From Ministry to Military – an unlikely journey

I’ve told my husband countless times I wish I had known more about military academy options for college. I went to a small Christian school and I have a vague memory of Missouri National Guard recruiters coming to lunch but mostly it was very expensive private schools. Instead, I ended up a Christian internship much like a military academy after a high school for a gap year…complete with 5am corporate exercise and lots of reading requirements. I loved it and it was the right choice of a gap year program as my father had passed away my senior year.

Years down the road, after nearly enlisting in the Airforce, I was still working for the ministry I interned with but full time and finishing school at the local state college. I was 24 when I met my husband in the most traditional way possible…adult Sunday school class on Easter Sunday. So classic. I was late to church and choose to wear yesterday’s curled hair with a dress (because it was Easter). He came into class with a group of ministry friends looking sharp in an oxford shirt and glasses. I thought he was the serious type (the kind I thought I needed). We had mutual friends and easily found ourselves (on purpose) in the same circles for the rest of the spring and summer. He was working full time in camp ministry at the time. No military career on the horizon. Not the “serious type” I imagined. He loved the Lord and was silly. He loved cheesy jokes and making kids laugh. It was what I needed, just not what I thought I needed.

Dating, 2013

We married two years later, and were working full time in camp ministry when he brought up the possibility of joining the Army. It wasn’t a complete surprise but wasn’t in any “five-year plan” we had discussed either. He was nearly thirty and he knew if he was going to give it a go it needed to be soon. As a Navy brat himself, he had always considered the military but as life often goes – found himself in an opposite kind of career instead, camp ministry. We prayed together, made pros and cons lists, and asked a lot of questions!

We started talking to recruiters about the officer route – OCS or Officer Candidate School. Let’s just say recruiters in rural Oklahoma don’t get a lot of officer candidates come through their office. They honestly didn’t know much about it and my husband had to do a lot of the back ground work to double check requirements. The application process included an essay, letters of recommendations, ASFAB test, and an in-person interview. He was nervous but I had no doubt of his competency. After the interview in June 2017, things moved pretty fast.

We found out he was accepted and later that week drove down to Oklahoma City where he swore in and got a packet with his basic training report date for August 2017 (as in two months down the road). We did a weekend away from work and I dropped him off in a little Oklahoma town to hug and say goodbye before basic training and “radio silence”. I know a lot of mom’s feel all the things, but feeling it as a wife is something else! He got on a bus to get on a plane to get on a bus and I finally got that horrible call in the middle of the night saying, “I have arrived safely and you won’t hear from me again until completion.” Honestly, they make them do it just to mess with their heads and it was worse than dropping him off in so many ways.

Weekend at Lake of the Ozarks

Ten weeks – no phone conversation. Snail mail – after being married for three years to not hear his voice for twelve weeks was pretty tough. Some people start to get phone privileges near the end. His company never did. I would wait every Wednesday and Saturday for the mail man to drop the 3-4 letters he’d written a week or two before. Time moved slow. They did have a Facebook group but try scanning 100 pictures of men and women in full uniform with face paint and you’re lucky if you can identify who is male and female, let alone who is who.

The phone call finally came near the end when he could tell me, “Yes, I’ll be graduating, plan on coming”. It was a whirlwind 24 hours. One night with families, graduation, free time in the afternoon and be back by 8pm or you get recycled into basic training. It felt strange meeting again. Wondering if I would be encountering the same person. Would my husband have changed? Had I changed? We have few pictures from the weekend. Girlfriends probably have more as mom and siblings are there to take pictures but it was just us at the reunion. Felt a bit like a deployment – not as long obviously but the zero communication can make 10 weeks feel much much longer.

Boxes of our letters from basic training.

All in all, we held on tight until I had to say goodbye again. In a parking lot once again. The next morning, he was on a plane to Georgia for the next phase – Officer Candidate School, another three months apart. Thankfully, this phase was broken up by short visits and more phone freedom. He got there in October; I drove myself from Missouri to Georgia for Thanksgiving. He had to pass land navigation the day before his break started or else, they wouldn’t get leave time – I drove down anyway to risk it and he passed. Three days in an air bnb in Atlanta – again, getting reacquainted. I didn’t even know the word “reintegration” at the time, let alone what it felt like.  

The next break was Christmas and he came home! It was starting to feel real – he would graduate in a month and we would move back together…somewhere. We just didn’t know where. Sometime in January he “branched” – aka found out what he would be doing in/ for the Army. They get to rank jobs based on their class rank. Academy graduates get first pick, then OCS grads (I believe). Thankfully he got one of his top choices – logistics.

Flying down for Officer School graduation felt romantic. He was graduating, had branched logistics so we knew he would be going to Virginia (if I was going was still up in the air). He picked me up from the airport and we had brunch at First Watch. We talked about the future – still unsure if I would be joining him for the next four months. Getting our first taste of last-minute Army planning. Another whirl wind weekend. Snuggling in the hotel in between graduation practice and formations. Still so unsure of ourselves in this new world.

Day before Officer Commissioning at Fort Benning, GA

He graduated, packed his bags for Virginia and Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC), and picked up his official orders – it was a permanent change of station (aka – a paid family move). Most of the time it’s not but because his class was supposed to be starting months after the move, the amount of time he would be there was 6 months or more (the minimum time for the Army to make the move a PCS rather than a TDY or temporary Duty).

Getting to pin him as an officer – such an honor!

I flew home to Joplin, MO, he drove straight to Virginia and spent 48 hours driving around looking for an apartment. He flew back to Joplin and we packed our one-bedroom apartment in a UHAUL (because we had no time to plan a Household Goods move through the Army nor did we know HOW to do that), and left Joplin in the middle of an ice storm. It was crazy. Just like that, moving our whole lives…everything we owned across the country. We stayed in random hotels, drank a lot of coffee, and decided we would start trying for kids now that we had a steady income and health insurance.

It was a wild six months. Days that felt so long waiting for snail mail to all of the sudden moving to a state I’d never even been to before to start a journey I knew so little about. But we were excited. The six months stay for Basic Officer Leadership Course ended up only being four months and just like that we were packed up again, moving (back) to Texas, with a UHUAL and a baby on the way. Trusting that God had good plans in store for us…unable to imagine the friendships we would make, the growth we would experience, the family we would expand at our first official duty station. Unable to comprehend just how faithful God would prove himself to be…

The confirmation of this journey we risked taking.

The neighbors we would get to meet and love.

The church we would get to help plant.

He was in all and above it all. Every step of the way.

Five years, three states, five houses and two kids later!

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