Veterans Day is November 11. It's a day to thank all those who are serving or have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Heroes—men and women—serve among us every day. More than 21.8 million Americans in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard have sacrificed or are sacrificing daily their safety and security to give us freedom. Each veteran has a unique story. And this Veterans Day, Gateway wants to honor them by sharing some of their experiences.
(Years Served: 1956–1960)
“In my day, the military draft was enforced. Sooner or later you were going to be called to service because the Korean War was going on, and there were several other conflicts taking place. I decided to join the Air Force to avoid the draft and started my four years of service on February 2, 1956. I was assigned to a wonderful place called Thule Air Force Base, Greenland. At that time, it was a strategic point and refueling spot between the United States and Russia. There was a saying about the Thule Air Force Base: ‘There’s a girl behind every tree.’ But there are no trees in Thule, Greenland.
I spent a whole year there, and then I came back to Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia. That’s where I found the Lord. One night, because of a tragedy in my own personal life, I decided I was going to commit suicide. I had attended a church in the area occasionally, and I had the church bulletin on the seat of my car. I left the base at 10:00 pm and was going to drive off a bridge. But I thought, If I’m going to take my own life and meet God, I better find out if I’m all right. So I found the pastor’s house, and I found the Lord.”
Tommy Briggs is the associate pastor of Freedom Ministries at Gateway and has three married children and 10 grandchildren.
(Years Served: 1972–1978)
“I was in the Air Force and then the Army. For some of my time in the Air Force, I was assigned to a Security Police Squadron at Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam in 1972. At that time, there was a lot of incoming rocket fire, and my job was to patrol the perimeter at Da Nang, also known as ‘Rocket City.’ I was glad to get out of there alive when I was reassigned to U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand. I was not a believer when I was in the military, although I had a praying grandmother back home who would tell me that she prayed for me every day. I would say, ‘Okay, Grandma I got it,’ but I think her prayers really kept me from becoming a casualty.
I became born again in 1987, and soon afterward I was asked to start a veterans ministry at the church we attended, but I didn’t feel equipped for it yet. When we moved to Texas, I started doing one-on-one sessions with veterans through Point Man Ministries, and I realized I had an anointing to work with combat vets who were coming back from any war. I became a certified marriage and family therapist and had some training in how to minister and counsel veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now I’m facilitating the Reveille group here at Gateway with my wife.”
Bob Roth and his wife, Julie, have been attending Gateway since 2005.
(Years Served: 1979–2001)
“My father was in the United States Air Force, and he retired from the Air Force in France, which was where he met my mother after the liberation of Paris. After retiring, he oversaw all of the US military cemeteries abroad. So I was born and raised in France. And I’d wake up every morning, look out my bedroom window, and see a garden of stones and thousands of crosses of American servicemen who were killed in World War I and II and laid to rest in Europe. I earned a law degree, but I’d always wanted to serve my country, so instead of practicing law, I joined the Army and became a Green Beret, which was a lifelong dream. Their motto “De Oppresso Liber” says it all, “To Liberate the Oppressed.”
In 1980, I became a born again Christian. Then I was deployed to Grenada and received a Purple Heart. After that I served in several conflicts and classified missions all over the world even after I came back to the States and joined the Reserves. I got out of the military in 2001—before 9/11. I was called up again after 9/11 and asked if I wanted to go. It was a hard choice, but I had a wife and four daughters, one of whom was a baby. So I stopped there. Being a veteran is knowing a lot and not being able to share much. Even with my wife. I think that’s the hardest thing. But I’ve seen and learned so much. I’ve been in so many places, and I love serving my country. I love my country.”
(Years Served: 2008–2014)
“I enlisted in the Army my second year of college. I joined the Infantry and deployed to Iraq immediately after graduating from basic training. My time in Iraq was tumultuous. Twelve months in a desert with nightly missions, sleeping a couple hours a day, sandstorms, and living out of a bag with only your toothbrush, iPod, sleepsack, and ammo—lots of ammo. There is no way anyone could ever convince me that God does not watch out for His children. The whole experience made me grateful for the peace and convenience we have in America. You don’t realize how much spiritual warfare goes on until you’re back here in the States within the borders of a country blessed by God.
After returning from my deployment in Iraq, I finished college and got engaged to Lauren, whom I met at Gateway. When I was called to go on a tour to Afghanistan, Lauren and I made the decision to push up our wedding date and get married before I left. It was the best day of my life. Several days before we were supposed to deploy, the commander called me and asked if I would extend my contract while in Afghanistan or not deploy at all. It was a truly difficult decision to make; as a sergeant, I had trained the young soldiers this time and felt a commitment to them, but I also felt a commitment to my new spouse! Ultimately, I stayed home. I knew God had a plan and a place for me to serve here in Texas.”
Sean Turner and his wife, Lauren, have been attending Gateway since 2003 and have a one-year-old daughter, Zoey.
Gateway has a new group for men and women veterans called Reveille. This ministry provides a safe place for understanding, support, and healing for veterans and their families. For more information, visit reveille.gatewaypeople.com.