Valley City Times-Record
Recognizing one local family’s legacy of service
For many families Veterans Day is a day that they hold close to their heart. As of 2021 there are over 19 million veterans in the United States with more than 56,000 residing in North Dakota. November 11th became the national holiday for Veterans Day in 1938. Originally named Armistice Day after World War I, the now known Veterans Day was changed in 1954 to honor all of those that have served in the United States military.
While there are some families that have one member enlist, there are a select few that have multi-generational enlistments throughout their family tree. For the Modlin family of Valley City, their military lineage dates back to the Civil War. Tyler and Chelsea Modlin, along with their four boys have called Valley City their home for over 5 years. Recently their oldest son Damien, a junior at VCHS, enlisted with the Army National Guard
for infantry continuing on the legacy that has been in his family for decades.
Once Damien graduates, he will begin his journey in the military and will wear the same uniform as his family members before him. On his father’s side, Damien’s great grandfather (Norman Loots) served in the Navy during WWII on the USS Phoenix. His grandpa (Gary Modlin) was Army Infantry, served in Vietnam, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Damien’s dad (Tyler Modlin) was also Army Infantry, served in the longest single deployment from 2005-2007, and was a Sargent. On his mother’s side, Damien’s great, great grandfather (Reverend William Bills) lied about his age and traveled two counties over to enlist for the North during the Civil War.
His great grandfather (William Bills) was in the Army and deployed to Iceland, Germany, Belgium, and Luxemburg from 1941-45. His other great grandfather (Ralph Schmidt) was in the Army during the Cold War and was stationed near Alaska. Also, his great uncle (Dan Bills) was in the Navy during Vietnam and then served in the National Guard after returning home.
It’s hard when your child is ready to leave home and start their adult journey. Whether they go to college, travel the world, or just move away it’s hard for some parents to see their child growing up. The Times Record spoke with Chelsea Modlin, Damien’s mom, about how she feels seeing her son continuing on and creating his future in the military. “I am beyond proud of him and thrilled that he wants to carry on the family tradition and serve our country. I cry whenever I think about it. However, I am also so afraid of what he might see and be expected to do as a soldier, and the man he may come home as after a deployment,” said Modlin. Being a veteran’s wife and now a National Guard mom, Chelsea is no stranger to the emotional toll it can take loving someone in the military. Chelsea described her personal journey and how she has acclimated to being in this new role. “Tyler and I didn’t meet and start dating until the year after he came home, and he said he would not deploy again because of Damian and me. It was not something I directly dealt with, until recently. Ironically, Tyler decided last year he really wanted to reenlist and go to officer candidate school, but because of his cancer and not being cancer-free for five years, was denied. Of course, this created a whole other set of emotions in our house. I think it was Tyler’s way of being there with Damian, in his own way. With Damian, it’s completely different because he is my child and even though it’s impossible, I literally want to go with him to do all the things he is going to do to make sure he is safe. I asked his recruiter if I could be cc’d on his drill emails, and he literally laughed at me. It’s just hard to imagine him as a grownup and not a little kid. Instead, I have to trust this is what he wants. We also have a couple of our other sons that plan to enter the military when they are 17 and think I will have a lot more emotions to manage as the years go on,” said Modlin.
Today and Everyday
For military families, it isn’t just November 11th that veterans are remembered. For the Modlin family they make sure that every day is a day to thank a veteran. Modlin said, “First and foremost, we are teaching our kids to thank veterans for their service. Tyler’s dad will go up to every veteran he sees and thank them for their service and say “welcome home” because he did not get that when he returned home from Vietnam. We also remind our kids Veterans Day is not just a day off of work or school, it’s about thousands of men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We are so proud of our family and friends that have served, and we want to make sure to instill that in our kids too.”
Plans for the Future
Damian will start drill this month and will attend basic training at Fort Benning, GA next summer just like his dad and grandpa did. The summer of 2024, right after graduating high school he will attend AIT training. At this time, he is unsure if he will go active duty or go to college. His company (he drills out of Moorhead) will also be up for a deployment, so that might happen sooner rather than later. There is no doubt that Damien and the rest of the young adults beginning their military career will continue to put their lives on the line to keep us the land of the free, because of the brave. Thank you to all who have served our country.