By Dermot Connolly
Family and friends celebrated Sunday with Palos Heights resident Chloe Van Witzenburg at a “drive-by” farewell party outside her house on 69th Court.
She’s an Army sergeant who is being deployed to Kuwait on Sept. 19.
Chloe and her twin sister, Hanna, 22, both 2016 graduates of Shepard High School, enlisted in the Army with their parents’ permission when they were 17-year-old juniors in 2015.
“Love of country,” Chloe quickly responded, when asked why she decided to join the military at such a young age. “Getting college tuition was a big influence, but love of country was definitely the main reason.”
When her service is over, Chloe plans to study architecture at the University of Oregon.
After graduating with honors from Shepard, Chloe went on to complete basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., where she reunited with Hanna, when she arrived later for her basic training.
“It was great when I heard she had arrived, I had to go find her—it is a big place,” said Chloe. She went on to train as an intelligence analyst, her specialty, at Fort Huachuca, in Arizona.
“I am looking forward to going to Kuwait now. It will be interesting,” she said.
While awaiting her deployment, she has been working at Fort Sheridan in Lake County. When she leaves Sept. 19, she will report to Fort Bliss, Texas, and spend one month there before heading to Kuwait for nine months.
Hanna, who works as a dispatcher with the Chicago Ridge Police Department, will deploy on Dec. 3 to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she will spend 11 months guarding high-risk prisoners, sometimes called enemy combatants, mainly captured in the Middle East conflicts.
Hanna said she was considering law enforcement as a career after the Army.
“It will be a long 10 or 11 months while they are away. But this is what they want to do, and I realize they are trained for this, so I am OK with it. They’ll be back,” said their mother, Carla Van Witzenburg.
“I am extremely proud of both of my daughters,” said their father, Darin. “They are smart, and they are giving back, and it is paying dividends.”
More than a dozen members of the Canaryville Veterans Riders Association pulled up on their motorcycles during the party on Sunday to wish Chloe well, and Hanna, too.
“This is great to see. We want to give them as much support and encouragement as we can,” said Tom Russell, president of the veteran bikers’ association.
He pointed out that Chloe had just taken a call from Poland from one of their leaders, who recently completed a tour of duty in Iraq, and wanted to give her a “heads up” about what she can expect. “We’re trying to help them out as much as we can.”
The sisters are the middle children of their family. They had two older brothers, Hank, who died in 2017 at age 20, and Jack, 27, as well as a younger brother, Nick, 15, a sophomore at Shepard.
Nick said seeing his sisters join the military makes him think about doing the same when he gets older.
“I might do it. It seems exciting,” he said with a grin.