Two Fillmore-Central High School graduates have taken different paths in the military, but both are now stationed in Miami, Florida. Becky (Polzin) Wyness serves in the Coast Guard, while David Fink serves in the Army. They recently agreed to share their stories with the Journal.
Becky Wyness explained that, “I grew up in Preston, but we moved around a lot. I lived in Harmony, and out by Greenleafton, and Fountain.” When she graduated in 1999 and considered going into the military, she researched the options available, and chose the Coast Guard. As Becky described, “The Coast Guard is a branch of the military, but we fall under the Department of Homeland Security, and that is a change since I’ve been in. And most of what we do is centered around search and rescue, and law enforcement. And post-9/11, we’ve had additional missions… protecting the major ports.” Her current rank is E9 (Master Chief), and she stated, “I’ve been in Miami a little over two years, and I’ve served all over the country. I’ve done a tour in New Orleans, a tour in San Diego, a tour in Mobile, Ala., a tour in Bodega Bay, Calif., a tour in Michigan City, Ind., and a tour in the Middle East.”
This July marked 20 years for Becky in the Coast Guard, and she said it’s been an enjoyable career. She mentioned that she recently came back to do recruiting at Fillmore-Central, and she gets to travel quite a bit for her job and in her free time. She stated, “I’m married and I have a four-year-old daughter who keeps me very, very on my toes… We travel a lot; the cool thing about being in the military is you know people from all over.”
Becky added that since most Coast Guard locations are on the coast, her tours have tended to be in large metropolitan areas, and she’s enjoyed that. She said, “I grew up in small towns. It’s such an incredible experience to join the military, and experience all these different cultures. It’s very eye-opening.” But Becky said she still misses the people and “the green, green grass” of Fillmore County.
David Fink is a 2001 graduate of Fillmore-Central. He described his decision to join the military, saying, “I was in college, at the University of Minnesota, when 9/11 happened. I was doing a research project on the University’s ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program, and when 9/11 happened, it really changed my perspective on a lot of things, and I felt the need to serve, so I ended up joining the Reserve… and then right away I got activated to be part of the initial invasion of Iraq.”
David volunteered for a second tour in Iraq in 2005, where he served as a team leader, and he again returned to Iraq in 2008, as a squad leader. Following his third Iraq tour, David said, “I went full-time Army after that.” In 2012 and into 2013, he served in Afghanistan, and has since been stationed in Chicago, in Minnesota, and now has been in Miami for just over a year.
First Sergeant (E8) is David’s rank, and when asked what his military “job” is, David replied, “I’m a Combat Engineer. Combat Engineers do a lot with demolition and explosives, and maneuvers.” He explained that while stationed in Miami, “I’m the senior enlisted man in the company. I work at an engineer battalion.”
David said his overseas experiences have taught him much, saying, “I’m a firm believer if you’re going to lead people, you’ve got to experience it firsthand yourself… I’ve spent close to six years overseas. You see the worst that humanity has to offer, but you also see the best. You see people act in amazing heroic ways during some of the worst experiences.”
When asked how long he plans to stay in the Army, David quipped, “At this point, I enjoy it, so I’ll probably go until I just don’t enjoy it anymore, or they kick me out.” Getting kicked out seems unlikely, though, as David has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Parachutist Badge, and Air Assault Badge, among others.
Having graduated from Columbia Southern University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, David said that whenever he retires from the Army, he would like to pursue his master’s degree, stating, “I’d like to be able to work with veterans when I get done, and offer that firsthand experience.”
Regarding his younger days, David shared that, “I’m really thankful to have grown up in Preston. I love going back.” Nowadays, David spends much of his free time either on the beaches of Miami, or out riding his motorcycle. When asked what advice he’d give anyone considering the military, David pointed out the good pay and benefits, and added, “It’s a great opportunity. It’s not for everybody, but it’s probably for more people than they realize.”
David also shared that, “I’m very proud to represent my friends and family and hometown. I’m very proud to wear the uniform.” He also shared his appreciation for all other veterans. The Journal concurs, with a heartfelt Thank You to Becky, David, and all of America’s service members and veterans.