Spouse of Staff Sgt. Francis John Sleigher Jr.
Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center
Naval Air Station Oceana’s Dam Neck Annex
The best way Randee Sleigher could find to thank her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. Francis John Sleigher Jr., for his service was to follow in his footsteps and join the military herself. Randee joined the Coast Guard Reserves in 2008 and completed Basic Training over the summer. In February, she began intelligence specialist “A” school at the Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown, graduating April 10 as a petty officer third class.
“I joined the Coast Guard because I had always wanted to be in the service,” Randee said. “Many people in my family have served in the military, and I would have joined a lot earlier myself. But my husband deployed and we were in process of establishing a family. So I took on the role of helping all the wives and mothers of the Marine units he has been assigned to. But now was the right time.”
Randee said she plans to transfer to full active duty status later, after her husband’s deployable days are behind him. Sleigher is currently an instructor at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Naval Air Station Oceana’s Dam Neck Annex. With 13 years of active duty time, Randee realizes he will deploy in the future, and she wants to remain closer to home to raise their two children, Francis III, 5, and Callie, 2. For now, she drills one weekend a month at Dam Neck, as well as serving her two weeks of active training (AT) there.
While Randee was attending “A” school, she continued her tradition of volunteering in the community in her duties as the class leader, which put her in charge of the community service efforts for her class.
“We helped with the Easter program for children at Yorktown,” Randee said. “We set up the booths, made Easter baskets and hid eggs for the kids to find during the egg hunt. And before that, during a snowstorm earlier in the year, our class helped shovel snow on the base.”
Randee also help set up a program for Women’s History Month patterned after the television show The Amazing Race.
“Just like the TV show, the participants had to go to different stations and find clues,” Randee said. “In teams of two, the participants learned information about a specific woman in history. It was a great learning tool for people to be educated on what some very brave women have done. With my class, I was involved in advertising the event and getting people signed up for it. And I actually participated in the event, too.”
She also volunteers regularly at Strawbridge Elementary School, where her son attends the Early Discoveries program.
“I help with story time by reading to the entire class,” Randee said. “I help with snack time by bringing food to the class room and serving. I also accompany them on field trips to places like the children’s museum.”
But Randee’s favorite volunteer effort was as a key wife for her husband’s units while he was stationed at Submarine Base Bangor, Wash., for three years and for two of the three years he was stationed in California.
“I was in charge of contacting the families throughout the various deployments, as well as helping with the pre- and post-deployment briefs,” Randee explained. “It was very important to work with the young married couples who especially needed the information, because it was the first deployment for many. In the beginning when we were first married, I didn’t have someone to help me learn about military, so I got involved to help others who are in the place I was nine years ago.”
Randee also helped many military families in California through her involvement in helping to reduce the fee for preschool.
“While we were stationed in California, I found out we did not qualify for free preschool for our son because housing allowance was counted as .income,” Randee explained. “I discovered there were many military families in our situation. So I organized a petition and got involved with state representatives and the governor. Although we weren’t able to change the rule to make the schooling free, they reduced the price, which enabled about 50 percent of those who couldn’t afford it before to be able to afford the program now.”
Randee faced a few more challenges while they were stationed there, including helping her mother through major surgery on the same day Sleigher deployed for the third time.
“It was really hard that day, because I had to say goodbye to him, and then catch a red- eye flight to Colorado with the two kids,” Randee explained. “We stayed there for two months to take care of her. My mom usually had been there to help me and comfort me, but she couldn’t because she was sick. So it was really difficult.”
Randee’s mother beat that cancer, but was diagnosed with another cancer earlier this year.
“We found out three weeks before I left for ‘A’ school,” Randee said. “I rushed home to take care of her. While we were there, Callie had to go to hospital for five days for breathing problems due to the altitude. Callie was at a Colorado Springs hospital while my mom was in Denver.”
This experience reinforced for Randee why family time is so important.
“There is always so much going on at once, that sometimes it’s hard to stop and take time out,” Randee said. “Even though we are all going in different directions, it’s important to make sure we take time together. We try to keep things as normal as possible when we are together, and we make everything seem family oriented so the kids have structure.”