StoryCorps traveled to Alaska in February to record the voices of our service men and women.
This story comes to us from JBER, where retired Air Force Master Sergeant Kerry Seifert and his wife, Lynn, rehashed some of the adventures they’ve had as a military family.
It wasn’t long after the couple was married that they headed for the Al-Can and drove up to what Kerry calls “cold country.”
Kerry: “In 1973, November 5th and 6th, we got married. We had two days when we got married. Three days after that is when I came into the Air Force going to boot camp, three days. And that kind of began our military career.
“We drove to Alaska. We spent four years at Elmendorf Air Force Base. After four years at Elmendorf I went remote to King Salmon, Alaska. And during that trip Lynn got to come out to King Salmon for a couple of months to live.
Lynn: “Yeah we came out — the kids and I — to live out there.”
Kerry: “And we had a lot of experiences out there, homeschooling the kids. And other kind of adventures you had?”
Lynn: “Dumped the Jeep in the river… We borrowed this Jeep from this fellow. So one afternoon I wanted to go fishing. Kerry was out at the cells. He said sure, go ahead. And so we drove the 20-some miles out to — what was the name of that lake? — Naknek Lake. So anyway, we get out there and it’s sub-zero. Maybe 5 below, really cold. And we’re out in the middle of nowhere and this drive — there’s nothing between the base and where we’re going. Nothing. Zilch. Wilderness.
“So as we just started casting, my oldest son turns around and he goes, ‘Mommy.’ And I go, ‘What?’ He goes, ‘Mommy! The Jeep’s rolling!’ He goes, ‘MOMMY! THE JEEP IS ROLLING!’ And I turn around, and sure enough, this Jeep is rolling right toward us into the water. So I drop my pole, race up there, fly open the door and start slamming on the brakes. Finally then I heard him yell, “MOMMY! JUMP! JUMP!” So I jumped out and there it went, right off the edge of the ice. Floated out there, turned a little and then went glub… glub… glub.
“We went back to where Kerry was at, took forever to find him tried to tell him that the Jeep we borrowed was in the Naknek River. And he goes, ‘Well how deep is it?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s deep.’ ‘How deep?’ I said, ‘Deep. It’s sunk.’ “
Kerry: “We hooked it to a long winch the base commander let me use one of the largest winch vehicles we had on the site — Big Bertha — as a practice rescue to pull an aircraft out. We hooked onto (the Jeep) and pulled it out. That’s when we put the ramps under the wheels, up on the ice and pulled it up.”
Lynn: “How deep do you think it was?”
Kerry: “About 15 feet.”
Lynn: “I couldn’t have asked for a better man. He’s always been there for me. I’m proud of what he does, his jobs. I’m proud of his military career, that he stuck it out for 20 years when at that time a lot of people hated Alaska. They got up here, did their tour and left. Most people just didn’t like the cold. But we stuck it out and made it our home.”
Kerry: “And likewise I’m most proud of Lynn. For any southern California girl to go with some guy the whole rest of her life up to ‘cold country,’ and stick it out with me. And raise our kids and our family, and all the foster kids…”
Lynn: “It’s been awesome.”
Kerry: “Yeah it has.”
Kerry and Lynn Seifert’s interview was recorded at JBER in February and is archived at the Library of Congress.
This piece was edited by Slavik Boyechko at Alaska Public Media.