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132nd Wing chief exemplifies service before self in role as dad

Chief Master Sgt. James Holwegner with his wife Deb and their three children.

Chief Master Sgt. James Holwegner with his wife Deb and their three children.

132nd Wing (132 WG), Iowa Air National Guard (June 16, 2017) -- For military families, some days are harder than others. Being away from home days or months at a time and then having a busy schedule at home can result in a complex lifestyle. Between being full-time military and a full-time husband and dad, Chief Master Sgt. James Holwegner, the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group Superintendent here, took a moment to reflect on his life and family, saying that it can be really busy and hard. However, he says the key to doing it all is having a good support system, communication and knowing that sometimes you may miss things.
Holwegner has been married to his wife, Deb, for 22 years. She works as the camp director for a diabetic camp out of Boone, Iowa, where Holwegner also volunteers his time. Together they have three kids, two girls and a boy. Their oldest is a 19 year old sophomore in college (girl), their second is a 16 year old junior in high school (boy) and their youngest is a 14 year old girl and a freshman in high school. The two younger kids keep them busy for most of the year. Between sports, the Head, Heart, Heads and Health (4-H) organization and social lives Holwegner and Deb are constantly on the move.
However, it didn’t always work that way. When the kids were younger, Holwegner said the responsibilities would often fall on Deb. Frequently deployed when the kids were young, he would miss birthdays, especially his oldest daughter’s since it felt like the deployment rotation always fell around hers. Holwegner also missed his first anniversary with his wife as well as finding out she was pregnant with their second child.
“I didn’t know she was pregnant when I left… so what she did was she had taken a pregnancy test and it showed positive,” said Holwegner. “So she boxed up the stick and something blue, gave it to somebody who was coming over on the next rotation and that guy found me and gave me that box. So I was deployed when I found out…”
Holwegner said his kids are proud of what he does because they know the sacrifice he makes and they understand that the job takes him away.
“The reason why I do the job is for their safety and security, the country and to provide them a better place to grow up,” said Holwegner.
While being a father is difficult no matter your situation, Holwegner thinks that non-military fathers can sometimes take for granted the time they may have. He said that military fathers may only be home for four months and then be gone for the next six.
“You’re constantly in and out of their lives and non-military families don’t always know the sacrifices because they don’t live it,” said Holwegner.
A choked up Holwegner had a few words of advice for new, expecting or current military fathers:
“Make the most out of every moment you have with your kids, because there’s going to be times where you miss important things and you’ll never be able to get those back, but make up for it when you have them in a one on one basis.”