FORT HOOD, Texas - Piled into a van and driving in front of the III Corps headquarters, where the biggest flag on post flies daily, a bugle sounds retreat through the loudspeakers.
Soldiers and family members exit their vehicles and render respect as the flag is lowered.
A little girl looks around and witnesses all of the uniformed Soldiers scattered around standing at attention and saluting. She starts to cry.
"That's Zoe," said Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Secrest, chaplain for the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "She is perhaps our most sensitive child. She is very in tune with her emotions. The scene was just so powerful with her."
Zoe is one of the six Secrest children. Each child has a unique personality, but what they all have in common is the unique connection that came when Secrest and his wife Stacey adopted them all.
They started with adopting James, a child they met at the home of a relative who served as a foster parent, but knew they wanted to do more.
With a prayer for a bigger family and a blessing, Secrest said, the couple found the next addition to their family - a group of five siblings.
"We found this group of siblings struggling to stay together," he said. "The aspect of having the younger and older kids together, it really appealed to us-helping them stay together-making sure that sibling fabric doesn't get ripped."
Secrest explained that his experience with the adoption process was easy, supportive and not that expensive - contrary to popular belief.
"The states, they do everything they can to spare the family any expense when they are going through a laborious process in the state's bureaucracy," said Secrest. "They cover pretty much any expense you can think of - lawyers' fees, inspections and so on. The expense is very minimal."
Having been through the adoption process twice, Secrest is very familiar with its inner workings and is more than willing to explain the process to others.
"Approach your local department of social services and inquire about their adoption services," he said. "They will sign you up for a couple classes where they will try to scare you from adopting to weed out those who are trying to adopt on impulse."
The next appointment is a home study where the applicants fill out a lot of paperwork and undergo an in-depth interview.
During the process, agents try to probe for as much information as possible to ensure that there will be nothing that can hurt or negatively impact a child later on.
Following the home study, those looking to adopt can search through the children who are available for adoption.
"Within three weeks they were in our house," Secrest said. "That's how fast the agency worked to get them to us."
Both older and younger siblings suddenly surrounded James, who was adopted first and experienced being an only child for a year.
"He is an extrovert," Secrest said. "It was really hard for him not to be the center of attention. Now obviously that is gone. He is part of the pack."
"This was a God thing," said Stacey Secrest, Jonathan's wife. "We only had to go through the adoption process twice for our huge family."
As might be expected when visiting a family of eight, the Secrest household is always abuzz with activity, with some of the children working on homework together while others ride bikes or play games. But the Secrests have worked to minimize the chaos and make sure their household is warm and welcoming.
But it wasn't always that way.
At first, the children didn't fully understand what to make of this new family - particularly Jonathan - so he had to work had to earn their trust.
"They never really had high opinions of men, but it was cool to see them slowly gain respect for me," he said. "I had to earn that. I had to slog my way through and slowly earn the edges of their heart."
And just when the family really began to form a tight knit bond, other hurdles arose.
Secrest joined the Army, left for basic training and just a short time later, found himself on a nine-month deployment to Egypt.
"I discovered that you see how really strong your family is when you go on a deployment," he said. "I found that I was the peace maker. I tend to soothe conflicts."
As the Secrest family has grown, and as time has passed, the notion of "adopted children" has dissipated and now appears as a mere footnote in the story of this Army family.
Through a couple of hurdles and lot of patience, the Secrest family was formed as Jonathan and Stacey intertwined into the lives of the children that they adopted.
Far from being easy, the Secrests had to work to on building their bonds as the family came together.
"The important thing is that they are part of the family that accepts them no matter what," said Secrest.