SARASOTA, Fla. -- Today we honor an amazing Suncoast woman who is prepared to serve her country, whether it's on the battlefront or the home front.
Julie and Ryan Simonson want to make sure their three sons understand the true meaning of Memorial Day. "I want my boys to see how important it is to give service to this nation. And if you don't do it in the military, you do it in another way; you volunteer or you become a teacher or you become a legislator," says Julie.
She was in the Junior ROTC in high school and got a scholarship to West Point. "I went through basic training and four years of West Point, and then I was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the Army…was in the Military Police Corps."
She met her husband Ryan just before they graduated. "By the end of the night I was like ‘oh man, I want to marry this guy.’ We dated for two and a half weeks and we got married right after we graduated from West Point."
Both she and Ryan were heading for Iraq. "I was all set to get my platoon, and I got the anthrax vaccine, and within hours of getting the vaccine I got very ill."
She went anyway. "I deployed in support of Iraqi Freedom, went to Kuwait…didn't make it because I was too sick.”
She was sent back to the States. "I had to leave my platoon over there, and it was very sad for me."
And 3 days after her medical separation from the Army, she found out she was pregnant. When their first son was born in Sarasota, Ryan was in Iraq. The Army notified him of the birth by a fax, and Ryan managed to find a satellite phone to call Julie and speak to his new son.
"Julie is holding the hospital phone up next to his ear, and I was standing on the roof in order to get satellite reception from Iraq in order to have that conservation from the Middle East back to Sarasota," says Ryan.
It was 8 months before he got to meet his son.
They had two more boys, and Julie went to law school. Now she practices with Icard Merrill. “I practice in elder law, estate and veteran’s law," says Julie.
And she does a lot of pro bono work for the elderly and for veterans.
She and Ryan will celebrate their 12th anniversary next month.
And her life lesson? "Calm down and take a breath, and appreciate life in the moment."