Their two sons

Candy and Tom Kindsvater hold a photo of their sons, Scott and Steve, from their time at the United States Air Force Academy. 

Tom and Candy Kindsvater's two sons have done well for themselves but service to their country didn't come without long nights of worrying and waiting.

 Scott, 52, and Steve, 49, graduated from the United States Air Force Academy; Scott became a fighter pilot and Steve became a cardiovascular doctor.

"It's a special thing," Candy said. "All parents feel pride, and we do just like everybody else."

Tom credits much of their success to a strong work ethic developed from an early age. Scott and Steve grew up working at the family trucking business in Dodge City, Kansas.

When Tom retired and the couple moved to Quail Creek six months ago, he sold the 75-year-old business.

"Candy was on them all the time for grades, and if they didn't come home with straight A's she'd, you know, flog them to death," Tom said.

Laughing, Candy said her mother, who was a teacher, also got in on the flogging.

"We didn't accept those kinds of things because they were both bright young boys," Tom said. "We asked them to go out and prove it, and they worked hard."

And prove it they did.

After 23 years in the Air Force, Steve retired as a lieutenant colonel and is now vice chairman of cardiovascular medicine at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, in Texas. Scott stayed in the Air Force and was recently named deputy chairman to the NATO Military Committee at the rank of lieutenant general.

But getting to this point wasn't without a few long long nights.

Serving their nation

 Scott and Steve deployed to Iraq at the same time. Scott conducted combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, and, according to NATO, he has logged more than 3,600 hours in the air with more than 600 hours of combat time. Steve deployed to Balad Airbase in Baghdad, where he treated wounded service members and civilians.

"We watched TV every night — where are they at, what's going on," Tom said. He said it was difficult, and he met other parents who had the same worry in common.

"All of us," he said. "You know, you sweat a little at night worrying about one or the other of the boys."

And while Tom and Candy had their fears to keep in check, they said they spent time trying to help both sons' families, who also had concerns of their own.

"Those wives alone at home for a year with children without their husbands, and then add in the fact that they're at war, that is huge," Tom said. "I don't think the public realizes the sacrifices the families make."

Candy said it could be especially hard for kids who have a parent deployed overseas.

"The kids have to be resilient, and those moms and dads who are at home have to help make them resilient," Candy said. "Because they're without that parent for whatever length of time that it is. Those (parents) do a remarkable job."

When the two deployed, the Kindsvaters said the most important thing they could do is spend time with their grandchildren and daughters-in-law and help out in any way they could. 

It wasn't just deployments that caused sleepless nights, however.

Stationed at Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Steve stayed behind with doctors and patients while others evacuated. With the flooding in the area, the Kindsvaters worried about Steve, who remained behind with his patients.

Scott also had a close call while stationed in the states. When hijackers attacked the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Scott was in the building about 80 yards  from the impact area.

"I damn near fell off my desk," Tom said when he heard the news. It took eight hours to find out whether Scott was OK, and it was Steve who helped get the word to their parents.

A parent's pride

Tom said he remembered Steve always wanted to be a doctor and Scott always wanted to fly.

"(Steve) graduated number one in biology at the academy," Tom said. "Steve was a very good student with sciences, always wanted to be a doctor."

Ever since he could talk, Candy added.

The pride is equally present with Scott. While Tom walks into the garage, he points out a large poster with F-15 fighter planes flying in formation. He touched one and said, "That's Scotty."

Candy and Tom are now retired in Quail Creek. Tom said he didn't want to retire but it got to the point where his boys weren't coming home to Dodge City. With cold winters and an empty nest, the two moved to Arizona.

"It was time for us," Tom said. "Both of us had a lot of surgeries the last few years and that kind of junk that goes with; she's 74, and I'm 75, but we decided enough is enough."

Tom said he misses being up early every day for work but he has been keeping himself busy organizing and rearranging rooms. Candy laughed and said he needs to get out more often.

"Like I said, we don't sit still," Tom said. "We're a work ethic family."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

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