North Hudson woman has busy life as civilian and soldier
At first glance, Christine Ostendorf looks anything but a 23-year Army National Guard veteran who has attained the rank of Major.
The bright, soft-spoken overachiever has been in the Guard since age 17 and she most likely will be promoted to Lt. Colonel before her time in service is over.
In the meantime, she has earned a BA in microbiology from the University of Minnesota, an associate nursing degree from Century College in White Bear Lake and is working on a bachelor's degree in nursing from UW-Eau Claire.
"Life is what you make it," said the 40-year-old North Hudson resident during a conversation in the Hudson Hospital cafeteria at the end of her nursing shift last week. Ostendorf was back on the job at the hospital not long after returning from Iraq with the 34th Infantry Red Bull Division.
On the civilian side in addition to her nursing duties, she and her husband, David, have been married 15 years and have a 10-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
"I couldn't have done this all by myself," she said about her busy life, "I've had a lot of support."
Ostendorf is quick to acknowledge the support of her husband and the staff at North Hudson Elementary School for helping out on the home front while she was overseas for the past year.
It's not the first time she has been deployed. She served state side in a hospital during Desert Storm, in Bosnia in 2003-04 and Iraq in 2009 to early this year.
Ostendorf said her daughter has become used to her being gone for long periods at various times.
Ostendorf enlisted in the Army at age 17. "I had to get my parent's permission," she said. "My mother didn't want to sign for me but my father served in the National Guard and approved."
"I initially joined for (tuition money for) school," she said.
Ostendorf enlisted as a soldier and became a Medic. After several years she went to Officers Candidate School and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1996 in the Medical Service Corps.
"I think you can make a difference as an officer," she said. During her last deployment, with the Minnesota Guard unit, she worked at the division level in Basra that included three brigades in South Iraq.
"In overseas service we become part of something that is so much more than ourselves. I appreciate the leadership experience. It was incredible," Ostendorf said.
She said the younger soldiers may suffer some tough times when they return from overseas duty and strongly recommended local veterans contact the Veterans' Services office at the Government Center in Hudson or go online to www.MilitaryOneSource.com for help and guidance.
She also attained some personal goals in the desert sand. "I ran 1,000 miles and did multiple 5km and 10 mile races," she said. Several contests occurred after she turned 40 on Aug. 29.
Ostendorf was the first woman to cross the finish line at the end of November as part of the Basra version of the Twin Cities Marathon by the Red Bull Division. Before that she had finished second to "some twenty-something 2nd. Lieutenant," she said.
Reports of searing heat in Iraq would seem to preclude long distance running. "The only time it was really bad was in August and we ran early in the morning," Ostendorf said.
When asked if she got lonely on her deployment, she said, "I was too busy."
For more information on services for veterans contact Merlin Blaisdell, (715) 386-4759, or Wanda Plourde, (715) 386-4758, at the Government Center, 1101 Carmichael Road, Hudson WI 54016 or MilitaryOnceSource at 1-800-342-9647 or online.
"Even if you are in the middle of North Dakota and had too much to drink at a bar and need a ride home, contact MilitaryOneSource," Ostendorf said.