthner and his wife Lori may be most in-love couple you’ll ever meet.
Mark served 26 years as a 31B, a military police officer (MP) for the U.S. Army, and Lori spent 24 of those years married to him and a total of 10 years waiting for him to come home.
“The biggest challenges were keeping the house rolling with as much normalcy as possible during the deployments, rail missions, and long hours of being a MP,” said Lori.
Those deployments included the Gulf War, Kosovo, and four tours in Iraq. In between that Mark also spent several years as a drill sergeant. Then there were the moves.
The couple met at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., moved to Sierra Army Depot, Calif., spent four years overseas at AFNORTH in Brunssum, Netherlands, and eight years at Kaiserslautern, Germany, before returning stateside for Mark’s last assignments at Fort Knox, Ky, and Fort Hood, Texas.
Mark and Lori have two sons, Darian and Gage, and although Lori had concerns about Mark being away when they were so young, she found comfort through friendships and her military-connected communities.
“Overseas, our landlords became family, and we embraced and celebrated their holidays and ours together,” continued Lori. “We also had support from the units with family groups and friends who kept the kids busy and helped me keep the home fires burning.”
She admitted there were some adjustments to moving, especially overseas where they all had to learn new languages, but they found strength in embracing these new opportunities.
“Living overseas was an experience of a lifetime, and we submerged the kids straight into the culture,” added Lori. “I always explained to the boys to keep their eyes and ears wide open because they were experiencing things people only dream about or save their entire lifetime to see.”
Some of the unique things the Genthners experienced included: cleaning the beaches in Normandy with Greenpeace, riding a gondola in Venice, sitting in a horse drawn carriage at midnight traveling through snow covered streets in Garmisch, lunch in a cathedral in Metz with a priest, touring the castles in Italy and driving with no speed limit on the Autobahn.
“We always tried to make our moves an opportunity or and adventure to help replace the tension or sadness from losing friends and changing schools,” said Lori. “we were fortunate because my kids didn't have to move as often as some because Mark would extend his assignments to stay in Europe as long as we could.”
Living overseas, the boys attends Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, which gave Lori a chance to volunteer and be part of the local community.
“I started working in Germany as a paraeducator in kindergarten and then substituting while taking classes,” said Lori. “I kept excellent communication with their teachers so they knew of deployments, and many classrooms adopted Mark as their soldier for care packages and letters of encouragement.”
Lori said the toughest time for her was the aftermath of September 11, 2001. While Mark was at school in the states, Lori and her family were an ocean away from him and the rest of the country. She said the landlords burned candles in their windows and went out of their way to invite them to meals, have coffee, and provide support to keep their minds off the tragedy.
Years later, Lori and Mark find themselves in the Harker Heights area, along with life-long friend Dee Montana, who she gets to work with at MCEC®. And those little boys are not so little anymore.
Gage attempted to join the Army but was unable to do so due to a medical condition, so he made the choice to get his education and graduated from Temple College with a degree in Art. He’s married and lives near the Fort Hood area.
His brother Darian is a satellite systems specialist currently serving in the Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. He recently passed the promotion board and is waiting to earn his sergeant stripes.
“Mark and I are very proud that both boys were willing to serve and follow in his footsteps,” said Lori.
Lori said she believes it’s important to have the mindset of the sacrifices the serving member makes and remember the importance of the bond that families can have.
This June, Mark and Lori celebrate 28 years together, and when asked if there is anything she’d change, she emphatically responded, “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!”