By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneMay 7, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- With a merry twinkle in her eyes and a thousand-watt smile, Kathy Campbell is the picture perfect vision of a military wife who appreciates the Army lifestyle and being married to an Army officer.
The wife of Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Campbell is known for being welcoming and approachable, for her devotion to God and her faith, and for always enjoying a good laugh.
But Campbell also has a secret - she is actually shy and introverted. Although an active military wife wherever her husband is stationed, she often finds ways to yield the spotlight to other military wives who are more comfortable in front of an audience.
"This is just not in my comfort zone," she said, referring to an interview arranged in honor of Mother's Day.
"But God does that to us. He leads us and hopes we will follow. God leads us where He wants us to serve, not necessarily where we want to go."
Campbell and all military spouses will be honored this Friday during Military Spouses Appreciation Day Celebration at the Post Exchange. The event will begin at 11 a.m. Military Spouse Day is an annual event scheduled prior to Mother's Day.
This July, Campbell and her husband will celebrate 36 years of marriage. During those years, they raised two children, moved 20 times, shared many adventures in seeing new places and meeting new people, and put their faith in God on a journey that was at times challenging, stressful and dangerous.
"We met in college and we dated two years," Campbell said of her marriage. "He wanted to date my twin (fraternal) sister. But she was dating his running buddy. So, he went out with me and we really connected through our love of sports. He was a runner and I played volleyball. We still love sports."
And each other.
"I didn't have a clue about the military," she said, even though Kevin Campbell was in ROTC during their years at Worcester State College in Massachusetts. "I did not learn about the military until we married and moved straight to Germany. I had no idea what the military life was like. And I was extremely shy."
But that unknown didn't make her hesitate from marrying a Soldier.
"It was scary. But I would go anywhere with him," Campbell said of her husband. "I didn't know what I was getting into with the Army. But I knew I was getting him. He's the best guy in the world."
While her husband was busy with a demanding career that often took him away from his family, Campbell was busy on the home front, focused on raising son Scott, now a surfer, volunteer firefighter and employee for the Boston Logan Airport; and Erin, who is married to Air Force Capt. Jonathan Bott and stationed in England. Bott is currently serving his second tour in Afghanistan.
In raising their children, Campbell always emphasized the adventure of the moves their Army life required. The Campbell children attended 10 schools each before going on to college. But every move was filled with adventure for the Campbell family. A positive person with a deep faith, Campbell found the disadvantages of the military lifestyle minor compared to the opportunities, and she passed that outlook on to her children.
"I had zero idea that I would like this lifestyle," said Campbell, who was raised in a close-knit family of seven children anchored in Massachusetts.
"In all our moves, I've loved Rhode Island, Virginia and Florida for the geography, and I've loved Huntsville and Omaha (Neb.) for the people. I've always said 'You better like where you are because that's where you are meant to be.' You should always enjoy where you are. As a young wife, I kept looking forward to the next place. We've not lived in a bad place. But we've had favorites."
Her husband's current assignment at Redstone Arsenal was a pleasant surprise. In 2006, Campbell thought her husband's next assignment would take them to Washington, D.C., which would have put them close to their daughter, then living in Richmond, Va., and their son.
"It was late one evening and he told me we were moving to Huntsville, Ala.," Campbell recalled. "I said 'I have to sleep on that one.' When I got up the next morning, I was so excited about the move because I didn't know anything about Huntsville. I've always wanted to see new places and learn new people."
She has worked closely with Alice Myles, the wife of Redstone Arsenal and Aviation and Missile Command commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles. Although she is the wife of the Arsenal's first three-star general, Campbell, true to form, has yielded the leadership spotlight to the wife of the Arsenal's commanding two-star general.
"I like dittoing Alice," Campbell said, with a laugh. "She is so caring and smart. I say that she's the brain and I'm the sense of humor. I am just not a take-charge person. God has always supplied an Alice for me."
Although her husband began his Army career during the latter years of the Vietnam War and continued through the challenging years of the '70s and '80s, it was Desert Storm that really brought the danger of his service home during his deployment with a Patriot Missile Battalion. But Campbell remained upbeat and secure in her faith during the most trying assignments.
"In all his years in the Army, I'd have rather have him home 24/7. But I know what he has to do," Campbell said. "So instead of dwelling on the negative while he was gone, I would dwell on the positive. It's all in your attitude. You can choose to dwell on that fact that your husband is gone and it's horrible. Or you can choose to look at the positive side."
Her husband shares that same attitude and his wife's faith in God. With every promotion, the couple have turned to God for direction.
"Before he gets a promotion and takes a job, we pray about it to see if it's right," she said. "Even though the Army has called, we want to make sure God has called."
The couple are now relying on God to help them plan their next step in life. Retirement will soon be a part of that plan, followed by a vacation that will take them to England to see their daughter and to Ireland to visit their ancestral home. Eventually, they will settle down into a life led by God.
Through the years, Campbell, who signs her e-mails with "In His Grip," has relied on God and the church to give her strength to get through long separations. She has been active in on-post women's Bible studies and the Protestant Women of the Chapel, the Officer and Civilian Women's Club, and family readiness groups wherever her husband's career has taken her. And, as the military service often changes Soldiers for the better, so, too, can it change a wife for the better.
"For me, personally, the biggest blessing of all this is that it has gotten me out of my comfort zone," she said. "Moving to different places and meeting different people has gotten me out of my shell. God has been in control and His plans have been my plans. His plans are way better than mine could ever be."