Rosemount family earns military honors
Traveling a bumpy road is something the Weber family is used to. As an Army family they have been through numerous moves and several deployments. Most recently the family has hit rough terrain as Mark Weber has faced stage IV gastrointestinal cancer.
Whatever the battle has been, Lt. Col. Mark Weber and his wife, Kristin, have faced the challenges together for the past 18 years and through some pretty insane ups and downs they just keep driving on.
This past week serves as a great example. On Thursday, Aug. 16, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored Mark and Kristin for their commitment and sacrifices to the Army. In his End of Service ceremony Mark received the Legion of Merit and Outstanding Volunteer Service awards. Kristin received the Minnesota Superior Civilian Award for her volunteer work with the military.
In addition to Dempsey, General John Vessey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar attended to honor the couple.
Mark called the ceremony bittersweet. While he didn't feel deserving of the awards, he was more than happy to see Kristin honored.
"I wouldn't have been able to be a father and serve my country, two of the greatest things on Earth for me, without her," said Mark.
But he said waking up the next day to the news that 11 U.S. servicemen were killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, gave him perspective.
"None of this was deserved; none of it is fair, the good and the bad," he said.
Just a few days later, on Aug. 20, Mark underwent an experimental procedure to knock the cancer back.
In a four day span the family went from being honored by the nation's top ranking military officer to what Mark called in his blog, "the rawest form of fear."
The goat path
Mark described being a military spouse as being in the passenger seat of an out of control car, blindfolded while traveling down a goat path. While the soldier can see what's coming, the spouse just has to go along for the ride. He said being a caregiver carries many of the same obligations.
Three days before Mark started his career as an active duty officer in the Army, he and Kristin eloped. That day, more than 18-years ago, he promised to do everything he could to put her before the Army.
"I am a hopeless romantic," Mark said of that day.
As romantic as he might be, Mark will also tell you they are not living a fairy tale.
"Believe me when I tell you we are not Cinderella and a prince," he said.
It hasn't always been possible for Mark to keep his promise. The Army is demanding and the Weber family as a whole has sacrificed for it. The Webers have three children, 16 year-old Matthew and 11-year-old twins Joshua and Noah.
Mark and Kristin met in the mid-90s while they were both in college in Mankato. Mark was already destined to be in the military, so Kristin committed to the lifestyle.
As part of his service the family has moved several times including to Alabama and Washington, D.C. Mark also did a tour in Iraq and was preparing for a year-long tour in Afghanistan when he was diagnosed with cancer. The whole while, Kristin and their three sons just had to go along for the ride.
"She can not see what I see and we're crashing into stuff," said Mark. "Any caregiver can relate to what an Army spouse goes through."
While proud to be an Army family, Kristin said frequent moves and deployments have been difficult especially when raising young children.
"Being an Army family has made us tougher than the average bear," said Weber in a previous interview.
That toughness will help them through the unknown bumps that are coming. On Monday Mark underwent a bland embolization. The procedure did not go as well as hoped and the future is unclear.
"At this point everybody is blindfolded," said Kristin.
With the future uncertain Mark decided to write a book for his sons. He started by just putting together years of journal entries but then people encouraged him to get published.
Mark has been working with a writer out of Chicago and hopes to have "Tell my Sons..." complete by Christmas. Mark said the book is a long letter to his three boys that includes stories of his life.