WYOMING — Deborah Przybyla has spent decades helping students in the classroom, but teaching has not been her only service to the community.
Przybyla served in the United States Air Force from 1977 until 1982 as a personnel technician, first in California and then in Germany.
It was because of her service that Przybyla was one of 27 former military women recently honored at a special ceremony in Harrisburg, hosted by Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.
“(In the military) I was in charge of officer records,” she said. “Those officers being promoted, demoted, or coming to the base or leaving the base — I was in charge of those records. When I was in Germany I did whatever they needed me to do, and that was basically anyone leaving, voluntarily or involuntarily, I was in charge of those records.”
The Pennsylvania Commission for Women consists of volunteer members and is responsible for advising the governor on policies and legislation that impact women.
“I was honored to be there,” said Przybyla. “I was impressed with the governor and the first lady (Frances Wolf) with how welcoming they were and how open they were to anyone’s concerns. It was nice that I was able to meet and greet other women who shared the same experiences I had, and even more so because some were in the war time. I was in the peace time.”
Raised in Wyoming, Przybyla graduated from Wyoming Area High School in 1974 and attended Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) in Nanticoke for two years, earning her associate’s degree in education.
After she graduated from LCCC, Przybyla enlisted in the Air Force to continue the family tradition of military service.
“My dad was a Marine, my brother was a Marine, my aunt was in the Navy and my uncle was in the Army,” she said. “My family is all from this area, from Wyoming or West Wyoming and my whole family is all military.”
After her service with the Air Force, Przybyla remained a civilian in Germany for three years before coming back to the United States and graduating from King’s College in 1989 with a degree in education.
She became a teacher at St. Aloysius in Wilkes-Barre before coming home to teach in the Wyoming Area School District, where she’s been teaching for the last 25 years. She currently teaches fourth grade at Tenth Street Elementary School in Wyoming.
Przybyla lives in West Wyoming with her husband Barry and has two children, Michael and Adrianne.
Michael continued the military family tradition by becoming a Marine and did three tours overseas — one in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.
“I was scared and proud,” said Przybyla. “Who wouldn’t be? I’m his mother. I was afraid because my fear was he wouldn’t come back. Even now, I’m just proud that he was able to do that.”
Przybyla has some advice for those thinking about enlisting in the military.
“I would say to do it for the experience in all areas,” she said. “It’s not just for the work experience or the experience of how to discipline yourself, but the experience of seeing all walks of life.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher