Across the world
February 4, 2010
- Specialist serves second enlistment after a six year break in service to work as a missionary in New Guinea
Spc. Jon Calhoun, a Soldier in "C" Company, 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, isn't your typical specialist in the United States Army.
As 3rd HBCT's lone x-ray technician, Calhoun, a native of Canton, Ohio, is responsible for maintaining and operating the brigade's X-Ray machine at Forward Operating Base Kalsu. He is also responsible for taking the most accurate images he can to help ensure that the Soldiers under his care get the best possible diagnosis.
"I love doing my job," he said. "I enjoy the technical aspects of it, the challenge of doing it well and meeting and helping people."
"Helping people is very fulfilling," he said. "It is really what we should all do."
The word "service" sums up the 44 years Calhoun has lived so far.
After he graduated from Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., with a master of divinity degree, he decided to join the Army as a combat medic.
"I initially joined the Army for three reasons," he said. "I wanted to learn medicine, I wanted to pay off my school bills and I wanted to serve my country. The Army allowed me to do all three of those things."
As a combat medic serving in the 1st Bn., 14th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Div., at Fort Hood, Texas, Calhoun learned skills that allowed him to help people.
"I initially wanted to work in a hospital, so when I was placed with a line unit I was disappointed," he said. "It turned out to be the best thing that could happen to me. It gave me the opportunity to practice field medicine."
Calhoun served as a field medic for four years. Then he decided to get out and pursue another calling his faith had placed on him.
For six years, Calhoun and his wife, Shelley, lived in a remote village in the Chimbu Province of New Guinea.
Serving as missionaries, the couple started a medical clinic and church in the small village of Kiari.
"No one directed us to go there," he said. "It was just something the Lord put in our heart to do, so we went."
Living in a remote mountain village had its challenges. The running water in the village was "the stream running by our house" he explained with a grin.
The roads he had to take to get to the village could better be described as paths. It was not uncommon for the couple to use very thin, narrow rope-bridges to cross streams and ravines. Those routes were also filled with bandits.
"I've been held up with home-made shotguns, bows and arrows, and spears," he said. "Travel in New Guinea wasn't always safe."
Despite all of those struggles, he and his wife remember their time in New Guinea fondly.
"We had a great time there," he said. "It was very rewarding for me and my wife. When you are doing what the Lord wants you to do, it can bring you huge amounts of joy. You may not always be happy -- happiness is a very temporary feeling sometimes -- but you are always joyful."
As the village's doctor, Calhoun was called upon to provide minor surgeries, help treat such diseases such as malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis, and look after injuries.
"The Army helped prepare me for that time," he said. "Physically, I was ready, I had practiced field medicine, and mentally I was used to working crazy hours."
The health clinic also provided him an avenue to share his faith.
"I started a church with eight people," he said. "When I left there, it had grown to close to a hundred people."
Calhoun said that Christians of the village helped welcome him and his wife into the village's community.
"The original eight Christians of the village accepted us with open arms," he said. "As a result, the entire village accepted us. Everyone felt comfortable going to the clinic and we were able to use that as a ministry to open doors."
After six years of service to the people of Kiari and his faith, the Calhouns returned to America.
As the couple thought about what they should do next, the idea of serving in the Army again became more appealing to both of them.
"The benefits of the Army made it too good of an opportunity not to take advantage of," he said. "Free schooling, the opportunity to practice medicine and the chance to become a physician's assistant were all factors in why I chose to come back. It's hard to get a better deal than what they can provide."
As Calhoun serves his faith, his country and his fellow Soldiers, he is excited about what he is doing and the direction his life is heading.
"I try to do the best I can in everything I do, mainly for God's glory," he said. "I am blessed in the fact that I love my job. Serving people can really be a reward in itself."