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Serving their Country, Serving God, Three Generations of a Military Family
Teresa Price feels that, perhaps, the best advice she’s passed on to her son, Christopher, 23, is to let go and let God take him where he is meant to be. Such advice would be relevant to a child no matter the circumstance, but, for Christopher, recently engaged and set to graduate from West Point in May, it is especially poignant.
“I truly believe God has a plan for me and my purpose is to carry out that plan to the best of my ability,” says Christopher, who met his fiancée, Laura, at a church function. “I don’t think it was by chance the way we met, and the way our relationship has grown.”
After their wedding, and a stint in Missouri for officer training, Christopher and Laura will embark for Alaska for his first assignment in the Army Corps of Engineers. Over the next five, 10, 20 years, they will pick up and go every time the military asks.
That life can be difficult to adjust to, but it will come a little easier for Christopher, a third-generation Catholic and third-generation member of the Armed Forces.
Christopher’s grandfather, Duane Price, joined the Air Force in 1949 at age 17. He attended basic training and radar maintenance school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, and then was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, before entering the Vietnam War. He met and married Patricia in Alpena, and they had five children together. Through it all, his faith anchored his life.
“My Catholic religion was always important to me, and, as my career continued, I relied on my faith to help me get through some tough days,” says Duane, 81 and now a member of St. Jude Parish in DeWitt. ”I spent a year in Vietnam and you were tested, and needed to have your faith.
“The whole time I was in the service, I always had faith that I was being watched after. I just never feared for my life because I believed that God was keeping his eye on me.”
When Duane returned to the United States, he and Patricia turned to the churches in both Alpena and DeWitt to establish a sense of community, a lesson heeded by Michael, their fourth child.
“Going back to my childhood, we belonged to smaller parishes, and my three brothers and my sister and I were always involved in some way, whether we were altar boys, lectors or eucharistic ministers (extraordinary ministers of holy Communion), and my parents were part of the parish council,” says Michael, 46, who is stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, until July. “For me, serving God was always a part of my life and it wasn’t a large stretch to then have a desire to serve our nation.”
A colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, Michael has been deployed four times, helping to rebuild the infrastructure in both Kuwait (following the Gulf War) and in Afghanistan (for three of the four deployments) following the United States’ incursion after Sept. 11, 2001.
“I believe my faith and my military career work together because God has called me to serve people and in this post, I have the opportunity to enable the citizens of Afghanistan to live a better life,” Michael says.
“If you read your Bible, there are so many parts about serving your fellow man, and every day that I go to work, it is reaffirmed in me that God has chosen me for this responsibility.”
Michael joined the U.S. Army in 1989, married Teresa, 46, in 1990, and has raised four boys, with Christopher, the oldest, following in his footsteps. Through it all, Teresa has held the family together.
“My wife is a very strong woman,” Michael says. “I tell my employees and our soldiers that our spouses have the harder job because they take care of the family in our absence. They take care of the household, the financials, and in times of grief they are left behind to comfort, and that is an impossible challenge.
“It can be very lonely when I’m here, and I know that my wife’s faith is what gets her through so many of the hard days.”
At night, as she lies in a bed meant for two, Teresa clutches her rosary and prays.
“If I didn’t have faith, I wouldn’t make it,” she says. “Having my faith, for me, has been the only thing that has kept me comforted and knowing things will be OK, especially on those days I don’t hear from Michael and don’t know that he’s safe. When he’s in war zones, especially, I pray with the knowledge that he is in God’s hands and that God will take care of him and bring him home to us.”
Beyond faith, the Church itself has been critical to the long exhaustive journey the Prices have walked since Duane first joined the military 65 years ago. At every stop, and there have been many – 11 cities alone for Michael and Teresa in 24 years of marriage – the local Church has served as a beacon.
“With the frequency of our moves, you’re constantly on the go, and it feels like you’re packing up just as you feel at home, but that tie with the Catholic Church has been extremely important because it’s an instant community,” Teresa says. “No matter where we go, no matter where Michael is stationed, there is a nearby church and you make instant connections with people in the same circumstances.
“I would say one of the very first things we do when we arrive in a new location is seek out the Catholic church. It’s an immediate comfort zone because it’s a place we always feel welcomed.”
For three generations, the Prices have given to the Church and to their country, and have felt rewarded.
“I was born and raised Catholic, and we raised our children that way, and I’m proud that Michael and now Christopher have come to understand the value of serving our country while maintaining a strong faith,” Duane says.
“I never told my children they had to serve, as I’m sure Michael didn’t tell Christopher, but I think my kids saw the way me and my wife have tried to live, and then Michael and his wife, and the things that were important to your parents have a funny way of becoming important to you.”
Archdiocese for the Military Services
The Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS) provides spiritual and pastoral services to Catholics who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, students at military academies, patients in VA medical centers and U.S. government personnel serving abroad. Created by Pope John Paul II in 1985, the AMS has installations in 29 countries and is responsible for almost 2 million men, women and children. The current head of the archdiocese is Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who was installed as the fourth archbishop in 2008.
Although the AMS maintains an office in Washington, D.C., it has no territorial boundaries like a typical diocese, but rather extends its services to wherever its members serve. Although many services and sacramental rites are performed in chapels owned by the U.S. government, it receives no government funding. The AMS receives funding through the generosity of private benefactors and men and women in uniform. For more information or to make a donation to the archdiocese, visit www.milarch.org.