COMMUNITY HEROES: Elizabethton man goes from leading Marines to helping veterans

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ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) From leading United States Marines to helping veterans.

An Elizabethton man has spent more than 27 and a half years serving his country as a U.S. Marine Corps reservist. This includes two combat tours in Iraq.

The recently retired veteran has started a new chapter: helping other veterans at the Elizabethton VFW Post 2166.

His name is Andrew Wetzel, II and he is this week’s community hero.

“From a young age, I feel like I’ve been a servant to people and being able to serve my country was my initial goal,” Andrew Wetzel said.

With that goal in mind, Wetzel decided to join the Marine Corps as a reservist in 1992, at the age of 21.

“When I got out, I was a master sergeant. I was an E-8 Master Sergeant,” Wetzel said. “I think the thing that is the most satisfying, the thing I’m most proud is, two combat delpoyments that I was on, every Marine we took overseas, every Marine came home and tht was very, very, very gratifying for me. “Some of them, we had some Marines get injured, some Marines had to come home early but we lost no one from our company while we were deployed.”

He explained his time in the Marine Corps helped shaped who he is today.

“I met the best friends I have in my life to this day, came from the Marine Corps. Everything that the Marine Corps stood for, I took that wholeheartedly and I have applied that to my life daily,” Wetzel said. “I learned so much about myself and I learned so much about other people, watching them with their strengths and weaknesses, their highs and lows in their lives, through the Marine Corps and through their personal life.”

However, ask him again on what his most gratifying thing in his life is and he will say his family, without a doubt.

“The truth of the matter is the only reason that I could do whether it be in the Marine Corps or the fire department is because I’ve got a wife that supports me and she is amazing to be able to do what she does. The fact that she’s raised three sons with me being gone,” Wetzel said. “It’s a true testiment to her how loving and caring she is for this family. She’s amazing.”

His impact has been so great his three sons are following in his footsteps.

This photo, Wetzel is pictured in the middle, while two of his sons are pictured on either side of him. His third son, Nate, will soon be added once he enters the reserve in summer of 2020.

“My goal is to try to make people and things better. That was always my goal in anything that I did,” he said.

“My dad and my brothers have been a big inspiration for me serving their country and I want to be a part of that,” Nate Wetzel said.

The youngest of the three, Nate, will join this summer as a reservist, while attending ETSU, like his older brothers and father.

“At ETSU, I plan to do biology and after going through the Marine Corps and maybe doing pre-med or becomming a doctor or something in the medical field,” Nate said.

Andrew Wetzel retired from the Marine Corps on September 1st, 2019. He then joined the Elizabethton VFW Post 2166.

“As soon as I retired, I went from leading Marines to helping vets literally in a week. That was a pretty big deal for me,” Wetzel said.

He said he is ready to face challenges in this next chapter of his life with confidence.

“I think I really get that place back to what it’s there for what it’s supposed to be and that’s to help the veterans of this community and to support this community,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel’s committment to serving his family and his country has never stopped.

While in the reserve, in Gray, he got suited and booted to join the Elizabethton Fire Department, 1998.

He came up through the ranks and became the batallion chief for the department, where he still serves today.

Wetzel is also the owner of State Line Drive-In Movie Theatre, in Elizabethton. He and his wife purchased the theatre in 1996.

“I was at the time teaching school and she was working at county department at ETSU and we knew absolutely nothing about running a small business,” Wetzel said.

The two took a big leap of faith and ended up landing on both feet, he explained.

“We both decided, ‘Hey, let’s give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? If we tank it, then we turn around and sell the property and get our money back. That was our thinking at the time.”

Since their purchase, they have made major improvements to the theater, including adding projectors, provided by winning a contest with Project Honda.

“He’s a hardworker,” son, Nate said.

If there’s one piece of advice or information readers can take away from this article, Wetzel said this, “Be true to your faith first, but secondly, enjoy everyday. We take so much for granted these days and you have to enjoy every day.”

And that is why he’s our community hero.

If you know someone who makes our community a better place to live, we want to hear from you! Nominate them to be an ABC Tri-Cities Community Hero! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to nominate them.

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