CARROLL, Iowa — Mike Wendl of Carroll grew up on a farm and had a dream as a boy of being a pilot.
“I got my pilot’s license in high school and my whole goal was to either fly for the military full-time or airlines with transition from the military,” said Wendl.
But a health challenge, a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and going into the Iowa Air National Guard caused a change in life plan.
“Before I was diagnosed with MS, I was selected for an F-16 pilot slot,” said Wendl. “My wife and I were all geared up for that then the wrench got thrown in and basically had to find a new way to make a living.”
Wendl got on as an F-16 Crew Chief, not flying, but as close as he could get.
“F-16 Crew Chief from 1996, to Sept 5, 2003,” said Wendl. “I’ve been deployed to Turkey twice Kuwait once, so we’d be sitting there and phone call comes, and the jet scrambled within several minutes, so it was nerve-racking but exciting all at the same time.”
He worked at the Air Guard as a civilian technician later and did the Guard drill on the weekends. When he got out of the military he worked at Wells Fargo for a couple of years, and then he went back home to farm.
Then he and his wife decided to start a gun shop in Carroll. They were even helped by a competing gun store owner to get started. They would later buy that store when the owner retired.
“We started out just in case my health deteriorated, we want to find a way, because farming takes a lot of stress and physical labor,” said Wendl. “We wanted to find a way my wife and I were thinking of something to do just in case it (health) did go south.”
A few years ago Wendls built a new firearms store building, complete with a firing range.
“We have a full-service shooting range, for we are a full-service firearm shooting range and archery range,” said Wendl. The store has several employees including two veterans.
“My true passion was flying, still is,” said Wendl. “I always love guns I remember buying my first gun from my brother when I was I think eight years old a little single shot 22.”
Mike’s health has remained stable, even with MS.
“I’ve been stable for several years now I see my neurologist regularly in Des Moines and some pretty good medication for that,” said Mike.
His store, Wendl’s Weapons and Indoor Range is hard to miss on Highway 30 in Carroll, as he keeps a drive-able army tank parked in front of the business.
“We have a 1973 British Abbott, FV433 self-propelled gun,” said Mike. “It’s a 105 mm Howitzer on tracks, we can drive it, we can move it we just can’t shoot, it that’s been demilitarized.”
He said they get a lot of looks when they go to Casey’s for fuel, or take it to car shows down the road. Even though his first love of flying did not work out. He’s thankful for his business.
“My advice would be, just follow your passion,” said Wendl.