FORTVILLE — Any stranger could tell Brian and Christie Shepherd are siblings.
They have the same nose, the same smile, similar mannerisms. And though five years separates them by age, they’ve always been close, they say.
Earlier this year, they set off on an adventure together they’re sure will only bring them closer in the future.
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Five weeks apart this spring, the pair — the youngest son and daughter of Hancock County Sheriff Mike Shepherd and his wife, Gretchen — raised their hands and committed themselves to service with the United States Air Force.
Brian Shepherd, 23, and Christie Shepherd, 18, are headed off to boot camp in San Antonio, Texas, about a month apart — she’ll leave late this month, and he’ll head that direction in early September — and they’ll train there for seven weeks. Though they likely won’t see much of each other, it’ll be nice knowing a loved one is nearby, the siblings say.
Mike and Gretchen Shepherd of Fortville say they’re proud of their children for stepping up to serve their country. It’ll be strange having two of their kids so far away for so long, with little opportunity to call home to check in. But they’re glad Brian and Christie are confidently chasing their dreams.
It was Christie Shepherd who first expressed an interest in joining the Air Force, though Brian Shepherd said the thought of joining the military was always in the back of his mind.
An uncle on their mother’s side spent a career in the service, and the Shepherds often took family vacations to visit the military bases where he was stationed, giving the children a taste of military life from the time they were young. The places they visited fascinated Brian and Christie Shepherd, and the structured yet active lifestyle the military presented was something both could envision for themselves, they said.
Brian Shepherd graduated from Mt. Vernon High School in 2012. He started college to study business but quickly realized the corporate world wasn’t for him. He entered the workforce, but late last year — after hearing his younger sister talk more often about her future plans for military service — he started thinking more on those experiences of long ago. And soon, he, too, decided to explore the Air Force.
Christie Shepherd knew for years that her future would be in a camouflage uniform. She spent her high school years studying each military branch to decide which was right for her. She learned about a tactical team within the Air Force — a search and survival squad that specializes in recovering fallen aircraft. It sparked her interest, and she decided to take to the sky.
On April 7, more than a month before her own graduation from Mt. Vernon, Christie Shepherd raised her right hand and was officially sworn into the Air Force.
Five weeks later, Brian Shepherd did the same.
Much like their father, each of Mike Shepherd’s children has chosen a path rooted in community service.
The Shepherds’ oldest son, Stephen, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a sheriff’s deputy in Allen County. Their older daughter, Stacie, is employed as a social worker.
Gretchen Shepherd admits she was a bit hesitant as she watched her two youngest children take their oaths to join the military. Like any mother, she worries for their safety, she said; but she’s certain they’ll find great success.
“I’m a firm believer that God answers prayers, and I’ve prayed a lot … and I will continue to do so, for their safety and protection,” she said. “It’s going to be hard having them both go at the same time.”
The Shepherds’ story is one Air Force Master Sgt. Brad Wilson has heard time and again, he said. Many recruits have some tale of a relative who inspired them to take on a military life, he said.
But when Wilson first met and began helping Brian and Christie Shepherd, he was struck by the twist in their story, a brother and sister choosing to take an important adventure together.
Having someone so close whom they can share their stories and experiences with will be a great source of emotional support and camaraderie, Wilson said.
“This tends to be a family business,” he said.