A military ‘family’
For Skyla Govier, the stories started long ago and continue today with her son, daughter
The very first thing Skyla Govier thinks of when asked about the military.
And why wouldn’t she?
She’s done everything but served herself — with her great-grandfather, grandfather, great-uncle, father, stepfather, cousin, brother, husband, and now two children having served or serving in the military.
“The one word that every one of them — including my mom who has lived that life — uses… Every one of them uses the word family,” said Skyla.
“I have learned to respect not only my elders but to respect the veterans who have come before me, that have given me the right to go out and vote today,” Govier said of election day on Tuesday, Nov. 5. “Every walk of life, class of life, and race of life has died for that flag.”
Skyla’s grandfather, James Grice, passed away three years ago at the age of 92, but his memory will never die. She remembers her grandfather telling her stories about World War II all the way back to when she was about six years old.
“We would just hear little tidbits here and there,” she said, “but 5-1/2 years ago was the first time I learned he was (also) in Vietnam.
“He loved to talk about World War II,” said Skyla. “Why haven’t we ever heard those stories?”
“He served for six months over there,” she said. “Veterans don’t talk about Vietnam.”
Skyla remembers her grandfather “would talk about the flag, and how we needed to respect the flag,” she said. “He was incredibly proud of that United States flag and his service to his country.”
Grice told of special things during his service in the Army. After World War II, he returned home and worked as an ice delivery man, only to re-enlist in the Army’s Air Corps, retiring as a master sergeant in the Air Force.
Grice was at the gates of Buchenwald near Weimer, Germany, in 1937 when the Nazi concentration camp was liberated, freeing prisoners.
Skyla mostly remembers him as a wonderful grandfather, of course.
“He was there for us,” she said. “The older he got, the longer it took to finish the stories.”
“My great-‘Granddaddy’ was in the Navy,” said Skyla. “My dad (Wes Norris) was in the Army — the 101st Airborne — as a helicopter mechanic (for a two-year enlistment). He said, when he got out in June, they sent his very platoon to Vietnam that September.
“Then, my brother (James Norris, “Jo Jo“), he was also in the Army,” she said. “I know he was in Germany four years.
“My cousin, Wade Brown, joined the Army as well — in the 82nd Airborne — when the Iraq War started,” said Skyla. “We wrote to him all the time. He would guard airplanes that Iraqis would surrender.
“We were glued to the TV,” she said.
He was in the 53rd Infantry Brigade for another four years until 2006.
Skyla has grown up with worry.
Her husband (Thomas Govier) was in the service. “That’s how I met him, down in Florida during peacetime,” said Skyla. “Shortly after we got married, the Gulf War started.”
Didn’t we tell you this was a military family?
Skyla said her stepfather has been a “huge influence on my life.” At 76, Jerry Brewer is a retired as a lieutenant colonel, serving as a pilot in Vietnam.
“I have another great-uncle that I didn’t mention,” said Skyla. “His name was Frank Hawthorne. Everyone called him ‘Buddy.’ He was killed in WWII, making my great-great-aunt a Gold Star Mom. I never met him, but have heard stories about him… Ironically, I think of him often and wish I would have known him. This may sound weird, but sometimes I swear he is my Guardian Angel. He was a gunner. He is buried in Arlington and hope to get there someday to find his grave.”
All of these family members, all of these stories, inspired Skyla to become what she was supposed to be.
“I’m a mom of four,” she said. “When my last two were leaving the nest, I’ve never had hobbies, so I needed to find something for me. The military has always been a big part of my life. I looked into Wounded Warriors, but they had so many volunteers. I went to Google — when I typed in ‘Moms of military members,’ Blue Star Moms came up.”
“We are mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers, and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans,” according to bluestarmothers.org. “We support each other and our children while promoting patriotism. Our organization focuses on our mission every single day and will never, ever, forsake our troops, our veterans, or the families of our Fallen Heroes.
“We have nearly 6,000 members from over 200 Chapters throughout the nation.”
Skyla learned she needed “five people” to start a local chapter and, from one Facebook post — “‘Would anybody be interested in starting a Blue Star Moms chapter,’ five people showed up to our very first meeting.”
That was a year ago this month, and now the Warren chapter of the nationwide group is up to 28 members.
“My grandfather would be proud,” said Skyla. “And I know he’d be proud of the kids going in.
“I have discovered that aside from my family, Blue Star Moms is my passion. I hope to continue to grow this organization and always be a part of it.”
Support she can provide, and support she needs… as a son, Bobby, and daughter, Baylee (the first female in her family tree to enlist), are serving.
“This picture to me is what military life means,” Skyla said of a recent photograph. “A lot of goodbyes. This is Bobby and his niece, Laykin. If you blow it up, you will see she is crying. We took hundreds of pictures that weekend, but this is by far my favorite. Makes me cry every time I look at it. Laykin loves her uncle and aunts and she cries along with the rest of us whenever they leave.”
Maybe she shouldn’t have been considering, but Skyla was a little surprised when her two youngest, Bobby and Baylee, made their decisions.
“It wasn’t anything we preached that you have to do this or you have to do that,” she said.
It’s been a little over two years since Bobby Govier joined the Air Force, stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas as a fuel system mechanic for the KC-135 refueling aircraft.
Bobby’s twin sister, Baylee, took a little longer to get to basic training after gall bladder surgery.
“My girlie-girl is a firefighter,” said mom.
Baylee is stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
That’s how Skyla first reacted, too.
“I worry all the time,” said the mom. “But I’m proud of them. With Baylee, I kind of want them to experience life outside of Warren, and when they come back, it’s by choice. My son, on his graduation day (from basic training), he stood a little taller, looked you int he eye when he spoke to you, spoke so eloquently. You felt so proud. At the same time, I thought about some of his innocence being lost.”
She also knows that as long as they stay in the military, it will be difficult to be part of their daily lives.
Baylee, the only female in that fire department right now, “loves where she’s at,” said Skyla.
“It’s not always sunshine and roses, but it has been the best choice I’ve made so far,” said Baylee, 20, who graduated from WAHS along with Bobby in 2017.
“My decision to join was based on my family,” said Baylee. “Hearing my grandfather’s stories about the military-inspired me. My father was also in the Air Force and he always said it was the best time of his life. I love the structure of the military and the discipline aspect of it. My family has been a great supporter of my choices in my life. My twin brother is a huge influence as to why I joined. I’ve always looked to him and I wanted to be as successful and happy as him. I first thought about the military my senior year of high school. I wanted to serve but also get my education paid for.
“Being the first female in my family to serve, I feel a great amount of pride,” said Baylee. “I love my job. I am a firefighter in the Air Force. I am also the only female at the station here. My family has grown tremendously through all my new ‘brothers.’ They are my second family. The confidence I have gained from my job is something I thought I could never have. It humbles me to be able to help people when they need me. I wanted a better life outside of Warren County. I want to travel and learn experiences.
“My great-grandpa was in World War II. He would always sit around and tell me his war stories. I remember being so mesmerized by them. He opened gates to concentration camps. How the prisoners kissed his feet. It was very earth-shaking to me. My grandfather flew planes in Vietnam and we would sit out on the dock as he told me stories of his flying experiences. I try to make them proud every day I put on this uniform. I do this for my brothers and sisters before me and their ultimate sacrifice for this country. Looking down at the ‘U.S. Air Force’ name taped over my heart makes me feel like I am doing something with my life. I left the only place I have ever known. So far, it has been such an amazing experience.”
Their hearts are in Warren, with their family — where Skyla has lived for the past 29 years and raised her children, where her husband is from originally (Sheffield).
“I had at one time wanted to go into the service,” said Skyla. “I have a whole new respect for the mothers of past wars. They had to depend on letters and radio, and that was it. Sitting by their radios, I couldn’t even imagine. Now… we Facetime, we text, we call.”
Still, the Blue Star Moms, “we need to be there for each other,” she said. “We miss our kids. We have a common thread. My son just went on his first deployment. Renee Davis and Pam Nordin… those mothers have already experienced deployments to dangerous places.”
The most difficult part is the waiting, the not knowing.
So, in the meantime, she has the Blue Star Moms.
“(My kids) are where they need to be,” she said.