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‘Daddy, Don’t Go Back’—My Personal Story of Deployment

War is not fun. Worry, anticipatory grief, and taking care of others, all take their toll.

Tears streamed down her face. Her daddy said, “What is the matter, Honey? Why are you crying?” She said, “Daddy, don’t you know?” He said, “No darling, what is it?” She pressed into his big chest and sobbed, “I don’t want you to go back!” Many of us who have gone through a deployment have probably witnessed this with our own children and husbands.

I was that little girl 35 years ago, telling my dad that I didn’t want him to go back to Vietnam.

Years later, tears flowed in our house when my husband, Eric, was preparing to return to Iraq after having been gone for a year. The day Eric left will always remain vivid in my mind; as moments ticked away, we videotaped Eric with the kids. They clung to him, and we said heart-wrenching things.

With this being our second yearlong deployment, we knew all too well the dangers that lay ahead. This time, though, as a battalion commander, Eric would be out daily in his HMMWV (High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) in an area that includes the town of Tarmiyah—part of the Sunni triangle. I knew all the facts and figures; how many lives the previous battalion had lost due to IEDs, the hours of casualty notification, and also that Eric’s predecessor had been targeted by the very same people he was meeting with to help democracy take hold.

War is not fun. Worry, anticipatory grief, and taking care of others, all take their toll. Thankfully, Eric returned in late January of ’05, but he had lost brothers in arms, and some heroic Americans’ lives were forever altered due to serious injuries. The human response is to say, “We have served our country and done our duty (the whole family), maybe we need to rethink all of this and consider getting out.” We will have a high school freshman this year, an eleven-year-old, and our youngest, a girl, is eight. Will there be an end to this, or does the Lord want us to continue to do this to our family?

The answer is—PERHAPS. The longer I live, the more I realize that life is not about us, and that most of life is difficult. God will not waste hardship or suffering.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (I Peter 1:6-7).

Our Children Learn that Life is Not About Temporal Satisfaction, and It is Not About Them

Recently, when we had lost three soldiers in eight days, one of my children complained about something that I couldn’t do at the time. I said, “I am sorry; a soldier has just died, and his family is very sad and I need to be with them. You will need to be patient–I can’t be with you now.” That may sound harsh, but it was the reality of the situation.

Looking back on the last year, I get emotional at what my children have experienced. But, I truly believe they were all life lessons that the Lord will use in their lives in a powerful way.

We get into some very good discussions with our oldest children about the geopolitical situation in the world, and what is occurring. They realize that we are in the fight of our lives, much like we were in WWII against the Nazis and fascism, and in the Cold War years against communism. Now, post 9/11, it is against Islamic extremism. (I recommend you read Tony Blankley’s book, The West’s Last Chance—Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?)

Going Deeper

I do not wish deployments, danger, or hardship on anyone, but I cherish the sweetness that comes in my relationship with the Lord when Eric is away. We military wives are blessed because we are forced to come to the place that Jesus is enough. As I would read Scripture every night, I would pray the Psalms for Eric and his men. Doing this gave me restful, peaceful sleep, not knowing what the next day might bring. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).

Listening to praise music and focusing on the Lord in times of difficulty is healing and therapeutic. “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness” (Psalm 89:15-16).

“Each day has enough trouble of its own,” as the Lord said, so I would try to focus on each hour at first, and then each day—one day at a time. If I looked much beyond that I would be overwhelmed with the uncertainty those days could bring. One of my favorite verses that has sustained me during Eric’s absences, particularly in combat, is from Lamentations: “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

The Field is Ripe and Souls are Hungry

I wonder what people who don’t know Him, and don’t have the hope of eternity, do in our circumstances. I am not sure how they survive. But one thing is certain—they are hungry for hope, prayer, words of comfort, and spiritual things.

Use this time to speak into people’s lives about the hope you have in Him. Remember there are no atheists in foxholes and none at home either, desperately waiting. We have heard countless stories of men coming to know God while in combat, and being baptized. Who is planting seeds with the wives and families back home so that they are receptive to their loved one’s newfound faith? I challenge you to reach out! Help bring a Spiritually Smart Family conference to your installation, or offer to start a unit prayer group and open it up to everybody-you may be surprised by who comes.

I knew of one young lieutenant’s wife in our OCF group at Fort Stewart who invited a different family (the wife and children) in her husband’s platoon over every Friday night—no matter who, not matter what rank. That is reaching out, feeding their lives and hearts and souls—and giving them hope. Women are hungry to be listened to and drawn out during a combat deployment; they are just as lonely and scared as you are. Let your kids catch your vision of being “Jesus with skin on” to other families.

Renew and Revamp

One thing that aided my outlook profoundly was taking time to exercise. Not only did exercise help my physical frame and keep my stress in check mentally, but it also gave me a great time to talk to the Lord and meditate and pray. Many of my friends have gone back to college, learned something new, or picked up a new hobby. You will grow and change while your husband is gone—make sure it is for the better. Be intentional about it. Make him proud of how you used the time he was gone.

Final Thoughts

I try to view my husband’s being in the military as not just a job but as a calling, and something to which our whole family has been called. This is our portion. And while it might not be the “life of my dreams,” it is the life God has given us—all of us in the Wesley family.

The Steven Curtis Chapman song “Bring It On” has challenged and inspired me when Eric was deployed. It talks about how troubled times can drive us to the One who is strong. May we (the Wesley and OCF families) continue to be salt and light to a military that is giving over and over again—sometimes at great personal cost.

Military dad hugs his children.

Cindy Wesley is an Army brat and a second generation OCFer. While her husband, LTC Eric Wesley, was in battalion command she served as the Family Readiness Group’s senior advisor. Eric recently changed out of battalion command at Ft. Riley, where he now serves as the 1st Infantry Division’s G3—he also is the OCF area coordinator. They are blessed with three children.

‘Go for the honey muscle!’

The advice came from a master barbecue competitor when asked about the secret to winning with pulled pork.

Honey muscle is a small, tender, and very tasty portion of the pork shoulder. It’s not easy to recognize, but if found and liberally distributed within the sample submitted for competition, a high score is very likely.

Jesus taught often through parables. Every listener could garner solid adages for life. Yet there was a special category of those Jesus taught who received the deep and rich gems that would transform them and enable them in fruitful service to the Master. They were the true disciples; they were not the casual followers.

Immediately after recording four successive parables we read, “With many such parables He spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to His own disciples He explained everything” (Mark 4:33-34, ESV). They were treated to the “honey muscle” of the parable, those deeper and power-filled truths.

Footnote: Jesus gave eight clear marks of the true disciple. They set a high bar indeed.

‘Mr. Tok’ remembered as spiritual giant

Longtime Bible teacher, speaker and friend of OCF, ACCTS and Christian Military Fellowship, Charalambos Nikolaou Tokatloglou (Mr. Tok), went to be with his Lord on 15 December. He was 97. Though the self-described “little Greek” viewed himself as a “preschooler” spiritually, those who knew him saw a spiritual giant whose legacy spanned the globe.

“His faithfulness and service to the Lord were legendary, and I couldn’t help but be amazed and blessed in his presence,” said Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.), OCF’s Executive Director.

“My dear friend, mentor, and humble man of God has finally, to quote his biography, stopped ‘kicking in the womb.’ Mr. Tok has now seen the face of the Savior whom he faithfully served for eighty-one years,” said Robert Flynn, Christian Military Fellowship’s president and CEO.

Col Philip Exner, USMC (Ret.), ACCTS’ executive director, said, “Mr. Tok played an immensely important role in the lives of international military and civilian people. His humble and caring personality allowed him to share the Gospel with people from many cultures in a way that attracted them to listen.”

“Though I have been reading the Bible daily since 1931, I am only scratching the surface at best, because it is God’s wisdom. And if I went to heaven right now, I probably will be a preschooler there!” —Mr. Tok, from his biography, We All Knew A Little Greek

“His small stature concealed an enormous and unshakable faith that suffused and directed his thoughts, words and actions,” said Col Exner.

Mr. Tok served OCF as coordinator of ministries from 1964-1986, staff emeritus from 1986-1991, and minister-at-large from 1992-2004. He spoke frequently at OCF retreats, conferences, and leadership seminars, and also served joyfully for many years as a volunteer for membership mailings with his late wife, Carol.

One of the members of the founding committee that formed Christian Military Fellowship, Mr. Tok worked on the governing council and Board of Directors for many years, “lovingly guiding us toward the Cross, always reminding us who we were and to Whom we belonged,” said Flynn.

Mr. Tok’s humility and wisdom impacted others worldwide. In his biography, We All Knew A Little Greek, Mr. Tok spoke of a prayer to God, “Lord, if my whole life on earth is ‘in the womb stage,’ then no wonder I can’t even imagine what enjoying Your presence in heaven will be like. Thank You, Lord, for revealing this to me. Lord, this way there is absolutely no room for any pride here on earth about what I can do.”

About C.N. Tokatloglou

  • Born in Ankara, Turkey
  • Educated at American College of Salonika in Greece, and in Great Britain
  • Missionary for Worldwide Evangelization Crusade in West Africa and Sudan Interior Mission in East Africa and Arabia
  • Fluent in four languages beyond his native tongue and English
  • Lived in the U.S. since 1956
  • Taught New Testament Greek
  • Developed an international students ministry at Michigan State University
  • Developed International Officers and Prayer Partners Fellowship
  • Bible teacher, speaker at chapels and conferences worldwide
  • Wife Carol, who went to glory in 2006; two children, Eunice and Timothy

Col Exner remembered that as a young captain he first saw Mr. Tok at an OCF conference many years ago. Because he was the conference speaker, Col Exner only “looked from afar” at this small man who had such gigantic strength of spirit and boundless love of his Savior. Envious at the time of the unshakably peaceful confidence that shone from Mr. Tok, that desire spurred Col Exner’s search for a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ.

Brig Gen Warner recalls his first meeting with Mr. Tok. The spiritual stalwart “gently grabbed my hands, looked me square in the eye, and gave me his blessing. I’ll never forget the sense of peace and joy that overcame me from meeting him.”

“Embrace the suck”: Trusting God in all things


Show Notes:

LT Jonathan Gentry, CHC, USN, discusses the seemingly simple concept of trusting God, specifically within the context of Jonathan’s calling to the ministry and to the military. Since December 2020, Jonathan has been serving as a chaplain at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, but the Navy chaplaincy was not always on his radar.

A Georgia native and pastor’s kid, Jonathan wrestled with the same questions many high school graduates face: What should I do next? Where should I go? What career should I pursue? Based on his own love for theatre in high school, Jonathan chose to pursue a degree in theatre at the University of Memphis while also growing spiritually through leadership roles with his church and Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM).

Later in college, Jonathan realized the Lord was pulling him away from theatre studies toward ministry instead, leading him to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The years to follow were ones of trusting God and waiting on Him with decisions about education, vocation, and relationships. He reflects on past experiences where he can now retroactively see God’s hand at work and encourages other Christians in the military to trust Him in all things from job assignments to work dynamics to personal relationships.

Jonathan answered the call for podcast guests by completing the form on OCF’s “Be a Guest” webpage, and you are invited to do the same if you would like to share your own story. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic that should be considered for a future episode of the show, send an email to [email protected].

As you listen to this conversation with Jonathan, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor:

  1. Describe a time when you wrestled with discerning God’s calling for your life.
  2. What did you learn about God’s character through that experience?
  3. Where can you look back retroactively to see the Lord’s hand at work in circumstances you didn’t understand at the time?
  4. Jonathan describes a hard experience with a church that he “wouldn’t trade” because he can see how that prepared him for the Navy chaplaincy. What challenging but growing experience would you not trade?
  5. What does trusting God look like in a practical sense?
  6. What spiritual disciplines help you trust the Lord in all things?

About OCF Crosspoint

OCF Crosspoint is a podcast produced by Officers' Christian Fellowship and is dedicated to sharing stories of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession.

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We’re looking for guests to join us on OCF Crosspoint. Everyone has a story to tell. Whether you’re a new believer or a seasoned saint, your story can impact and encourage others. Click Here to Learn More

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1. The Leader and Mercy

About the Narrator

Brig. Gen. David B. Warner, USAF (Ret.), and his wife, Lori, are the Executive Director couple of Officers’ Christian Fellowship. They assumed the position in August 2010, after retiring a month earlier from the United States Air Force out of Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. He is currently serving on the board of the Christian Service Charities, and as an advisory council mentor for Faith Comes By Hearing.

This episode narrated by Brig. Gen. David B. Warner, USAF (Ret.)

Do we find it hard to show mercy?

Our Scripture reading comes from Matthew 18:33, quoting from the NIV: “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

Yes—but what about the consequences? As Christ followers one of the questions we must consider is “Do we find it hard to show mercy?” In striving to live out one’s faith in one’s profession, Christian leaders must rightly handle this issue.

In Matthew 18:21-35 the apostle Peter asked Jesus for clarification as to how often he must forgive a fellow believer who sins against him. In leadership this is not a rhetorical question. Apparently, Peter’s personal or leadership experience had presented him with the brother who made a habit of offending others, taking advantage them, or evading responsibility.

Understandably, hypocrisy is a label believers deserve if we display the response of the merciless servant referred to in Matthew 18:33, but what about consequences for certain actions and our requirement to hold others accountable? With authority comes responsibility to maintain standards and acceptable levels of performance.

The leader basically bears the responsibility to correct, discipline and keep communication channels open. He or she is also accountable to foster goodwill and to forgive. Though not exclusively a leadership problem, Christ demonstrates the correct response to be the practice of mercy, compassion, or forgiveness. Christ does not limit the number of times one is to forgive because His action on the cross would provide the most lavish, inclusive display the world would ever witness.

So great and undeserved would be the forgiveness He grants that through Peter we are warned of the severe consequences of refusing to forgive. If you find it hard to forgive, remember that we were all once in need of undeserved grace and were shown mercy (1 Peter 2:25).

Points to Ponder

Over the next week, here are 3 points to ponder during your personal time of reflection or with a small group or mentor.

  • First, In the home or at work, would our response to offenders be different if we asked ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” (see Matthew 18:33).
  • Second, The king in the account had an expectation of the servant he forgave. In our deliberations will we consider the positive change forgiveness can bring about in an offender’s life? (see 2 Corinthians 2:7).
  • Third, Regardless of another’s response to our leniency, what effect will our willingness to be merciful have on our own character and quality of life? (see Matthew 18:35).

10 Leadership Lessons to Live By | Episode 012

Episode 012 show notes

In this episode of Crosspoint, we chat with Col James Moschgat, USAF (Ret.), who is the deputy commandant, National Security Space Institute, Peterson AFB, Colorado. He’s a 1977 USAFA graduate, flew F-4s and F-15s during a distinguished career, and retired in 2007. He and his wife, Becky, have four children.

Col Moschgat is also well-known for his story of Army Master Sergeant William Crawford, a Medal of Honor recipient whose job as squadron janitor at the Air Force Academy inspired Col Moschgat to pen 10 lessons in leadership. Those lessons appeared in COMMAND in 2012, and you can also read the article here.

Col Moschgat’s 10 leadership lessons form the basis of today’s story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession.

Also mentioned in this episode are both OCF conference centers: Spring Canyon and White Sulphur Springs. At the time of this recording, both conference centers have started summer programming, but no matter the time of year, there are usually activities going on at both conference centers. If you are interested in learning more about the various programs, or if you want to get more information about scheduling your next group retreat at one of the locations, click one of the links below:

Spring Canyon
White Sulphur Springs

Episode Outline

  • [2:45] About Col Moschgat
  • [4:04] Col Moschgat talks about the first time he met Bill Crawford
  • [5:18] Col Moschgat talks about the day he found out about Bill’s Medal of Honor
  • [6:51] More about Bill’s story, including his friendship with actor Robert Mitchum on the set of “Anzio”
  • [10:12] News about Bill’s Medal of Honor spreads among the USAF cadets
  • [12:19] Starting 10 Lessons in Leadership; No. 1, Be Cautious of Labels.
  • [13:34] No. 2, Everyone Deserves Respect.
  • [14:14] No. 3, Courtesy Makes a Difference.
  • [15:15] No. 4, Take Time to Know Your People.
  • [16:08] No. 5, Anyone Can Be a Hero.
  • [17:07] No. 6, Leaders Should Be Humble.
  • [18:04] No. 7, Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve.
  • [19:03] No. 8, No job is beneath a Leader.
  • [20:09] No. 9, Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence.
  • [22:23] No. 10, Life is a Leadership Laboratory.
  • [24:12] Col Moschgat talks about how he developed the 10 leadership lessons
  • [26:45] Quote: “There are not just 10 leadership lessons…there are thousands.”
  • [29:20] Books or resources: Try to read a book a month. One of most impactful books for Col Moschgat has been “Band of Brothers” by Steven Ambrose (not an affiliate link). Besides books, more importantly, talk to vets and hear their stories. “You can glean a lot of wisdom from just sitting down with folks and hearing what they have to say.”
  • [31:14] Final question for Col Moschgat, who reveals some have been critical of his leadership lessons, calling them a soft leadership style.

About OCF Crosspoint

OCF Crosspoint is a podcast produced by Officers' Christian Fellowship and is dedicated to sharing stories of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession.

Be A Guest

We’re looking for guests to join us on OCF Crosspoint. Everyone has a story to tell. Whether you’re a new believer or a seasoned saint, your story can impact and encourage others. Click Here to Learn More

Subscribe Here

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