My Call to the Military, My Call to Serve

This week we remember those who answer the call to protect and serve.

By: Casey Bustamante, Young Adult Ministry Coordinator for the Archdiocese for the Military Services

“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord! May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

I’ve heard this verse many times in my life, growing up Catholic and hearing the story of the Annunciation every year during Advent. But this verse impressed upon my heart in a particular way on August 14, 2010. It was part of the Gospel reading for Vigil Mass on the Feast of the Assumption during a short deployment in Tikrit, Iraq. These words that Mary spoke to the Angel Gabriel resonated with my experience serving on deployment, but even more so became a revelation for my journey as a child of God.

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The greatest honor I had as a United States Air Force officer was serving those who also served. The nature of being an officer is being a servant leader. Your job is to take care of your Airmen, making sure they have the training, professional development and support to accomplish the mission. It was an incredible experience to serve the mission of the U.S. military through cyber operations. However, what was most fulfilling was leading my fellow Airmen. As a project manager, I coordinated efforts to install new information technology infrastructure requirements at various military installations. My unique experience at the U.S. Air Force Academy and in Iraq drew me even closer to my fellow brothers and sisters in arms in our fellow services, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. Just as Mary’s path was formed from her mother’s womb, I believe I was formed and am called to serve.

The choir and our chaplain, Father Arek Ochalek

The base choir and our chaplain, Father Arek Ochalek

Prior to entering active duty service, I attended the U.S. Air Force Academy. While I was there, the Catholic chapel community had the presence of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries and an awesome priest serving the cadets. The presence of the priest and missionaries was truly a blessing and it was during this time that the Spirit lit a fire in my heart. My experience of faith at the Academy inspired me to travel, along with three of my classmates, to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008. To this day, it is one of the best trips and pilgrimages I’ve ever taken. The Australian military graciously hosted all the military pilgrims. This was a great opportunity to make friends with some Aussie military members and a New Zealand Army soldier. It was a chance to share in the faith with others and truly witness the Universality of the Church. However, my most vivid memory of World Youth Day was the message Pope Benedict XVI left us with at the Papal Mass:

“Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.”

When I heard his words, it came at me as a very personal message. He just wasn’t talking to priests or religious, he was speaking to me as a young lay person, reminding me of the call I have to be the Lord’s disciple and to spread the Gospel. This is the same message we hear from Pope Francis today and a message I share in the ministry where I serve today. Although I have separated from active duty military service, I believe that my experience serving in the military and the beautiful message of World Youth Day has led me to continue my work of service as the Young Adult Ministry Coordinator for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Casey Bustamante served for six years as a cyber support officer in the U.S. Air Force. She is now in an internship program where she serves as the Young Adult Ministry Coordinator for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

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