Today I want to celebrate a military man who greatly influences my oldest OS, the Hubs and me.
Eric Kail and his family moved to North Carolina so he could pursue his PhD in organizational psychology at North Carolina State University. I first met his wife Gigi at a roller skating rink watching our kids go around the mindless oval.
At the time, I had no idea how much we would grow to love this couple. They were welcome additions to church and our Sunday School class. The Hubs and I enjoyed getting to know them and considered them funny, real and honest folks. I appreciated Eric’s service to our country but I underestimated his credentials.*
And when Gigi mentioned during lunch at Panera Bread that her dad had been the “Supe” at West Point, I’m pretty sure that didn’t faze me one way or the other. “Ok, so he was a ‘big wig’ at West Point, isn’t this salad delicious?” We just liked the Kail’s plain and simple.
Fast forward a few years and upon successful completion of his studies at NC State, the Kail’s got stationed in Seoul, Korea for two years.
We were sad and honestly didn’t think we would see them again this side of heaven.
But God has an interesting way of bringing people together again and in the fall of 2007, our oldest OS suddenly declared his desire to go to West Point. Although they were in Korea and we were still in North Carolina, our lives began syncing back together. The words “West Point” that I had taken for granted now had great meaning. Why did they have to live so far away when we needed to talk and figure this thing out?
Eric began to call us from Korea. He gave us insight and prepared us for the road ahead. The night he told us the brutal truth about Beast and R-Day, I distinctly remember collapsing on the carpet in our office. Nathan might be able to do West Point but I knew I couldn’t! Eric didn’t mince words about how hard it would be to say goodbye to our son but I also trusted his honesty and the confidence he had in all of us.
The next thing you know Nate finishes his plebe year and the Kail’s get stationed at West Point! I never saw this coming! We stay with the Kail’s when we go to see our OS and our friendship is rekindled. Army football games, Ring Weekend, Nate has knee surgery in the fall of his firstie year and the Kail’s are to the rescue.
Nate comes to rely on Colonel Kail’s wisdom and advice and does an occasional load of laundry at their house. Their hospitality is unmatched and we always feel at home in their midst.
Most importantly so does Nate, it’s almost like they have a secret bond being Army men that we as civilian parents don’t and that’s perfectly fine.
I can’t tell you how many times my OS would say to me, “I really like Colonel Kail. I’m going to talk to him about something. He’s a good guy.”
So when Nate was planning graduation from West Point, the choice was easy on whom he wanted to commission him as an officer. Colonel Kail of course.
But now there was a big problem…cancer.
In March, Eric was diagnosed with stage 4 transitional cell carcinoma.
Stage 4 simply means that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body from the original source.
Although nowhere near his vital organs, Eric started chemotherapy right away. Nate was crestfallen when I told him about Colonel Kail’s illness. I remember telling him the news while he was visiting his girlfriend in El Salvador, I felt Nate needed to know right away. My OS was incredulous and heartbroken, he took it very hard.
In April, the Hubs had a business trip and arranged to stay at the Kail’s and hang out with Nate simultaneously.
Fresh off of surgery, preparing for his chemo treatments, that’s when Nate asked his mentor if he would do him the honor of swearing him in as an officer in the Army.
Without hesitation Eric said yes though we have learned that he has turned others down in the past. We waited and hoped it would be.
And it was.
On a sultry afternoon just before a torrential rainstorm blew into the Hudson River, right outside the Cadet Chapel, Nate lifted his right hand.
With the American flag in the background, our family, Gigi, Lu and her dad gathered around as Nate repeated the oath as instructed by the highly decorated Colonel Kail.
The person Nate most wanted to perform this ceremony was there.
Yes, I was crying.
Yes, as a result I had a horrible time trying to put Nate’s “butter bars” on his uniform.
Yes, I needed my glasses.
But God had arranged this day before the fullness of time. To see my OS being sworn in by his beloved mentor was a thing of beauty. When I think about how many pieces had to fall in place for this moment to have arrived, it astonishes me. The Lord had planned every detail and even orchestrated an “off” week for chemo treatments thereby allowing Eric to have the enough strength to do this. We serve a mighty God indeed.
I’m not sure Eric has any idea what he means to my son and how much it meant to have him perform the oath ceremony.
That’s why I’m writing this today. He deserves to hear it. So let me declare to all reading this Eric Kail has richly blessed my son!
Let me further state Eric Kail has richly blessed my son not only as a man, but as a Soldier and a brother in Christ!
And if I may, since I have the floor, let me proclaim this to the end of time We consider the Kail’s to be a gift from our Heavenly Father and are humbled to call them lifelong friends!
Here are a few of Eric’s credentials…not too shabby. And you can read more about Eric’s leadership reflections in the Washington Post by clicking here and here.
*In addition to being my friend, an awesome dad and husband to the smoking hot Gigi, Eric Kail is a Colonel in the United States Army. He has served for over 25 years as an Army Field Artillery Officer in both conventional and special operations units. He has several combat deployments, including Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. Eric also has a PhD in organizational psychology. His latest assignment was as the course director for military leadership at West Point.
Check out this post for a incredible story about Colonel Kail.
And update as of July 25, 2013: Our West Point grad, Nate wrote this beautiful tribute about Colonel Kail after Eric went to be with the Lord. Reading it will bless your heart.