Serving something bigger than one’s self. Protecting the community. Teaching and influencing young people. These are some of the reasons that inspired some local veterans, and active military members, to continue to serve their community after serving their country.
Here are some of their stories of the sacrifices they made, and what led them to continue their service to the Federal Way community.
Officer Danny Graf
Federal Way police Officer Danny Graf’s most memorable experiences during his service in the United States Navy was when he rescued four downed airmen from a B1 Bomber crash in the ocean. He was also deployed as an air defense unit for the Island of Oahu during 911 as aircraft were still in the air.
Graf served in the United States Navy on active duty for five years aboard the USS Russell DDG59 as an operation specialist and rescue swimmer. He also served 15 years in the Navy Reserves for various commands — including the Commander Naval Region Northwest Regional Operations Center in Bangor as leading petty officer and he stood watch as a battle watch commander. He retired from the reserves in 2017.
He said the most challenging part of serving in the Navy was the separation from his family.
His was inspired to continue to serve the Federal Way community because he “found it more challenging and rewarding to serve something bigger than one’s self.”
Graf noted the best part of being a Federal Way police officer is serving with quality beat partners and “being able to go home at night.”
Lt. Raymond Bunk
Lt. Raymond Bunk had never deployed to a war zone before.
So when he was deployed to Iraq in 2007, he volunteered to make sure he could do what he was trained to do.
“I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be a very good experience for me,” the Federal Way police administrative lieutenant said of one of his most memorable moments of his nearly 21 years of service in the United States Air Force.
Bunk serves as a senior master sergeant and postal NCO who is assigned to Joint Military Postal Activity – West. He was previously assigned to McChord Air Force Base/JBLM as a firefighter with deployments to Egypt and Iraq. This ranged from line firefighter to battalion chief, with several roles in between. However, due to joint basing, he said all firefighter positions were eliminated. He now serves (as of 2016) as a postal NCO assigned to San Francisco. In December, he will have completed 21 years of service.
Another memorable experience for Bunk during his time in the Air Force was winning the Department of Defense Military Firefighter of the Year in approximately 1998. He said it was “super exciting, as I was able to show my mother what I was doing while serving.”
But serving in the military has also brought challenges. One of the biggest for Bunk was the transition from active duty back to civilian life.
“I went from active duty to college and noted the people I worked with (at a bar/restaurant) didn’t have the same professionalism as I was accustomed to,” Bunk noted.
Serving the Federal Way community seemed like the “next logical step” for Bunk. He joined the local volunteer fire department at age 18, transitioned to the military, “so a paramilitary organization seemed like an easy switch.”
Corporal Jeff Mundell
The two sonic booms that shook the Seattle region in 2010 rattle in Jeff Mundell’s mind as one of his most memorable times serving in the Air Force National Guard.
“Some of the most memorable times for me in the military are working with the secret service in direct protection of the president of the United States,” Mundell said. “When the president is in our area of responsibility we offer air support to protect the area in which he is visiting. You may remember a couple years back when a small aircraft broke the boundary of one of the temporary flight restricted area we had set up for President Obama in Seattle … we scrambled F-15s out of Portland which went supersonic over Vancouver, Washington.”
Mundell was also involved in helping to intercept two Russian jets off the west coast of America on July 4, 2016.
As a master sergeant for the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), Mundell assists military fighters to scramble and intercept unknown aircraft, aircraft in need of assistance, and also to perform combat air patrols over valued assets, such as the U.S. president.
In the case of an “asymmetric threat,” such as a hijacked aircraft, Mundell said his unit scrambles “fighters stationed strategically in different parts of the United States to investigate and identify the aircraft in question to find out if it is friend or foe. They can help with the guidance of aircraft to safely land at specific air fields, or to shoot down an enemy combatant or even their munitions in the most dire of cases.”
Currently a traffic corporal for the Federal Way Police Department, Mundell enlisted in the national guard in 2002. He served active duty through 2007, when he transitioned to the traditional Air Force National Guard (one weekend per month and 14 days of annual training), in which he is currently serving. He has served his entire enlistment at the Western Air Defense Sector at JBLM.
Mundell said the most challenging aspect of his military service is keeping up with the constant technological changes.
“This makes for very stressful and challenging days,” Mundell noted. “Although I am proud of my service and feel fortunate to serve this great state and our great nation, it is very hard to keep myself at the skill level needed to do the job well. You need to have thick skin, the understanding that things around you are going to be moving much faster than you as you spin up on changes and new procedures, and the ability to multitask and adapt to all the new requirements and instructions is imperative.”
Mundell, who had always wanted to be a police officer from an early age, is passionate about serving the Federal Way community. In 2007, after speaking to a Federal Way police background investigator on behalf of a coworker and friend, Mundell was invited to apply to the police department.
“I was fortunate to have a wife who had already been with me through basic training and time in the military,” he recalled. “She knew about my dream of being an officer and supported me wholeheartedly. This is simply put, the best job in the world! I enjoy coming to work each day and love serving and protecting the community. I love the uniformity and dedication of military and law enforcement service, as well as the history and profession of arms that is so deeply seeded in both.”
Aerospace science instructor J.J. Golemboski
J.J. Golemboski made many sacrifices while he served in the U.S. Air Force — including missing the birth of his second daughter.
He spent long periods away from his family, and worked long hours without overtime pay.
Nevertheless, the service to his country and memorable experiences helped outweighed some of the challenges.
“The military offered a camaraderie I had never experienced before,” said the retired Air Force major who currently serves as a senior aerospace science instructor for the Air Force Junior ROTC at Federal Way High School. “Although we never established deep roots in our communities, but I met my best friend on a deployment in 1997. I may not regularly talk to the friends I made in the military, but we can always pick up from where we left on and still feel close.”
Golemboski served in the Air Force from 1993-2013 and his primary job was a weather officer serving in Osan Air Base in the Republic of Korea, among several other bases. He was deployed to Tazar AB, Hungary supporting the NATO mission in Bosnia; Tuzla AB, Bosnia supporting the air campaign over Kosovo; and Bagram AB, Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
One of his most lasting memories was the work he did after the 9/11 attacks.
“I was able to see wisdom from a three-star general, gained from years of experience, when he did not authorize lethal force against an airliner who was squawking the hijack code across Alaskan airspace, saving over 250 souls,” Golemboski said. “And I saw the generosity of an ally (Canada) when they took in all the aircraft bound for the U.S. that was diverted, and subsequently housed all travelers in their hotels and personal homes. I also witnessed an adversary stand down their exercises against the U.S., ensuring the safety of both sides of military personnel.”
After he retired from the military, Golemboski missed the Air Force and all it represented. That brought him to serve the Federal Way community as an instructor.
“I was fortunate to get a position where I could continue to influence young people regarding their future, and do it while still wearing the uniform.”
PE and health teacher Amber Heinselman
Amber Heinselman, who is currently serving as a maintenance control officer and platoon leader in the Washington Army National Guard, says the military is a “melting pot of culture and personalities from all over the country.”
One of her most memorable experiences in the military so far is the deep friendships she has made.
“I have had the pleasure to meet people I would have never had the chance to because of the military,” said Heinselman, who is also a PE and health teacher at Federal Way High School. “In the military you are forced to trust the people around you and because of the experiences you share you develop close and deep friendships quickly that can be hard for non-service members to understand.”
Other memorable moments for Heinselman include getting “smoked” (doing physical tasks with her classmates) in the pouring rain, pinning one of her males during their match in combative training and watching her squad come together during their two-week field experience doing STX lanes.
Heinselman enlisted in the military in 2015 and was commissioned as 2LT in 2017. She completed her BOLC Ordnance training earlier this year in Virginia where she graduated No. 1 in her class as the honor graduate.
She said the most challenging aspect of serving in the military is the distance away from family and friends during training and future deployments that she will eventually have to face.
“The other thing that is challenging is the military always pushes me out of my comfort zone,” she added. “I am always learning new skills from learning how to do combatives, use a weapon correctly and safety, physical challenges including ruck marches and molding myself into a confident and effective leader.”
Her passion for teaching prompted her to serve the community.
“I love being a high school teacher because you are able have a mentorship role with your students,” she said. “I love my job as a PE and health teacher because I think teaching the younger generation to enjoy physical activity is important for their physical and mental health now and in the future. Everything I teach in health class will be used and applied in the students’ lives now and in the future. I always tell my students that I guarantee what they learn in class they will use again.”
Retired Major Barry Jones
Retired U.S. Air Force Major Barry Jones started the AFJROTC program at Todd Beamer High School in 2005.
Before coming to Federal Way, he was the senior AFJROTC instructor at Provo High School in Provo, Utah for three years. This is cumulatively his 16th year in AFJROTC.
“The best part of what I am doing right now is being a mentor to wonderful scholars and, perhaps, helping them, in some small way, to prepare for life after high school,” the Idaho native said.
Jones’ extensive 20-year service in the Air Force moved his family from one end of the world to the other — one of his most challenging experiences in the military. He also spent a lot of time away from his family.
He received his commission into the Air Force at Brigham Young University, graduating as a distinguished graduate. Over the course of 20 years, he served as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Launch Officer, flight commander, and missile staff instructor at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota and Vandenberg AFB, California. He then became an Air Force Senior ROTC instructor and commandant of cadets at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
Subsequently, Jones attended the USAF Logistics Planning School in Colorado and then moved his family to Royal Air Force Chicksands in the United Kingdom where he became the chief of logistics plans at the 442nd Air Base Group. While assigned at RAF Chicksands, he participated in Desert Storm as the director of logistics for an F117 squadron in Saudi Arabia — one of his most memorable experiences.
Another notable time during his military career he said is when he participated, as a member of the U.S. Joint Task Force, in Operation Shining Hope, providing humanitarian support to thousands of refugees in Albania.
After his retirement, Jones worked as a Civil-Military Affairs consultant with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He deployed with the UN in support of humanitarian operations in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Liberia, Western Africa.