Okay, I know you are asking me a question, so what does this have to do with a little girl named Caitlin? Would you just hold on to your hat? I am getting there… (Ever so slowly)
One other motive that caused me to join the Army was due to a medical reason that plagued us—there is a lot more to this story I haven’t told you. We had been married for five years and weren’t able to have children. We tried to have children by every means we could afford; it just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, back in December, when we were following up on Sarah’s gall bladder problem, we ended up seeing a gynecologist. This doctor did some tests on Sarah and sent us home. There was an hour’s drive from the hospital to our home, and half way through the trip, the doctor’s office called and said, “We need to talk to you concerning your test results, please call us as soon as possible.”
Okay, I don’t know what part of the country you are from, but when a doctor in Texas tells you that the test results will take three days to return, but calls you within an hour with an urgent bulletin, it can’t be good news. We braced ourselves for the worst news possible and called the doctor. She herself answered the phone and told us that there were some concerns that arose out of the tests, and would like us to return within three days. Heck, it takes three months just to get an appointment with this doctor, and now she wants to see us in three days? She wouldn’t tell us more, and I guess that we weren’t too interested in forcing her to tell us. I had rather have three more days of wondering, than three days of total panic.
We went to our next appointment and she told us that there were some things in Sarah’s ovaries and that she needed to do some further tests. We waited while she poked and prodded and bit her lip. Then we did a sonogram. Then an x-ray, and finally she told us what she found. I would quote her verbatim, but I don’t speak medical technobable. The jest of it was, she thought she had found a growth, or something funny in her ovaries.
In all of my life, that was probably the longest sentence I had ever heard. A ten-ton boulder had just stuck me in the gut and I couldn’t breathe. In fact, I didn’t even hear what she had to say after that. I suppose I tuned her out and focused on what God was going to accomplish in this situation. After all, I had been mad at God over some issues up to this point. It didn’t change my trust in Him, or my love for Him, but I had been mad over some previous ministry issues. Suddenly, all of that seemed to fade away because it was so petty and so unimportant. For a brief nanosecond, I saw myself standing over a coffin at a funeral. Then the Lord bathed me in light and comfort. “Everything will work out.” Just that simple. It wasn’t words that I heard, or an impression I received, but it was a gift of faith. I knew that I knew, deep within my heart, just as sure as I know I am saved, that everything would be okay.
It turned out that Sarah had severe polycystic ovaries, and that her womb was deformed. Conceiving a child would be impossible. Part of the problem was correctable by surgery, but not enough. There was never a more solemn look on Sarah’s face than when she realized that she would never bear her own baby. It was a blow to us, for we really wanted children. It’s a feeling similar to being in an airplane that is in a nosedive into the ocean, accelerating faster and faster, but the crash never occurs, you just keep falling, never hitting. The anticipation of such a crash is impossible to describe, you don’t think, you feel. Then you grab onto whatever part of God you can latch onto and hold on for dear life.
Well, grab onto God we did. I suppose it would be tempting to be angry with God, or blame Him for our problems, but He was all we had. We just let Him hold us in His arms and sing over us a song of love. This was no surprise to Him, He knew it was coming, and He was in charge the whole time. I know this much, you will never convince me that there is no God, because I have leaned into His chest and cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion.
That may be the biggest reason I joined the Army. We wanted children, and I knew that an Army lawyer could help us with an adoption, which was the only way we could afford the legal fees.
In June of 1997, on Sarah’s birthday, we did have the surgery to help fix part of her womb. For the most part, the surgery was successful, but it never really changed anything. I suppose it was just preventive measures, but the fact remained that we wouldn’t ever have children.
I joined the Army on October 17, 1997, at 10:20 AM, in the third floor of the Federal Building in El Paso, Texas. It was a solemn moment in my life. I had many reasons for joining the Army, and all of them were painful, but I had a purpose. On November 4, I left on a Southwest Airlines flight and flew to DFW. There I connected on a flight to Atlanta. I was excited, and I was scared. My mind was a spaghetti bowl of emotions. I had kissed my wife goodbye as she cried a river of tears, and we had stepped out on the biggest faith venture we had ever seen.
I stepped out of the plane and onto a bus, and into the warm friendly smile of my Drill Sergeant. I tell you, I will forever hate almost every memory of Ft. Benning, Georgia. I can't find many things to smile about as I remember processing into the Army at the reception station. We were to be there three days while we got shots and uniforms and did enough paper work to choke a horse. I absolutely hated the reception station. They treated us like idiots, and most of us were. I had never really been a teenager; I was always older than that. Growing up on the ranch, I never learned how to be with kids my own age. As a natural result, I didn’t like most teens. However, I found myself surrounded by 2,000 of them, and all of them have some kind of problem.
They were all tougher than each other. They all had something to say about everyone’s mother. They weren’t going to let anyone tell them what to do, and they "weren’t going to take it anymore." I had never consistently been in that much trouble since the time I floated my brother down the creek in a wheelbarrow in the direction of a waterfall. The Drill Sergeants yelled at us, made fun of us, verbally abused us, and physically tortured us. Every night, as we crawled into our bunks, I could hear my fellow recruits cussing at the Army, talking about going AWOL. They were going to run away, from the ARMY! I rolled over in my bunk and yelled out, “What is your problem? Didn’t you ever see any boot camp movies? Haven’t you ever heard the stories? You knew this was going to be hard, so quit crying. I am tired and I want to rest. I don’t want to hear anymore of you babies whining about how hard the world is treating you. Just act like the men you aren’t and suck it up and drive on!” After that, I never really talked to any of them, at lest for the three days we were to be there.
Then things got bad...