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Family tradition: Larson becomes sixth in family to join Air Force – News – Kirksville Daily Express – Kirksville, MO

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That Sarah Larson, a recent graduate of La Plata High School, has enlisted in the United States Air Force is impressive enough on its own.

But then add this fact: She is the sixth (yes, the sixth) of her immediate family to do so, joining her five older siblings.

Oh, and one more thing: The Larsons aren’t done. Sarah is the middle child, with five siblings coming behind her, and one already eyeing his own enlistment.

Military service, and service to the United States of America, is undoubtedly a family affair for the Larsons.

Larson headed off to basic training in Texas on Monday, but prior to leaving sat down with her parents and Air Force Sgt. Paul Simmons to share thoughts on her decision.

She was ready to go.

“I’m very excited,” she said.

Kyle Larson was the first of Blake and Tori’s children to make the decision to enlist. He scored so well on his Armed Services Aptitude Battery exam (the ASVAB) that the Air Force told him he could pursue any job in the branch that he wanted.

Kyle had also scored well on his ACT and could have elected to go to college. But the price of a higher education was high and the benefits of military service, they decided, were far greater.

“We knew we couldn’t provide him college,” Tori said. “We were all for it.”

Kyle is in Special Forces now and his siblings have followed his path into the Air Force. Next was Naomi, age 25, Hannah, age 24, Kirk, age 22, and Elizabeth, age 20. Naomi is married and her husband is an Air Force veteran.

That’s a lot of experience with the Air Force, and all along Sarah’s interest grew. She played golf, basketball and ran track in high school. She was a member of the Quiz Bowl team and of the Art Club, Beta Club, Leo Club and is chapter president in 4-H.

She picked up a good amount of scholarships and considered college. But she’d also attended nearly a half-dozen basic training graduation ceremonies and had seen what military service had done for her siblings.

“I looked into college but after looking at prices and stuff it was a little bit scary,” she said. “After watching them and seeing the great opportunities that they have and the great benefits of the Air Force, I decided to go into it.

“I love how the Air Force is one big family and everybody is loyal.”

Her parents have no doubt she’s made the right choice, nor do they question whether she will succeed.

“She’s the first of my children that shot a deer,” Blake said. “I’ve never shot a deer. I never really went hunting. She’s well-rounded, this kid. She’s got a lot of artistic talents. Whatever she wants to do, she excels.”

Simmons, Larson’s recruiter, is confident, too.

“Most of the time the applicants I have don’t know much about the Air Force, the benefits, the lifestyle,” he said. “Sarah, I can talk to her and she has a background. She’s talked to her siblings and has seen what her siblings do. I don’t have to explain too much about what basic training is like.”

Larson should graduate from basic training in October. That will be followed by more training in Texas before technical school.

She’ll be earning money and college credit the whole time, as along with enlisting she’s enrolled in the Air Force’s community college and will be working toward her associate’s degree. And if she does leave the service one day and decides to pursue college, it will be the military picking up the bill.

That’s a while off, though, and for now Larson is focused on, as she says, “Serving my country and doing all that I can.” She’ll be working toward the job she wants, loading aircraft and calculating weight distribution, which will eventually allow her to travel quite a bit. She’d often thought about becoming a teacher and might choose the Air Force for that, too, as a training instructor.

She’s embracing the fact that the Air Force isn’t just a job, but a lifestyle.

“You have to sacrifice a lot. You have to go wherever they want you to go and move your life, but at the same time there are great benefits and things you can learn,” she said. “I’ll be leaving my family, but at the same time they are supporting me and I’ll be welcomed into a new family with the Air Force.”

The Larson’s family military service isn’t limited to the children. Blake’s father and two of his uncles served in the Air Force, and Tori’s father was in the Navy and her uncle was a Marine.

And Sarah seems unlikely to be the last, with Ben, age 16, Elaine, age 14, Olivia, age 11, Rachel, age 8, and Rebekah, age 4, also having opportunities to see how the Air Force has worked out for their siblings. Ben, they said, is already looking forward to the day he can sign.

Blake and Tori said they don’t push any of their children one way or the other. They’re proud of the choices their children have made and grateful for what the military has done for them, and what they do for their country.

“I like to see my kids succeed and the Air Force gives them an opportunity that I can’t,” Blake said. “It really is a vehicle for them to grow and mature. I like that.”

“I am thankful that they are there to defend our Constitution and defend freedom, and the values that we care about,” Tori said.

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