McHENRY – A single banner hung in the front window of Cindi Stoffel’s house.
It’s simple in design – white with a red border and a single blue star in the middle.
Soon, it will be replaced by a banner with two stars, provided by McHenry Township, which recognizes families who have a family member in the military.
Stoffel, a personal trainer who grew up in McHenry, has two sons in the military.
Matt Snyder, 23, has been in the Navy since September 2008, joining after graduating from Johnsburg High School. He’s stationed at Virginia Beach.
His younger brother, Eric Snyder, 20, joined the Army after spending a year at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale in its engineering department. He started in January and is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Reporter Emily K. Coleman recently sat down with Stoffel to talk about the Blue Star Banner Program and her sons.
Coleman: How did you hear about the program?
Stoffel: I actually worked for [McHenry Township] Senior Services for a long time. Plus, I always read their township newsletter, and I think that’s probably how I really found about it first. I was able to ask more questions just because I was there.
Coleman: Why did you decide to do it?
Stoffel: Especially with Matt, I think just to recognize him and show him that I was proud of him. It was just kind of a cool thing when I went with Matt. The families, everybody’s situation was different and everybody’s feeling about it was a little bit different, but the support was just overwhelming. I think the same thing with Eric. It’s showing my support for him, our community and the whole program.
Coleman: How do you feel about having two sons in the military?
Stoffel: Everyone asks, and you know, it’s them being away for the little things in life, like going to have coffee on a Sunday morning or meeting for breakfast or whatever. On the other hand, they’re very inspiring to me. They both love it, and they’re both happy with it. That’s pretty much all a parent can ask for.
Coleman: Do you come from a military family?
Stoffel: Well, you know I do. My great-uncles were in World War II. My one great-uncle from McHenry, I think he was the first person from McHenry County to be drafted into World War II. I have the old Plaindealer articles about him going in. My dad was in the Navy Reserves when he was in high school, but he got injured and couldn’t continue. My uncle ... was in the Army, and my husband, who’s their stepdad, was in the Navy.
But saying all that, looking back, everyone was like, ‘Oh, you must come from a military family,’ and we never talked military. All of sudden I started putting all this together, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ So maybe we weren’t freaked out by the military? Or maybe we just talked about it like it was just another thing? You know, some people are real fearful of it.
Coleman: But you wouldn’t say it was a defining characteristic?
Stoffel: No, no.
Coleman: Can you talk about why you wanted Eric to go to school for a year first?
Stoffel: One, because he was really smart. Probably that. Matt kind of had to go in afterward. It was either that or [McHenry County College], and he just wasn’t an MCC kind of person. Eric was accepted to Texas A&M and was ... I don’t know. He was just very smart.
But anyway, the secondary thing was I just wanted to be sure he was going in because he heard of the good things from Matt and was expecting those good things.
Matt’s whole career just fell into place as far as him going to Virginia Beach. He did a deployment, and his deployment was he went to England, France, Italy, Spain and Dubai. He did go to Afghanistan for 10 days, but he was flown in to fix an airplane and then flown back out. I mean, he really just had a cool deployment.
I didn’t want Eric to think it was all cool. I wanted him to think about it a little bit, but he knew. He’s known forever that he wanted to go in.
Coleman: Do you feel like you’ve learned from what they’ve learned?
Stoffel: Yes, definitely. One, they always inspire me because they’re always trying new things, so I’m always trying new things because of them. I talk to them a lot, and I was never a big international news person – and believe me, I’m still not – but I do pay attention, and I know where things are and I know what’s going on more than I did. I don’t think I could have a big conversation about it, but I put the pieces together a little better.
Coleman: Is there anything you wish you could change about their experience in the military?
Stoffel: Just that I was closer, but otherwise no. They had some glitches. Eric actually had a glitch right away. He got to jump school, and his papers didn’t follow him so he had to stay in jump school for another two weeks, which he didn’t mind because he got to jump out of the airplane again.
Coleman: When you get a phone call from your son saying, ‘I’m jumping out of an airplane today, Mom,’ what is your reaction?
Stoffel: I tell them tell me afterward.
Coleman: So do you not think about it?
Stoffel: No, I think about it, but I don’t overworry about it. You know what I mean?