- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - Starting with their smiles, followed with conversation, you find pieces of David Schucker Sr. prominently displayed in his children.

As friendly as they are fraternal, they understand each other. Maybe it’s that the father served his country during his career and his children have followed in serving their community and fellow man. Experience can shape a father’s hand without realizing it.

This Father’s Day, the men of the Schucker family will spend it in a variation of a favorite moment from when the father raised his sons - by cooking. But getting there will take time to marinade as the story unfolds.

The invitation from the younger David to his father and brother, Mark, fell as natural conversation when the three met with The Constitution (https://bit.ly/28Y0L80 ) last week. The conversation got cooking with a late invitation.

“I was meaning to ask you all if you wanted to come over Sunday form some smoked ribs,” David Schucker Jr. said

Ready to serve up a meal, it’s just another part of the inherent call to serve that is a tie that binds the Schucker bloodline. The elder Schucker is a retired Army major; the younger David is a detective with the Lawton Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division; and Mark is a captain at Lawton Fire Station No. 2. The sons say they get it from their dad.

A Pennsylvania native, the elder Schucker found his way into the Army following his two years of ROTC while attending Washington & Jefferson College. After graduation, he joined the Army in 1963, and he retired in 1981. He earned the rank of major, served in Vietnam twice and was stationed in Germany twice. A commissioned officer somehow wooed Schucker into a career commitment.

“He twisted my arm,” he said, “and the next thing I knew I was on orders to Vietnam … for the first time.”

The choice connected the family with Lawton after David Schucker Sr. arrived for his first stint at Fort Sill while in basic training. There were other times stationed at the local post. The eldest Schucker’s back and hearing injuries from Vietnam ultimately left him 80 percent disabled. When he went in for a medical appointment at Reynolds Army Community Hospital in 1981, he found an old friend. His doctor had been his company commander when he was first injured and helped put him on the medevac helicopter. The doctor helped him through his retirement.

A computer programmer for the Army, once he left the military, the elder Schucker said he found a perfect fit with TELOS, where he designed field artillery software. He said it was actually easier because he could pass needs mentioned by his military friends and colleagues on to the developers and they could make a more precise product. He takes great pride in that work.

“It was basically the same thing I did in the Army,” he said.

–—

Becoming first responders

Through it all, he raised raised sons David and Mark to become the kind of men they are. With a strong sense of purpose, they followed a path into becoming first responders, along with their sister, who has gone into nursing. As a matter of fact, the brothers each have daughters who have also gone into that field.

You’re starting to see a theme here, right? Through example and character, the children feel a subconscious connection for bettering their community however they may. Like icons seamlessly stitched onto a memory quilt, the threads hold the family together. Many threads hold a community together and create a larger quilt held together and strengthened by all who serve.

–—

David joins police department

The younger David joined the police department in 1987. He worked in the patrol division for five years before spending 18 years on the narcotics squad. He’s been a detective since 2009. Following three weeks in court as part of the Thorsten Rushing murder trial, he said it was nice to spend a minute talking and joking with his father and brother. The stereotype of rivalry between police and fire could have become a caricature with the two brothers seated in proximity. Instead, it was simply and perfectly brotherly.

“We joke every now and then between police and fire,” David Schucker Jr. said, “but these guys are my brothers.”

Neither Schucker brother said he felt a conscious call to the military or civic service professions.

David had been a photographer and reporter at the Lawton High School Tattler during high school. He was attending Cameron University with different expectations. But working three jobs to pay the bills led to a fateful and fruitful decision when he opened up the pages of an older edition of this newspaper.

–—

Answered ad

“I opened up the newspaper and saw the ad that said ‘Lawton Police Department Wants You,’” he. said. “I was on my way to becoming a chemistry teacher. Since then, I’ve never thought twice about the decision to answer that ad.”

Nearing 30 years with the department, he still remembers his first day at the police academy and his impression of the instructors who helped shape him professionally.

“I said, ‘Good God, look at these old guys,” he said. “Somewhere along the way, I became one of the old guys.”

Younger brother Mark didn’t mind agreeing with his brother on that one. Although seven years separate the two in age, their brotherly ties are bound tighter through their mutual roles as first responders - friends and colleagues bound in blood.

–—

From engineer to firefighter

Another tale of ending up professionally far from where he began, Mark said he was going to the University of Oklahoma to become a petroleum engineer. But that wasn’t his calling. He heard the siren’s charm, although he nearly joined his brother in the brotherhood of blue. He was actually taking his physical exam to join the police department when he got word that he’d been hired at the firehouse. He said it’s another place with a family bond with his fellow smoke crawlers.

“I was going to get on the police department; I was studying criminal justice at Cameron,” Mark said. “I applied at the police department and the fire department on the same day.”

“I felt like it was a really good path for me to take,” he said. “I enjoy going to work every day … and nobody shoots at me.”

The brothers have a respect for each other’s unique skills. Working hand in hand through many emergency scenes allows them unique insight insight. David said he wonders at his brother’s and the other firefighters’ bravery - he called them his heroes. Flashover fire training years ago while learning about taking down methamphetamine labs only stiffened his conviction that he is not a fan of flames.

“I am terrified of fire,” he said. “I will run into gunfire, but you can’t get me in fire.”

Although the elder David is a tried-and-true Pennsylvanian, by the time military retirement came about Lawton-Fort Sill had become home. It always will be. He’s been active in Lawton Community Theatre since 1981. Never afraid to try something new, he made his singing debut during the fall of 2015 performance of “The Addams Family.” Fearless when it comes to following his fun, it’s a trait that’s carried through to his sons.

“I am still a Penn State fan, a Philadelphia Phillies fan and a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, that’s not going to change,” he said,” but Lawton is home.”

His son David said his love for Lawton is deep, as deep as his love for his job. That the two converge into a career is everything for this officer. He said he still finds the most satisfaction in being an active officer. He said he went to take the lieutenant’s test in 1995 but before he could see if he’d advanced, asked to be removed from consideration.

“I like being on the streets, I like being a cop,” he said. “I grew up here, this is my town and I like being a police officer here.”

The joy from their respective career paths wells up in the generations of Schuckers. After 42 years in the military and civil service, the father keeps in touch with a lot of his friends from the military. He said when he retired from the Army, many of those friendships helped him do his programming job better through TELOS.

“It always felt good when they liked a product,” he said. “It was a very gratifying job and it was still fun.”

The sons carry that spirit with them. Now that he’s realized he’s “one of the old guys,” son David said he doesn’t let that change him when he’s instructing at the police academy. You’re never too old to learn, he said.

“I never stop learning,” he said. “Every time I think I’ve seen it all, I see something different.”

He said that when you teach a concept to an officer and later that rookie becomes a veteran and an instructor, there’s a strong sense of accomplishment.

“It’s pretty satisfying to know you’re going to leave a mark,” he said.

The smile on his face when he heard that was prominent. It’s as much like DNA as anything when you see traits you pass to your children passed further by them. Plus, there was extra meaning to why it was worth a smile.

–—

Laughter key ingredient

Laughter followed as the younger brother, Mark, let on that he’d heard a joke. There will probably be more today over ribs. Ribbing over ribs isn’t unprecedented with the Schuckers. Even without a meal, laughter is a key ingredient to time spent with the three men. Somehow, talk turned to ice cream and the older brother said he had a great story to tell.

He told of once going over to Central Fire Station for lunch when Mark was stationed there. He asked the firefighter at the front desk to see his brother and “Mark Schucker, Mark Schucker could you come to the front desk, Mark Schucker” went out over the intercom.

Mark said that firefighters have a provision in their contract to allow for naps after lunch. The intercom call was a faux pas in the firehouse. Whoever causes a wake-up during nap time has to buy ice cream.

“Here he comes down the stairs with this look on his face,” David said. “The guy behind the desk said, ‘I like ice cream!’”

This is where the story returns to cooking. Big brother busted the younger one during another lunch visit. Mark had convinced everyone that he only could cook hamburgers. The jig was up when David bragged about baby brother’s culinary skills.

“My brother’s a great cook,” he said.

The elder Schucker said both of his sons have special talents in the kitchen. At one time, the brothers said they were going to open a restaurant but soon realized they’d be working longer and harder hours.. They tip their hats to dad, who taught them all they know.

“People would ask, ‘Did your mom teach you how to cook?’ and I’d say, ‘Hell no, my dad taught me how to cook!’” son David said.

He said he learned in high school after he rounded up a bunch of the athletes and other non-traditional home economics guys together to form a “boy’s cooking club.” It was from there another Schucker family theme was born.

“We all learned to cook,” the younger David said.

When the three gather around the grill today, bet there will be hands working together. Every day is for serving country and community for the Schuckers.

But for this Father’s Day, the sons will serve Dad.

___

Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com

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