From Foolishness to Faith
On November 11th, our Nation recognizes all veterans who served in past wars. Vonya Hays' husband, Sergeant Aaron Hays, of the United States Army served in the Iraq War (Operation Free Iraq). I had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with Vonya and Sergeant Hays about their transition from civilian life to the Army. In this interview, Vonya talks about how she went from foolishness to faith to support her husband and his career. (Sergeant Hays' interview can be found here).
From "Regular Wife" to "Army Wife"
Vonya and Aaron Hays' son was just a toddler when Aaron's curiosity about the Air Force landed him in the doorway of a United States military recruiting station. Once inside, it was the Army that got his attention and he ultimately made the decision to enlist.
When Aaron came to Vonya with his decision to join the Army, she supported him. Like him, she grew up in an inner-city in Oakland, California ("Funktown") and she knew an Army career would afford them the opportunity to better their life. She does admit that back then, she really didn't understand or have a clear picture of what being a military wife would entail.
She remembers there being a mix of input from close family and friends. Some were proud of the decision Aaron made to support his family and serve his country. While others, because of the nationwide opposition of the U.S. going to war against Iraq, feared for their safety. Vonya recalls a very close family friend telling her that it takes a special woman to be a military wife.
"I really didn't understand it. I thought 'to be a wife, it just takes any kind of special woman'. Like you have to be committed. I knew that much. Now that I do [understand], it takes a very, very diligent and disciplined spouse to support our men and women in uniform."
The couple married in August of 2002 and a short three months later, Aaron would leave for Basic Combat Training (also known as "boot camp") in Missouri. With Aaron away, Vonya would busy herself with the day to day life of taking care of a toddler. Although communication was limited between the newlyweds during this time, Aaron was able to call home every two weeks. So although it was an adjustment, they made it work.
A Whole, New World
On the day her husband graduated from boot camp, Vonya was there to celebrate his accomplishments. However, hours later, she would fly back to Oakland to prepare for their new life in Watertown, New York.
Vonya admits to being very resistant to moving to New York. In Oakland she had, what she believed to be, the best support system: her mother, grandmother, sisters, uncles and friends. Moving to New York, a whopping three thousand miles away, was quite daunting.
When she arrived in May, there was snow on the ground. The air was different. The people didn't look like her. Less than two weeks later, her husband deployed to Kuwait. She felt alone. She didn't know who to trust. Although she knew about God, she didn't know to seek Him for comfort. Instead, Vonya began to drink her problems away. She partied and behaved foolishly.
"I was scared. I had this baby. Going from the city to the country. That was a whole 'nother bowl of grits that I just wasn't use to. That was very different...very different."
Vonya admits that because she was scared and resentful about the move, when Aaron would call home, she would spend most of the time complaining, nitpicking and fussing with him about the day to day household "things" that he couldn't fix because he was gone. Like the toilet overflowing. Or the battery dying. (Side note: Aaron would call home around 4:00 p.m., EST, which is about 4:00 a.m. in Kuwait! So imagine hearing this every time he called home to speak to his new bride.)
"Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife."
~ Proverbs 21:19 (NIV)
During this time, the military would offer resources to the families, such as The Yellow Ribbon Program or Family Preparedness. Both programs are designed to support the families as they transitioned to deployment. At first, Vonya found comfort attending these support groups because there were other wives who were experiencing the same feelings of displacement.
Life began to shift for Vonya a few weeks after the move, during the summer, while Aaron was still deployed in Kuwait. The Yellow Ribbon Program would hand out handkerchiefs with Psalm 91 written on it. While she had paid no attention to the inscription previously, one day at her kitchen table, she was led to read it:
"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers,And under His wings you shall take refuge;His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,Nor of the arrow that flies by day,Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.A thousand may fall at your side,And ten thousand at your right hand;But it shall not come near you.Only with your eyes shall you look,And see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you,Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you,To keep you in all your ways.In their hands they shall bear you up,Lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;I will be with him in trouble;I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
It was at that moment that Vonya decided to really put her trust in God. She recognized that although the military taught its Soldier to use common sense and safety skills on the battlefield, it was truly God who was going to bring her husband home safely. Now when Aaron would call home, the conversations would go a lot smoother.
However, deciding to put her confidence in God was met with opposition.
"Once I got serious about God and put my confidence in Him, it got harder. I remember getting strange phone calls and letters, not signed from anyone...and people calling me and cussing at me and telling me 'what do you think you are doing? Stop that!' I thought it was odd that strange people were calling me to stop reading my Bible. I know now that it was the Enemy trying to get me to not put my faith in God. Once I got serious about Him, I stopped being so foolish".
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. ~ Proverbs 14:1
Vonya didn't allow the Enemy to sway her. Instead, she began to dig deeper into her faith. She cut out distractions and severed ties from those who previously impacted her negatively. From them to now, her faith has only grown.
Keeping It Saucy
Vonya and Aaron were still newlyweds when he first deployed. So of course, I had to ask how they kept the spark alive with him being so far away from his new bride.
"We kept it SAUCY!"
Vonya's love language is "words of affirmation". Knowing his bride, Aaron utilized the Military's free mail service to send Vonya spicy love letters, which she still keeps in a box.
Aaron's love language is "spending time". So although he couldn't be there in the flesh, he called home regularly. I'm pretty sure those conversations were also very spicy!
"Your navel is perfectly formed like a goblet filled with mixed wine. Between your thighs lies a mound of wheat bordered with lilies." ~ Song of Songs 7:2
Her Advice to Those Wanting to Join the Military:
"If you are a punk, stay home!"
Her Advice to Spouses of Those in Uniform:
"Do your homework on what discipline and authority is and become one with it."
To see the interview with the Hays', click here.