Air Force veteran finds renewed purpose with cricket-loving cat

Air Force veteran finds renewed purpose with cricket-loving cat

Long after separating from service Mary felt adrift. However, she found a renewed sense of purpose when she welcomed a rescue cat into her life.

Aiming higher

A couple of years after entering college Mary ran out of money to pay her tuition. Having no significant job experience beyond odd jobs and a brief stint in a fast food restaurant, she decided to enlist in the military.

“I joined the USAF because my father was in the Air Force when he met my mom and I thought it would be a great fit for me,” she explains. “I wanted to also do some traveling, see the world.”

Mary hails from Pasadena, Maryland. It was 1983 when the young enlistee was sent to San Antonio, Texas for basic training. She was then assigned to Fort Meade in Maryland where she would be stationed for the duration of her tour of duty.

So much for seeing the world. Still, Mary had opportunities to spread her wings a bit. And enlisting gave the curious teen a much-needed sense of purpose.

“I did do some traveling because I was assigned to the motor pool. I traveled to the different bases in my area and transported many different personnel, from enlisted to officers,” she says. “I worked with a bunch of great young men and women while I was there.”

“What an adventure”

Mary started her tour as an Airman first class and separated from service in 1988 as a buck sergeant – a rank no longer used by the Air Force.

“I was told that I needed to re-up or leave the service because of Gramm Rudman Reform Act. Because I was engaged to be married that year, I decided to leave.”

While Mary spent the vast majority of her Air Force tour on the ground, she recalls one thrilling experience in flight.

“The most memorable experience I had while I was in the Air Force was when I transported a group of CAP youths to Dover Air Force Base for them to have an experience flying in a C-5 cargo plane.”

Civilian Air Patrol, or CAP, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young adults explore the field of aviation with emphases on leadership, character, and fitness.

“When we went onboard, we all sat in the tail section and as the plane flew up and down the east coast, a few of the CAPs walked across the cargo bay and up to the cockpit. Since I was active duty they allowed me to remain in the cockpit the whole time,” she explains. “What an adventure.”

Somebody to love

These days Mary calls Annapolis home. She works with three and four year-olds as an aftercare caregiver at a church-based preschool. Together with her husband, Joe, she has two grown sons and a daughter-in-law.

Like many people, Mary has long cherished the companionship of pets. She loved having dogs – “they are so much fun” – but concedes that they take a lot of time to train, walk, and tend to their needs.

Cats, on the other hand, demand somewhat less of one’s time.Air Force veteran finds renewed purpose with cricket-loving cat

“With a cat it is a lot easier to take care of,” she shares.

“No training, they use a litter box, you can leave them for a couple of days as long as they have food, water and a litter box.”

But as Mary ages she concedes a more existential need to adopt a pet. The Air Force veteran and empty nester once again found herself searching for a sense of purpose.

“I love taking care of someone, something,” she shares. “My kids are grown up.”

The need to be needed

Mary confides that she was hesitant to adopt, despite her longing for a companion pet.

“My first cat, Margaret, lived for 19 years and my second cat, Angie, lived almost 10 years,” she says. “I was not sure if I wanted another animal.”

However, the lure for companionship was strong – and proved irresistible.

“But I missed having a pet, a pet to play with, to need me, to curl up beside me,” she shares.

“Having a pet also helps with stress. My husband’s mother was not doing well health-wise, my youngest son was away at college, and my oldest had gotten married and moved out. So, I was alone a lot of the day and sometimes at night. Having another living being in the house was comforting.”

In the summer of 2023 Mary started in earnest her search for a four-legged companion. Anne Arundel County Animal Care and Control was relatively close to her home. Staff there told her about our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.Air Force veteran finds renewed purpose with cricket-loving cat

The Air Force veteran was delighted to learn that there was a program she could utilize to make adopting a pet for life more affordable.

“I knew there were organizations out there who helped disabled vets,” she says, “but I didn’t know there was something for regular veterans.”

In fact, we welcome veterans from WWII to active duty, from all armed forces and without regard to disability.

Mary was approved into our program in July. It would be another month until she found a cat in need – one who gave the Air Force veteran a new sense of purpose.

Mythical cat

Pinto Bean was a young adult cat in the care of Anne Arundel County Animal Care and Control. Since 2016 the shelter waives adoption fees for veterans who adopt eligible dogs and cats through our partnership, and has made more than 70 such matches to date.

Not much is known about how the gray and white cat with stunningly soft green eyes became homeless. But that mattered not to Mary. In late August she welcomed Pinto Bean home and renamed her Freya.

“I am very much into mythology, so I decided to change her name to Freya, the Norse goddess,” she explains. “She was married to the main god, Odin. She drove a chariot pulled by two grey cats.”

The cricket-loving Norse goddess

Freya set upon exploring her new home with her trademark curiosity. She enjoys playing with toys and is fond of hunting for crickets in the yard. But like most goddesses, she makes her needs known and can even be somewhat demanding.

“Freya is very vocal when she wants something – food, play time, just to be petted,” Mary says. “She likes to bat around large pom poms and carries them in her mouth like a dog carries a ball. She knows where to scratch, not on my furniture. She understands the word ‘no.'”Air Force veteran finds renewed purpose with cricket-loving cat

It would seem that at one time in her still young life Freya lived in a home. She has excellent manners and knows how to get the attention of the people charged with her care. Still, there are some habits that no amount of training can resolve.

“The only thing I forgot about with cats is when they are hungry in the morning they get in your face and cry until you get up,” Mary shares.

As an experienced cat parent the Air Force veteran needed little guidance from our team. Still, she appreciates our outreach and the knowledge that we care deeply about the success of every single adoption we make possible.

We are honored to have played a role in Mary finding a renewed sense of purpose by saving her cricket-loving cat.

“I would definitely and have recommended this program to other veterans I know,” she shares. “Everyone who has contacted me from Pets for Patriots has been so nice and supportive. I look forward to hearing from them.”


1 Comment

  1. Joe Lazaravich

    We’ve got so much in common, Mary.
    I was an Air Force medic, first stationed at Dover before a tour in Vietnam
    I learned about Pets For Patriots from a poster on the wall at the Prince Georges County Animal Shelter in Upper Marlboro and it was one of the luckiest days in my life. There was a curly blond forty pound pup there that caught my eye and our little fifteen minute visit convinced me this was the one.
    Pets For Patriots has been a huge part of enriching my life with that little dog named Leo. Every day he brings smiles with some of the goofy things he does. My life is demonstrably better because he is in it.
    Your story, like mine, had me thinking : Our Pets Needed Someone to Care…………. We Needed to be Needed.

    The Leo and Joe Show
    Waldorf, MD

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