Linda Fessel has traveled a path of many miles and challenges to Hudson Valley. She is rebuilding her life around parenthood, education and faith after serving for nearly a decade in the military and two difficult marriages.
“I’ve been nomadic my entire life. I’m ready to settle in one place. I didn’t like moving around all the time in the military,” she said.
Reentering the Capital Region in July of was not only a change from the navy, but an awakening for Fessel. Currently living with the assistance provided in the GI Bill, Fessel is unemployed but volunteers her time with the Salvation Army, training to become a senior soldier with the nonprofit organization.
“I felt that salvationism is about helping the community and helping all the people around you,” she said. Born into a Lutheran faith and raised a Baptist until her early teen years when she became an atheist, Fessel has recently regained her faith.
“I fell out of religion because of the trials I went through in my life. I thought there wasn’t a god and there really is,” said Fessel.
She had previously lived in the area with her brother, Jason, before going into the navy. When she moved back this summer, Jason let her stay with him again until she found an apartment. Under Jason’s roof, she became involved with the church-based organization along with her sister-in-law and realigned with religion after about two decades.
“My gratification is to see the appreciated faces of others as I help them,” said Fessel about working in the soup kitchen.
Outside of her faith, Fessel wishes to help a different crowd after going back to college. “I want to help people out of their addictions because I couldn’t help my soon-to-be ex-husband with his addictions,” she said.
Currently in the human services program, Fessel plans on transferring to UAlbany to get a bachelor’s degree in human services.
She wishes to make her current experience in education more positive than it has been in the past. After dropping out of Berkeley College in her first attempt at higher education, Fessel described her time afterward as “floating.”
Fessel’s first marriage started within her time period of “floating”. The marriage lasted about a week and it took her several years to change her last name back after the divorce. “It ended before it started,” she said.
After “floating,” Fessel moved back downstate to join the navy. “My mother was always hinting it. She said, ‘Why don’t you join the military?’ I was at my bottoms end. I was about to get kicked out — again. I didn’t have a place to go so I was about to try [the navy],” said Fessel.
After being stationed in Chicago, San Diego and Norfolk, along with having port calls in Hawaii, Japan, Greece, France, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Fessel said her experience in the military improved her punctuality, discipline and ability to multitask.
Fessel met her second husband through the navy when she was assigned to a nightwatch position. The couple found their chemistry through cars during the beginning of their relationship, “I asked him to help me take out my metal intake manifold gasket on my automobile aero, and [he] said ‘sure, I’ll do it for you’ and I responded, ‘no, I don’t want you to do it for me. I want you to show me how to do it because I’ve always wanted to learn about cars.’”
Fessel and her husband bonded over an interest she always had but was never able to pursue because of her father’s disapproval due to her gender. Her interest in auto mechanics grew from her brother, Jason, a current auto mechanic.
“I can tear apart an engine and put it back together,” she explained.
The human services major strives to be independent no longer as a daughter, but as a parent. Her son, Alex, now eight years old was born out of wedlock between her and her second husband.
Fessel’s relationship with her husband turned sour after he was caught conducting illegal activities out of their house in Norfolk, which resulted in her having to leave the Navy.
“I had this weird perception that he needed a father so I kind of settled with the person I married and it turned out to be a bad idea,” she said after her second marriage, “I’ve changed my perspective on him having a father. He doesn’t need a father because he has his family.” Alex is supported by family within the Troy area including support from the church, according to Fessel.
According to Fessel, her perception of single motherhood has changed significantly after her second marriage. “What I went through in the relationship as far as verbal abuse, feeling incompetent and turns out … I’m not an idiot, I’m a pretty amazing person from my perspective, I’m never going to have a man change how I feel about myself anymore,” she said.