FORT POLK, La. — Chap. (Capt.) Jamar Mabry, Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group, overcame challenges of homelessness, achieved academic and career success and now works to spread the knowledge that anything is possible with enough drive and faith.
Primarily raised by a single mother, Mabry said that he struggled without a steady, male role model in his life.
But, Mabry explained, his mother kept her kids (Mabry and his brother) in church, positively impacting them during their childhoods.
“The church was where I learned many of the lessons a father would pass to his sons.”
Beyond nurturing their spiritual lives, Mabry said that his mother’s work ethic inspired his personal drive.
“My mom worked two or three jobs at a time, and I sometimes look back and wonder how she managed it all, and it motivates me to keep going.”
During high school, however, Mabry said he faced some challenges.
“I had my son during high school, so I dropped out and took the (General Educational Development Test).”
Mabry said that after becoming a father he knew he needed to work, so he joined the National Guard in 2004 to support his son.
After basic training, Mabry said that he chose to move to Maryland.
“I felt that I had to experience life on my own.”
Mabry was working a full-time job at a fast-food restaurant and waiting to go active-duty with the Army, he said. Although he made enough to provide for his son, Mabry found himself homeless due to the high cost of living in Maryland.
“For nine months I was homeless. I slept in my car, dug into garbage for food and just tried to survive while providing for my son, who was living with his mother.”
One night, exhausted after work, Mabry said that he fell asleep in his car after reading some Bible passages.
Around 2 a.m. the next morning, a police officer, Mike Williamson, knocked on his car window and surprised Mabry.
After checking to make sure that Mabry was OK, the officer and Mabry began to talk about the Bible, he said.
“I always read my Bible, and I had it in the car with me. (Williamson) saw the Bible, and that sparked a conversation.”
“Eventually, he asked me if I was heading home, and that’s when I broke down — I told him that I didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Williamson offered Mabry a shower, a meal and some more time to get to know each other, said Mabry.
Williamson and his wife, Martha, got to know Mabry over the course of a few days and eventually offered him a place to stay.
“There was only one condition: I had to go to church with the Williamsons each Sunday, and I happily agreed.”
Mabry said that the Williamson family’s kindness set him up for future success, and that he kept in touch with them until they passed away.
“If (Williamson) hadn’t knocked on my car window, I probably would not be here — everything would be completely different than it is today.”
Mabry spent three months living with the Williamson family until he left to begin his active-duty career in the Army in 2006.
Mabry said that active-duty service helped things come together in his life.
“My discipline really kicked in when I started active duty — it provided a stable foundation from which to build a life,” he said.
Mabry spent 12 years as an enlisted Soldier, during which he met his wife, Charleza Mabry.
“She was the main inspiration for getting my education — she’s actually the one that first pushed me to become a chaplain.”
Mabry said he earned his bachelor’s degree in Religion and his first master’s degree in Pyschology before leaving active duty to complete the Chaplain Candidate Program and Seminary.
Mabry has since earned three additional master’s degrees and is now concurrently completing two additional doctorate programs from which he will graduate in August 2021 and May 2023.
“I went from being a high school dropout to homeless, and now I have multiple degrees and a career,” he said.
Moving forward with his goals, Mabry said that he focuses on serving others.
Mabry arrived to Fort Polk shortly before Hurricane Laura hit, and one of his first actions in the unit was to clean the bathrooms.
“I’m a servant, and it was a way to give to the Soldiers — me cleaning a bathroom doesn’t really amount to anything, but it means something to the Soldiers,” he said.
Even reaching out to Soldiers in trouble, Mabry has connected with service members on extra duty, he said.
“Extra duty can take your rank or pay, but it mostly takes a Soldier’s time away. When you talk about building morale, it’s the little things, so I chose to show the Soldiers that someone would take the time to connect with them.”
For Thanksgiving, Mabry is involved with the Geronimo drive, which has compiled boxes of food and turkey and ham gift certificates for 40 Families, he said.
“The leadership here has been a phenomenal support — they’re making sure that these Soldiers are taken care of well,” he said.
Mabry said that he wouldn’t change a single aspect of his journey — even his time spent in homelessness, as it would have altered his outcome for which he feels exceedingly blessed.
“It’s just an honor to come this far and to continue serving and blessing the people who’ve supported me along the way and any person that God places in my path.”