Land of the Free and the Brave

A Salute to Local Military Heroes

For some, thoughts about joining the military began at a very young age when playing with soldiers and tank toys. For those who came from challenging backgrounds, the military provided a way to a better life. All agree that the military is one of the best ways to open doors to a great life while providing incredible skills and serving what most still believe is, the greatest country on earth.

Fred Aebli
Marine Corps Veteran, Major

Fred Aebli has been an instructor at Penn State Worthington Scranton and Penn State’s World Campus for the past 18 years where he is the Information Sciences and Technology (IST) Program Co-Coordinator. What he enjoys most about his job is helping put students on paths to becoming better people. He is also the creator of

The Early Days
Like many young boys, Fred really enjoyed playing with his soldiers and tank toys. As he grew his interest in science fiction and outer space led him to dreams of becoming an astronaut, many of whom were former military members. In high school he began exploring branches of the military and one day met a Marine fighter pilot, Mike Derchak, who was in charge of the officer recruiting in the region. Seeing the 1986 blockbuster, “Top Gun,” also perpetuated Fred’s interest in the military lifestyle. Fred was an only child whose father passed away when he was young. He had learned to be independent but would soon learn what it would mean to also have others relying on him. After enrolling in the Marine Platoon Leadership Class (PLC) he was fortunate to get selected his “freshman” summer as one of the youngest candidates in the program. Upon graduating college he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and ordered to his first duty station in Quantico, VA to attend the The Basic School (TBS) which is the first school all Marine officers attend. He was then sent to his Mission Occupational Speciality (MOS) school in GA.

Personal Growth and Development
Fred was sent to Okinawa, Japan as a young 2nd Lt for his first duty station. “Being halfway around the world and being put in charge of men and women who were often older and far more experienced is a challenge to anyone’s confidence,” he said. Thankfully he was surrounded by “some of the most professional and dedicated Marines anyone could find.” His time in Asia was a tremendous learning experience; he also travelled to South Korea, mainland Japan and Thailand. “Learning how to work in a foreign country is much different than learning at a base in the U.S. You really become self-reliant.” One of his fondest memories was learning to SCUBA dive – Okinawa is one of the last living coral reefs in the world. On the military side he was part of key
exercises that had steep learning curves; he attributes these experiences to making him a better officer.

High points of Fred’s military career were when he would get to promote other Marines. “Seeing young Marines develop and mature was a rewarding opportunity,” he said. Seeing his higher ranked Marines develop professionally also filled him with pride. “Many came from backgrounds that were quite challenging, and the military was their way to a better life.” Fred supported missions in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti.

Overall Thoughts on the Military
Fred considers youthfulness and the flexibility of the U.S. military to be its greatest strength. “Our military is relatively youthful compared with others; you are given great responsibility at a very young age. We are also very flexible. We can be anywhere in the world in a few hours to fight or save lives.” He considers the age of the equipment and replacement costs to be its biggest challenge.

“I would like to see all young people be required to give time in a service so they can “grow up and focus.” Whether it’s the job corps, peace corps or Marine corps. We are creating people who feel entitled and that needs to stop.”

Fred says that a misconception is that the military is not always about taking orders. “I hear that all the time, ‘oh I would never join the military because I don’t like being told what to do.’
you will always be told to do something regardless of your career. Following orders is easy as long as you carry them out correctly. This is not different than a job.”
Lessons Learned
Personally Fred said that the military taught him that “regardless of your color, sex or religion, all that matters is if you can do the job. The military is still, in my opinion, the best place to create options for building your life. It gives you incredible life skills all while serving what still is the greatest country on earth. All you have to do is travel abroad to understand that the world is a very harsh place; the U.S. and its military is something to be very proud.” He adds, “Believe in God and yourself. The two go hand and hand. Faith, family and friends keep you focused when things are not going well.”

Fred Aebli
Scranton Central High School
Penn State University, BS in Science (Computer Science/Math)
Webster University, MA in Computer Resource Management
Major- Marine Air Group 49 Headquarters, Willow Grove Naval Air Stations as an Officer the Logistics Department.
Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, Beaufort, SC
1st Lt – Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Okinawa, Japan
2nd Lt – Various training schools
Wife Jennifer (Navy Veteran of First Gulf War)
Daughters Jordan (in graduate school) and Jillian (sophomore in high school); Son Jake (freshman in high school)
Running and working out; helping others learn about technology. Most importantly, “hanging out with my kids.”
Favorite Quote:
A funny one from a John Wayne movie: “Life is tough but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.”
A serious one, “Become a better version of you.”

Patrick Monahan, Lieutenant Colonel

Patrick Monahan is a facilities engineer for Tobyhanna Army Depot where he manages construction and renovation projects. His last two years have also been spent studying at the U.S. Army War College for a Master of Strategic Studies degree. While he admits it’s a struggle to juggle a civilian job, responsibilities in his current unit, family time and studying time, the experience has renewed his desire for lifelong learning.

The Early Days
Patrick joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard while he was still in high school so that he could pay for college. He left for basic training at Fort Benning, GA the day after graduation. At the time, it also looked like a fun way to get money and travel. While he wondered what he had gotten himself into in his first few days, by the end of basic training he had great confidence and knew he would stay for a long time.

Personal Growth and Development
During his time as Company Commander and Battalion Commander Patrick felt he had so much responsibility and truly got to lead and influence people. “I learned so much about my own abilities, values and desires. My deployments also taught me that everything in life boils down to people and relationships. Self discipline and self control are probably the two greatest traits I learned. Today my biggest growth is in critical and strategic thinking, respect for and a desire to understand a differing perspective, and the patience that
goes along with these traits.”

Overall Thoughts on the Military
Patrick would like to think that the military serves as an example of core American values and equality. “As long as you are dedicated, have the desire and initiative, and some intelligence, you can chart your own destiny. You get out of it what you put into it. One of the hardest parts is time away from family, missed birthdays and family events. Less than one percent of Americans serve in the military today, so most people have no real idea of what military life is like for service members
or their families. We are a reflection of society, and we currently enjoy a great deal of trust from the public. But we have to continually earn that trust. My personal perspective is that we volunteer to serve because we care deeply about those values that continue to make our nation strong. We don’t ask for much in return; we are not looking for a handout or special recognition. Unfortunately, this humility often stops us from initiating dialogue with the public about why and how we serve. Most of us feel it’s all in a day’s work.

Lessons Learned
Actions speak louder than words. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with an individual, organization or nation.

A serious one, “Become a better version of you.”

Patrick Monahan
Scranton Central High School 1986
Penn State University, BS in Civil Engineering
U.S. Army War College, Master of Strategic Studies degree (finishing this month)
Multiple military professional educationcourses and civilian engineering and
leadership management courses
Various units of the 109th Infantry and 55th Brigade of the PA National Guard while in college. After college attended the Officer Candidate School; commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. After OCS and the Infantry Basic Officer Course, went to Baltimore and served in units of the 175th Infantry, Maryland National Guard. Moved back to PA in 2000 and rejoined the 109th Infantry. After 9/11 deployed to Bosnia and western Iraq. Remainder of the time was spent in PA with short stints for training in various places across the USA.
Wife Jacqueline; Son Patrick, Junior at East Stroudsburg; daughter Maura will attend Penn State University.
Hobbies: Tinkering with anything mechanical, keeping the house and cars from falling apart. Mostly spending quality time with family.


Llewelyn Lewis, US Navy / Commander

Llewellyn Lewis is a 1986 graduate of Scranton Central High School
He attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and graduated with the Class of 1990.
After serving in the Navy for 21 years, he retired with the rank of Commander.






Craig Waverka, Captain/Air Force Veteran

Craig Waverka works in Information Technology (IT) which is an extension of his last military assignment. He is focused primarily on managing globally dispersed software development teams.

The Early Days
Many members of Craig Waverka’s family served in various branches of the service. In eighth grade, Craig decided to become an officer in either the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Marines. He was awarded four-year scholarships from both the Air Force and the Marines. Eventually he chose the Air Force. “I came from a typical middle-class parents who ensured that education was a focus for us and supported my dreams of becoming an officer in the military.” At his first assignment at Goodfellow AFB (Technical Training), he was the honor graduate.  At Seymour Johnson AFB, despite being a junior officer, he was chosen by the Base General to be his Battle Staff Intelligence Officer during Operations in support of Somalia and the former Yugoslavia. He went to USAF Survival School in Fairchild AFB, WA and supported multiple Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB, NV. At Bolling AFB
he learned the foundations of Program Management in Information Technology which became his future career and joined a Joint Services deployment to Korea. He was also awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal.

Personal Growth and Development
Craig says the military helped improve and refine his leadership style and built up his confidence. He advises people to be flexible and ready to adapt. “The demands of the overall team will override your individual objectives.”

Overall Thoughts on the Military:
The greatest strength of the military, Craig believes is its adaptability, mission-focus and leadership at all levels (Officers AND Enlisted).
“I know I learned way more from my Enlisted than I did from my fellow Officers,” he said. The military’s biggest challenge? “The unconventional threat (terrorism, ISIS etc). We can see the
military adapting to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which can remain aloft longer and in some instances;  there are more UAV pilots than manned pilots for certain aircraft platforms.”

Lessons Learned:
Respect must be earned and does not come automatically just because of one’s position. This is true for both my military and civilian experiences.

Craig P. Waverka
Scranton Central High School 1986
B.S. Metallurgical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
M.S. Computer Systems Management, University of Maryland UC
Second Lieutenant, Goodfellow AFB, TX – Technical (Military Intelligence) Training
First Lieutenant, 4th Operations Group, Seymour Johnson AFB, NC – Air Staff/Squadron Intelligence Officer
Captain, 497th Intelligence Group, Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C. – IESS Program Manager
Captain, Joint Services deployment, USAG Yongsan & Osan AB, Korea, Intelligence Officer
Wife  Ellen; Daughter: Kathryn; Sons Casey, Luke and Logan


Israel Stewart, D.O., Flight Surgeon/Captain

Dr. Israel Stewart is completing an Internal Medicine residency at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education in Scranton. He initially joined the Air Force ROTC in 2001 to qualify for scholarships while attending the University
of Utah. He was in ROTC for one year but wasn’t able to stay because he had flat feet. He then learned about a medical school scholarship program and was accepted in 2005 as a medical student.

Both of Dr. Stewart’s grandfathers were in the military. His maternal grandfather was in the New Zealand Air Force and served in World War II and his paternal grandfather was a dentist in the US Army in the 1950s, stationed in Alaska.

Personal Development:
“Being a flight surgeon in the military gave me the opportunity to work as a physician earlier in my medical career and better prepared me for my Internal Medicine residency.” He advises others to: “Do your best in school, especially high school, so that you don’t limit your opportunities. Set goals for your life, and if you want to use the military to achieve them, make sure you’re picking job options that allow you to achieve those goals. If you initially aren’t doing a job that you wanted or that will help you achieve your career goals, keep working hard. Don’t do something that will put your military career at risk.

Overall Thoughts on the Military:
Dr. Stewart considers the people (who are part of the military), the abundance of bases around the world and the educational and training opportunities to be very positive aspects of the military. He feels that some of the military’s challenges include being able to provide competitive pay scales, the deployment tempos, the locations of some bases and forced reductions. “It’s important for new recruits to realize that they may not get the specific jobs they want when they join; there are varying needs within the military at any given time and locations vary. It is also important to recognize that you may get deployed or be away from your family.”

Lessons Learned:
“I learned that I am part of a team and that everyone on that team needs to work together and do their part for everyone to be successful. A team can accomplish more than the individual and the collective training, education and experience of a team can make the difference in the way medical care is provided to a patient and has a huge impact on their outcome.”

Favorite Quote
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

Wife, Rebecca; Daughter, Rebecca; Sons, Maxwell and Jackson
Running, hiking, camping, rock climbing,
reading, spending time with family, snorkeling/
scuba diving, playing football, basketball,
softball and downhill skiing
Education: Colony High School, Palmer, Alaska; Weber State University, Ogden, Utah; Bachelor of Science in Zoology, minor in Chemistry
A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, Missouri, Doctor of Osteopathy
Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, Wyandotte, Michigan, Traditional Osteopathic Rotating Internship


Paul Lynn, Chaplain (Major)

The job of an Army Chaplain can be summed up in three points: nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the dead. The Bible says, “There is no greater love than a man who lays his life down for his friends.” The most challenging and rewarding times for Paul Lynn were in combat when he stood over wounded and dying soldiers, praying with them in final moments. As painful as it is, he says it is his distinct honor to be along side grieving families and provide comfort and solace. The Army has currently moved Paul to Fort Hood, TX to begin a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Texas A&M with a follow-on assignment to be a “Family Life Chaplain” with the emphasis of specialized training for counseling couples,
families and soldiers with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The Early Days
Paul was inspired to join the military because his father and four uncles were veterans of World War II; also, his older brother was also an officer in the Air Force.  “I have a deep sense of patriotism to serve our country and defend it from all enemies foreign and domestic.” He returned to Active Duty Service because of September 11, 2001 to fight against Islamic Extremism in the Global War on Terror.

Personal Growth and Development
“I think I’m a lot more patient about the little things in life, where people seem to sweat the small stuff. Because I’ve had to be vigilant and face enemies, I also take the world in a lot more serious fashion. Taking care of my family and seeing them develop and reach their potential through deployments makes us resilient when having to face change and uncertainty. Our families’ faith in God is our source of strength, and it is deeper as a result of the military. ”

Overall Thoughts on the Military
“The political climate of our country has eroded a sense of duty by its young citizens for service. Years ago, our parents generation used to call it the “Service.” That kind of language doesn’t exist anymore. The hyperpolarization incited by the media, I believe, has disaffected young people from seeing the “Service” as an honorable vocation, whether short-term or as a career. There are tremendous benefits to serving our country. Probably the best route for college tuition is through the G.I. Bill. If a young person is physically fit, and mentally strong, one can serve our country for several years and have college tuition completely funded. Science also tells us today that when one is “other person” centered, and we live to give, that service is a very rewarding and satisfying occupation, though when one initially enters the service and begins at the lowest ranks, it is very challenging. The bonds that are built with colleagues and friends can be thicker than one’s own family.  No one knows this more than those who have served in combat together.”

“General Odierno, who was the Chief of Staff for the Army used to say, “The strength of the Army is its soldiers. The strength of the soldiers are its families.”  That is why I’m choosing to work with Army families in the next several years; to strengthen families so we can have the strongest, most resilient soldiers possible, which makes us a strong nation. In Special Operations we have a saying, “Humans are more important than hardware.” Our country needs the best weapons and technology so that we are not overmatched by the enemy, but it all comes down to the human element. General George Marshall once said, “The soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul, is everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his command and his country in the end.”

Lessons Learned:
I’ve been all over the world:  I’ve crossed the Atlantic ocean 18 times while on active duty in service to our nation. There is no place like home. There are incredible qualities of our Allied-partnered nations, but despite the challenging political climate seeing our democracy truly work, and the richness of our land and people is truly amazing. There is nothing like it, and it deserves to be preserved with the best possible Defense. Besides this, there is no one more dear than my family. The years of separation can be painfully lonely, and causes me to value them more than one can imagine.

Favorite Quote: Psalm 115:1 is tattooed on my right shoulder: ”Not unto us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name be the glory.”
Hobbies:  Running up mountains, ultramarathons, and trails (MUT).

Scranton Central High School 1986
University of Valley Forge, B.S. Bible; Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Masters of Divinity, 2003.  Currently enrolled in a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Texas A&M.
Family: Wife, Elizabeth; Children: Myles 18, Zoe 13,
P.J. 11, Meredith 9 and Paige 6.
Service: Enlisted in the Air Force after graduation.   Stationed at the Pentagon from 1987-1990.  Entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps as a reservist. Entered active duty as an army chaplain at Fort Bragg, NC. Deployed to Iraq, Southeast Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division, 2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).  Served in the Special Operations Psychological Operations Regiment (Airborne) deploying to Afghanistan twice.  From 2013-2015 stationed at Ft. Richardson, Alaska with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, 1-40 Cavalry Regiment.  Deployed to Kosovo from 2014-2015.  The first 8.5 years I spent in the Active Duty Army were with Airborne and Special Operations.  I’ve made 29 Airborne Operation “Jumps” from C130s, C17, Chinook and Black Hawk Helicopters.  My most recent assignment was at Fort Carson, Colorado where I served as a Brigade Chaplain for the 4th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, and I recently returned from a 4 month deployment to Europe visiting Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, and Bulgaria.  I was the 4th Infantry Division (Forward-Deployed) Chaplain supervising Religious Support Operations for “Atlantic Resolve” to deter Russian aggression.  I have received the Bronze Star Medal for Iraq, the Combat Action Badge for being under fire, the target of the enemy in a war zone, and 3 Meritorious Service Awards. Besides being Airborne qualified, I have received Airborne wings from the following countries for performing Airborne Operations with them: Germany, Canada, Peru and Thailand.