DULUTH — Mya Kunst was a little disappointed to not have the traditional graduation ceremony when she completed her basic training for the Minnesota National Guard in December.
"Usually, you have about 10 people come and support you during graduation, but due to COVID, we could not have that," she said. "But I got to go to both of my sisters', so I at least knew what it was like."
All three Kunst sisters, Mya, Anaka and Calie, serve in the Minnesota Air National Guard out of the 148th Fighter Wing base in Duluth. The sisters followed in the footsteps of their grandfather, Jim Kunst. Jim served in the National Guard for a year before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1955.
"And we all graduated from basic at the same base," Jim said. "Everybody graduates out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Though, there were a lot of years between me and these three."
Calie was the first to join the National Guard back in 2014, her senior year at Duluth East High School. Anaka soon followed her in 2017, and Mya was the latest to join in 2019. Each of the sisters prepared the next for basic training.
"We helped each other out and told each other what to expect," Calie said.
"Though it was a little different for me with COVID," Mya said. "They both only got to call home three times over the entire stretch. We got weekly phone calls, which was pretty nice."
Calie and Mya both work in the services section of the guard while Anaka works in weapons.
"I wanted to pick a job where I could learn something different," Anaka said. "I'm an aircraft armament specialist. I've learned a lot."
"You're the most dangerous one," Jim joked.
Jim doesn't remember his exact rank in the Air Force, but he remembers doing a lot of truck driving. He also drove semi trucks for years after his military service. He's now driven trucks in every state in the U.S., except Hawaii.
"But I've got Alaska," Jim said. "I was actually based there when it became a state."
When asked how he feels about all three of his granddaughters serving in the military, Jim's face lit up with a smile.
"Holy smokes, I'm really proud," Jim said.