FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Heroes at Home, Part 1

with Ellie Kay | July 3, 2006
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Over 4.2 million Americans are serving in our nation’s military defense and those numbers are rising. Today on the broadcast, Ellie Kay, author of Heroes at Home, and wife to a Lt. Colonel, tells civilians how they can support those who serve our country.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Over 4.2 million Americans are serving in our nation’s military defense and those numbers are rising. Today on the broadcast, Ellie Kay, author of Heroes at Home, and wife to a Lt. Colonel, tells civilians how they can support those who serve our country.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ellie Kay tells civilians how they can support those who serve our country.

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Heroes at Home, Part 1

With Ellie Kay
July 03, 2006
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Bob: If a husband and wife are really one, then when a soldier is in harm's way, the husband or wife who stays behind is on the front lines as well.  That's a lesson that Ellie Kay learned early on as a military wife.

Ellie: When a jet goes down in a unit or when there's been a fatality, they usually close down the unit.  There are no calls that go in; there are no calls that go out; and until they can determine if there has been a fatality, and they notify the next of kin.  But the spouse's network was buzzing, and I had heard – my neighbor came over with tears streaming down her face.  She said, "Have you heard from Bob?"  And I said, "Well, no, why?"  She said, "Well, a jet's gone down in the squadron.  Two guys are dead."  And so I had to wait for six hours wondering if that car with the chaplain and the wing commander was going to drive up in front of my house.  And it didn't that day, but it drove up at the house of a friend of mine, because Dale Campbell had died that day.  And that was a time of real – almost terror.  But even then I had Jesus, and I reached down and grabbed hold of His hand, and He helped me through that.

You know, because in Psalms is says "We shall not fear the arrow that flies by the day and the terror at night," we don't have to fear that.  So even back as a young bride I learned very quickly that He was going to be my source of strength.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 3rd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll focus today on the reality of life for military families – the heroes at home – and how we can serve them and support them.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition, and I know a lot of families are taking this extra day as a part of the 4th of July holiday, which is tomorrow, and it seems to me that this time of year, the celebration of holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, particularly when we are in the midst of a conflict, these holidays take on special significance, and I think they are holidays that we ought to pay a little extra attention to, and maybe celebrate with a little more reverence, intentionality, a little more of a somber spirit.

Dennis: My grafted-in son, Michael, who married my daughter, Ashley – Michael and I went to an airshow the other day, and it just reminded me of the pride that I have concerning our veterans, and the freedom that is ours because they have purchased it, many of them, with their own blood.  I'll tell you, that airshow that we went to see, Bob, was an incredible airshow, because I got a chance to visit and get very close to a Stealth.

Bob: I thought you couldn't see those.  I thought they were invisible.

Dennis: To radar.

Bob: Oh, to radar.

Dennis: They're real planes.  That's Batman that had the …

Bob: That had the invisible plane? Okay.  It's all becoming clear to me now.

Dennis: And we have with us on FamilyLife Today the wife of a pilot who flies one of the Stealth fighters.

Bob: Does that make you a co-pilot?  Are you a co-pilot?

Ellie: Well, no, but I am here, and you can see me.

Dennis: Ellie Kay joins us.  Ellie Kay, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Ellie: Well, thanks, it's great to be here with you guys.

Dennis: You can see your husband, too, can't you?

Ellie: I can, except when he's in the Stealth.

Bob: The last time we had you as a guest on FamilyLife Today, we talked about clipping coupons which – you still do, right?

Ellie: Well, of course.

Dennis: And we dubbed her …

Bob: She was already the "coupon queen."  We just bowed before her.

Dennis: We just recognized it.

Bob: That's right.  We didn't dub her anything.

Ellie: As well you should.

Bob: That's right.


But you've written a new book that has nothing to do with coupons.

Ellie: Not at all.

Bob: Tell us about it.

Ellie: Well, it has to do with our American families, and it's called "Heroes at Home, Hope and Help for the American Military Family."  It's a real heart book for me because we have been a military family for over 20 years.  My husband has been a fighter pilot for 23 years, and the first 13 years of marriage we moved 11 times.  So we are proud to be an American military family.

Dennis: And not without cost.  You have five children.

Ellie: That's right.  We have five school-age children and two young adult children.

Bob: Did you know what you were signing on for when you fell in love with a fighter pilot?

Ellie: Well, no, I didn't.  I'd seen "Top Gun," and I thought that that was kind of cool, and I thought he was remarkably smart for what I saw in "Top Gun."  I didn't think those guys were very bright, so that impressed me.  But I had no idea what the military lifestyle was like, and I had a baptism by fire within the first two weeks of being a military wife because we did have a jet go down in the squadron.  So that was a real baptism by fire.

Dennis: Did you think you were marrying a "Top Gun" at the time when you were dating and engaged to him?

Ellie: Well, of course, I mean, because he told me right on one of our first dates – you know how a date is half over with a fighter pilot?  It's when he says "Hey, let's stop talking about flying and talk about me."  And so I knew that I was marrying an unusual man.

Dennis: It does take an unusual man to fly one of those planes.  I mean, as I look at the Stealth fighter, it doesn't look like an airplane.

Ellie: It really is, you know, the informal call sign for it is a "stink bug."  And if you've ever seen a stink bug with all these geometrical shapes all around it, that's really what it looks like.

Dennis: It doesn't have the sleek look.  It's very boxy.

Ellie: Right.

Dennis: And yet he flies that on behalf of our nation, and I say on behalf of our listeners, thanks to you and your husband for defending us.  Now let's talk about how to defend the military family.

Bob: Did anybody take you aside when you were thinking about marrying Bob?  You know, I think about your daughter, Ashley, who is married to a man who is going to deliver babies, and she's had other doctors' wives who have taken her aside and said, "Now, you need to know this is going to be a different kind of life.  You're going to be celebrating Christmas, and you're going to get phone call, and he's going to be off to the hospital to deliver a baby."  Did anybody pull you aside and say, "Ellie, to marry a fighter pilot takes a unique kind of woman, and you need to be prepared to move 11 times in the first 13 years of your marriage."

Ellie: Well, you know, I didn't have that, and I was basically clueless as to what it was like to be married to a military man.  But, you know, God has a plan for married couples, and I knew that God had planned my husband for me, and so He gave me grace and, He, unbeknownst to myself, uniquely equipped me to be able to have and survive in this military lifestyle.

Dennis: You have a list of 10 qualities that are needed to succeed in the military in your marriage and in your family.  I don't want to look at all of them here, but I just want to ask you about a couple of them – you had one – a sense of humor.  Now, why is that number one in this list?

Ellie: Well, you know, it is – there is so much pressure, and there is so much tension, and there's a lot of separations, there's a lot of difficulty involved in a military lifestyle, and so it's really important to take those things that we can look at in a lighthearted way and choose to view them through those eyeglasses, and it's a relief to be able to laugh – and it's important.

Dennis: Another one you list is an acronym reader.

Ellie: Well, yes, I mean, there's all these strange new language that you learn when you get into the military, you know – PCSing and BDUing and …

Dennis: TDY?

Ellie: TDY – that means they're going to be gone and everything in your house is going to break.  That's what that really means.

Bob: What is BDU?

Ellie: That is battle dress uniform, and they're the camouflage-type outfits that they have to wear that day.

Bob: And what was the other one – PCSing?

Ellie: PCS means a permanent change of station, and that means you're going to be starting all over again.

Bob: Pack the boxes, we're outta here, huh?

Dennis: And you've done that 11 times.

Ellie: In 13 years with lots of little babies.

Dennis: And have you always wanted to move when they've asked you to move?

Ellie: Oh, well, not at all.  I mean, they don't really ask you if you care to move.  They just say, "This is your next assignment."

Dennis: You know, that would seem to me to be the most difficult thing in terms of being a spouse of someone in the military – to have someone indiscriminately with a matter of hours to get ready to leave tell you that you're going to move halfway across the country, disrupting friendships, life as you know it, to go to another place that's different.

Ellie: That's right.  You know, in a lot of ways, I kind of feel like Sarah and Abraham, because he went to a land that he knew not, and that's what we're doing.  We're going to a new place that we've never been before.  But God's grace is sufficient, and He has yet to not provide for us.  He provides everything we need.

Bob: But there's got to be a part of you saying, "I want normal."  Have you and Bob had that conversation where you've said, "Maybe, honey, you can fly for United.  You can fly for somebody else.  We can have life that's a little more normal than the Air Force."

Ellie: Well, you know, in a lot of families, particularly pilots – you mentioned flying for the airlines – they do get out after 10 or 11 years.  They decide that's the best family decision that they can make.  Those that make it a career will be in at least 20 years, and then there will be life after that.  So, in some ways, we kind of know that it's only going to probably last about 20 to 25 years.

Bob: Oh, only 20 or 25 years.  Hasn't there been a part of you going, "Bob, I want normal.  I want to be in one place, I want to make some friends, I want to know when you're going to be home.  I don't want to get a call that you're headed off on some mission, and I don't know where you're going or can't know the details."

Ellie: Of course, I mean, Bob, I'd be lying to you if I told you that wasn't true.  We all do want something that's normal, but that's not what we have.  So we work with what we have, and we make the best of it and, actually, we try to find God in it and see what plan and purpose He has for us in that.

Dennis: You know, as you were talking, I couldn't help but think about the impact the home has on these pilots who have to fly at such high speeds with such precision.  The Blue Angels performed at that airshow that Michael and I went to, and I was thinking about what would happen if the pilot had had an argument with his wife the night before, and he was preoccupied?  Or what about the mechanic who prepares the plane for its mission and for its duty if he's preoccupied with someone else at home in an argument and a relationship that may be disintegrating with a spouse, and he doesn't do a good job bolting and tightening everything down.  The life of that pilot is in his hands.

The military family is really just that – it is a family, isn't it?  And what takes place at home carries over to work.

Ellie: It really does, and if a family is taken care of, if that mechanic knows that when he deploys that there are going to be neighbors, there are going to be people in his church that will come alongside and help take care of his family, then he is better able to concentrate on his mission, and it could mean lives, it literally could mean lives.  That's the amazing thing about the people that are listening to me today – you may not be military, but you may know a military family, and if you will reach out to them in times of need, then you are actually contributing to our nation's defense.

Dennis: And, for some reason, Ellie, God has put in our lap at FamilyLife going back for nearly 20 years a burden for military families.  I don't know why, but I got involved in a number of speaking engagements at the Pentagon and have spoken before some admirals and generals at a very, very early Bible study in the Pentagon, and we've created a Bible study called "Defending the Military Family."  It's one of the Homebuilders Bible studies, and we actually created this with a couple who had been in the military for more than 20 years so that we could help military families be strong.  And if you are a listener right now and wondering how you can support the military with all the demands and pressures when that family does get disrupted, one of the things you can do is reach out to them by encouraging these couples, when they are together, to be a part of a small group, a support group, that can bring strength to their marriage and their family.  There really is a need for couples when they are together to be with other couples who are under similar pressures, right?

Ellie: That is so true.  And, you know, I have to tell you guys that we really appreciate the way that you have reached out to the military family for all these years and especially this new Homebuilders study.  I am excited about that.  I have looked at, I recommend it in my book, and it is a fabulous resource because it is geared right towards where we live and yet it has the foundational, the basic principles that every marriage needs, but it's uniquely tailored to our needs.  And I would really encourage listeners to get that if you're a military family or to maybe even get it and pass it along to a military family, because it's fabulous.

Bob: You know, Dennis was talking out the importance of home and family being in tune for a soldier or a pilot or a seaman to do their job, whether it's a long deployment where a husband is away or even if it's just a one-day assignment.  I think about the level of focus that is required to be a successful soldier or a successful pilot and, again, that's where this issue of distractions at home can undermine things, especially in the long term.  The TDY assignments that we talked about where somebody is gone for six weeks or six months – if you're worried while you're on your assignment about whether your mate is faithful; about whether the kids can be cared for; that can cut the legs out from under a soldier, can't it?

Ellie: Well, it certainly can, and there's a number of things that families are concerned about when they're apart, and one of them is finances as well.  And yet that's addressed in this resource that you have, but it's really important to stay connected when you're gone.  I do want to say this – these men and women of our military forces are the best trained individuals, military members, in the world.  So when it comes time to do their job, a pilot is going to compartmentalize, he's going to go out, he's going to fly and fight, and he's going to do a good job.  He's going to do what he's trained to do.  But he's got to land that airplane, and he's got to go back to the bunkhouse or wherever he is, and those are the times when it's particularly important to have a strong foundation in a marriage and in a family back at home.

And the younger troops have not yet learned to compartmentalize the way some of these older warriors, as my husband is – he's the oldest living Stealth fighter pilot.

Dennis: Really?

Ellie: He really is.  He's 46 years old.

Dennis: I want to ask you a question about that, because without getting into the details, how many times have you said goodbye to him?  And I’m not talking about just a goodbye where he's off on a training mission.  I'm talking about where you said goodbye, and you knew he was going into harm's way?

Ellie: Well, you know, I have to say this – most accidents, most deaths, occur in training, and so you would think that when the missiles – when the real missiles are flying up at him, then that's when I would be the most concerned for his safety.  But for a military spouse, at least in the flying world, it's more likely for them to get hurt in a training mission.  So in that regard, every day that he's flying, I say goodbye to him, and it could be our last day.  So that's why we try to make the most of every day.

Dennis: Has there ever been a time when you were really afraid?  I mean, where you got some news, maybe it was partial news or information that just threw you into the arms of terror?

Ellie: Well, you know, I mentioned earlier that two weeks after we got married there was a baptism by fire.  And what happened was a jet went down in the squadron, and it got on the wives' network before my husband was able to call me, and when a jet goes down in a unit, or when there's been a fatality, they usually close down the unit.  There are no calls that go in, there are no calls that go out, and until they can determine if there's been a fatality and the notify the next of kin.

But the spouse's network was buzzing, and I had heard – my neighbor came over and tears streaming down her face.  She said, "Have you heard from Bob?"  And I said, "Well, no, why?"  She said, "Well, a jet's gone down in the squadron.  Two guys are dead."  And so I had to wait for six hours wondering if that car with the chaplain and the wing commander was going to drive up in front of my house.  And it didn't that day, but it drove up at the house of a friend of mine, because Dale Campbell had died that day.  And that was a time of real – almost terror.  But even then I had Jesus, and I reached down and grabbed hold of His hand, and He helped me through that.

You know, because in Psalms is says "We shall not fear the arrow that flies by the day and the terror at night," we don't have to fear that.  So even back as a young bride I learned very quickly that He was going to be my source of strength.

Dennis: And I just want to challenge our listeners – if you haven't prayed for a military family in your church, maybe it's someone down the street, maybe you don't go to church together, maybe it's just a friendship that you have, a neighbor.  If you haven't prayed for that family involved in the military, I'd to encourage you to do that today.  And these are men and women who have served our nation with distinction, and they are highly trained.  They are incredibly efficient but you know what?  They are still human beings.  They still have marriages and families and real needs of real people.  They have spouses who get ill, children who have runny noses, and washing machines and cars that break while they're gone.  If you haven't prayed for them recently, I want to challenge you to do that.

And then, secondly, I'd like to challenge you – if you know one of these couples, and you have enough of a relationship with them that you could give them, our Homebuilders Bible study and Ellie Kay's book, I'd like to challenge you to give them "Heroes at Home," and defending the military family.  We really need today, I believe, as never before in this war on terrorism, to come alongside our military families and put our arm around them and to let them know that, to some degree, we'll never understand but to whatever degree we can, we do have compassion on them, and we want to reach out to them to make a difference in their marriages and families.

Bob: You know, Ellie, we often are shy about giving a spiritual resource to somebody who we just don't know where they stand spiritually, and yet somehow it seems different in the military.  It seems like you can take a book like yours, a Homebuilders study, and because of the uniqueness of the military community, to offer that as a resource to somebody who – you don't know where they are with Christ – they're not going to look at that and go, "Gee, I'm offended that you gave me something spiritual."

Ellie: Not at all, and as things continue to happen around the world, there is the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes.  And people are searching for this, they're longing for this, and even if it sounds like they're anti-Christianity or anything like that, "Heroes at Home," is not a Christian book.  It is a book written by a Christian author, and the principles are in there.  It's worked into the chapel element, because that's a part of them DMD.  They allow a chapel at every single base around the world.  So there's a natural in for it there.  And then "Defending the Military Family" – that is a Christian resource, and both of those, I believe, are going to be extremely well received and, as a matter of fact, I think a lot of them are really longing for something like that, and this is an answer to what they're searching for.

Bob: We have both of the resources available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you'd like to contact us to get a copy of either one – either Ellie's book or the Homebuilders study, "Defending the Military Marriage," you can call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, or go online at and I'm thinking, Dennis, about people I know at our church who are in the military or people I know in our neighborhood who are in the military, and I just want to encourage our listeners – this is a great season of the year for you to reach out to friends and relatives, neighbors, and offer them a gift of one of these resources.  Get a copy of Ellie's book or the Homebuilders study for military marriages.  Get them both and give them to someone you know who is in the military and just say, "I know that sometimes things are tough for couples like you with all of the deployments and with all of the stresses of the military.  I thought maybe these resources would be helpful," and you may be opening the door not just to help them in their marriage and their family but maybe to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Again, call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information about these resources or go online at, and there is information available there about how you can have this material sent directly to you.

You know, the military branches do recruiting.  You see their commercials on TV where they say, "Be all that you can be," or "We're looking for a few good men," and we're doing a little recruiting of our own here at FamilyLife.  There is a small group of folks that help support this ministry each month by making donations to keep us on the air.  We are listener-supported, and those of you who contact us to make a donation, you're really helping FamilyLife Today stay on the air in this city and in cities all across the country and, from time to time, we come along and see if we can recruit a few new listeners to join us as financial supporters for this ministry.  So that's what we want to ask you to do.  We want to ask you to consider making a donation this month to help with the financial needs of FamilyLife Today.

You can do that online by going to, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.  And when you do, this week we want to send you a thank you gift.  It's a CD of a conversation we had not long ago with Elyse Fitzpatrick who has written a book called "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat," and we had about an hour-long conversation talking about food, how we ought to think about it biblically.  We talked about things like diets and being overweight and eating disorders and all of that and tried to understand how we ought to think biblically about these issues.

We have that conversation on CD, and we'd love to send it to you as our way of saying thank you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this week.  All you have to do when you fill out the donation form online is write the word "eat" into the keycode box, and that way we'll know you want the CD sent to you.  Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, just mention you'd like the CD about eating or about food, whatever you pick, and they'll know what you're talking about, and we'll be happy to get it send out to you.

Again, this is our way of saying thank you for enlisting with us, for signing up, and being one of the few good families that helps support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate hearing from you.

Tomorrow Ellie Kay is going to be back, and we're going to find out how she and her husband talk about his job with the kids without scaring them.  We'll talk about the K&G approach they use.  I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow on the 4th of July for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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