Good News from a Distant Land

“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.” Proverbs 25:25 When is the last time you heard or read good news on behalf of our military? Are you weary from the barrage of negative coverage? Positive reports are few and far between, aren’t they?Take heart! Today, I offer your weary soul good news.

         I’ve introduced you before to our daughter Katie and her husband, Brian who is deployed in Afghanistan. Recently, a freelance reporter and a photographer were embedded for a number of weeks with Brian’s Battalion. They were commissioned to do an article about Brian for the Texas A&M Alumni magazine.  

Katie sent the article to us. After reading it, I took it to my husband and said, “Are you ready to bust your buttons and cry at the same time?”

We are very proud of Brian for the work he has done for our country. We are equally proud of Katie and the four girls. They’ve set an incredible example for families left behind during wartime.

The reporter, Cheryl Hatch and photographer, JR Ancheta have graciously given me permission to share their article and pictures with you. I don’t think Cheryl will mind if I solicit your prayers for her. For a number of weeks, she’s been running a high fever and is in the hospital in Kuwait. They haven’t been able to diagnose the problem so please pray for her.

Check out the following information about Cheryl’s endeavors. Her fascinating blog will take you on an adventure without leaving your chair.

 JR is a student at the U. of Alaska in Anchorage and plans to make a career of his photography.  Seems to me he has a very good start!

Now sit back, put your feet up and be refreshed. Here’s a cup of cold water from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska to the front lines in Afghanistan.

Leadership In Action

By Cheryl Hatch    

 The summer of 1992, Brian Payne was running late and looking for his public speaking class. He popped his head into the room where Katie Welsh was a teaching assistant for the lab. He’d found the right room—and his future wife.

“He waited six weeks until the class was out and grades were turned in and then he asked me out,” said Katie Payne. “And, as he says, we’ve been dating ever since. “Both graduated from Texas A&M in December 1992; he received his Bachelor of Science in wildlife biology and was commissioned as an infantry second lieutenant. She earned a Master of Arts in communication. They married in May 1993.

“I do not come from a military family. My grandfather served a tour in World War II, but that was the extent of military service,” Katie said. “I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew I loved Brian and his passion for military service was contagious.”

 Since April 2011, Lt. Col. Payne has been serving in Kandahar Province in Southern Afghanistan as the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, “The Bobcats,” with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Before this deployment, he attended the Father Daughter Ball in Fairbanks, Alaska, with his four daughters: Abigail, 14, Sarah, 12, Elizabeth, 10 and Hannah, 8. It was his fourth dance: one for each deployment (he served in Bosnia, Somalia and Iraq.) Wearing his dress mess uniform, he took turns holding each daughter tightly as they swayed to Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle.

 JR Ancheta

Payne had tears in his eyes. “That’s what’s always in the back of my mind. I want it to be a special day for them,” Payne said. “If this should be the last memories, that this is good memories for them.”

 JR Ancheta

“Brian is a devoted dad who invests in his children, giving them a strong sense of security,” Katie said. “There is a scene in the movie We Were Soldiers where a new father is asking his commander about how to be a dad and a soldier. The response is that he hopes that being good at one makes him better at the other. This scene always makes me think of Brian. He is a wonderfully devoted father and I believe it’s made him a better soldier. And being a devoted soldier has made him a better father.”

    JR Ancheta

Payne is equally devoted to his soldiers, his Army family. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Payne donned a Santa suit that Katie had sent him and visited brigade headquarters and three of his battalion’s outposts. He played Ping-Pong with soldiers in Bravo Company at Sperwan Ghar. He walked into tents and roused sleepy soldiers in Charlie Company at Khenjakak. He posed for photographs with soldiers at Forward Operating Base Shoja. And he jumped into a game of Ultimate Frisbee in Masum Ghar.

        JR Ancheta   

“He’s definitely hands on. He loves going out there and seeing the soldiers,” said Sgt. Oscar Canizalez, 25, from Riverside, Calif. Canizalez is the senior vehicle commander for Payne’s Stryker and has been with him for almost a year. “He cares a lot about the soldiers. You could be the lowest private—he’ll come talk to you. He’s up front about everything.”

When Payne walked into the Tactical Operating Center on Christmas Day, Spc. Thomas Ngiraked, 24, from Guam, wrapped his arms around his commanding officer.

“I didn’t want to hug Santa. I wanted to hug my boss,” said Ngiraked, his former gunner who considers Payne a father figure. “He’s one of the best. He always looks out for his soldiers. Honestly, if I model my career on anyone, it’d be him or my old platoon sergeant.”

Whether on patrol or in administrative meetings, Payne strikes the balance between a determined, focused professional with the approachability of one of the guys. As a leader, he distinguishes between leadership and “likership.”

“Leadership is making the hard calls for the right reason,” Payne said. “Likership is making the easy call for the wrong reason.” Ngiraked remembered one incident that showcased Payne’s leadership. “We just got hit with an IED. I remember looking down and I saw this orange light,” he said. “He calmed us all down. It was serious for the first 30 minutes. Then we started singing. We do that a lot in the truck.”

Early in their deployment, the soldiers conducted clearing missions—both mounted and foot patrols—to search for weapons and IED components in Dand District. At first they led the patrols. Slowly the American soldiers trained their Afghan counterparts and began to partner on missions. Payne spent time with Afghan police and Army officers, building relationships and trust, intent on restoring the land and responsibility for security to the Afghans.

 JR Ancheta

After returning control to local authorities in Dand in late 2011, Payne and his soldiers moved into Panjawa’i District, known as the heart of the Taliban, where his soldiers continued to conduct clearing missions and engage local leaders.

“Everything we said we’d do in 12 months, we’ve done it in six months,” Payne said. “I believe in my soldiers and I’m proud of my soldiers. They’re doing a phenomenal job.”

      “Brian Payne has absolutely excelled in every aspect of this fight,” said Col.Todd Wood, brigade commander. “In our profession, this is the only place it matters and he’s done phenomenal. I think he will be a brigade commander in a few years. He’s at the top of a rising career.”

The success came at a cost. By February 2012, 21 soldiers from the 1/25 were killed. Nine soldiers had double amputations and several had traumatic brain injuries. Returning from leave in January, Payne and his wife visited his wounded soldiers in Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland.

“All of them are wanting to get up on their legs before we get home,” Payne said. He mentioned a soldier from Omaha, Nebraska, who said he misses his fellow soldiers more than his legs.

“When you have a soldier who misses his buddy more than he misses his legs, it fills you up with a lot of pride and a lot of hope,” Payne said. “These guys have that kind of bond. They’re thinking beyond the bonds of their own limbs.”

For Payne, those bonds of brotherhood will serve the soldiers later in life. “They know the importance of being part of a team, being bigger than yourself.” As a leader, he feels privileged to have the opportunity to affect the lives of 800 men and women. And he feels blessed by his own family—his team—waiting for his return this spring.

“Brian and I feel called to this military life. We are a team and lean on each other in so many ways,” Katie said. “We complement each other. He is a visionary, big-picture seeing sort of guy. I’m a very detailed-oriented person. Together we balance each other. Together we are stronger.”

 JR Ancheta

10 Responses to “Good News from a Distant Land”
  1. You’re right–I sat at my computer and cried. You have a beautiful family! Thank you for sharing Brian’s and Katie’s story! (I can see you in Katie.)

    Praying right now for this precious family.

    • Oh Vonda, thanks so much. Your comment made me cry, as well. And especially thanks for praying for them. I know the last weeks before coming home are the toughest for the guys and Brian has had some real emotional challenges. Love you, Liz

  2. Deborah Fields says:

    Oh my,so emotional! I am so PROUD of the Payne family!!!! And I am also proud that Sammy & I were able to be present when they got married in Texas-great memories of our families together!!!!!

  3. Toni Williams says:

    I, too, was blown away and LOVED the article & pictures!! The strength of character you have built into your precious girls is amazing and no wonder you are proud and humbled at the same time! Had to laugh after last week’s “Help, I’ve fallen & don’t have any words”…God certainly does supply ALL our needs, doesn’t He? Love & prayers for you and the Paynes.

    • Thanks, friend for checking in. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. We women need a good cry every now and then, don’t we? When it’s the good kind, that is. Thanks for the encouragement. I contihnually stand amazed at God’s grace. And He does meet all our needs and then some!

      Love you, Liz

  4. Cathy VanDyke says:

    Your family is amazing and you should be so proud of what you and Jay taught them about family,life and God!

    • Hi Cathy, Thanks so much for your comment. God has blessed and we’re very grateful for all He’s done. It’s His amazing grace, for sure. I’m so glad we’re connected through my blog since I don’t get to see you much. I love hearing from you. Thanks again.


  5. I can see why you burst with pride! What a wonderful tribute to Brian and Katie, and what a beautiful relationship they have. Precious!! I’m lifting them up right now and asking the Lord to bless and protect their family.

    • Thanks, Susan for your comments and for praying for Katie and family. We’re looking forward to their moving to Kansas this summer. At least it’s closer than Alask and Afghanistan. 🙂 We count our blessings, however they come, don’t we?

  6. Anita Taylor says:

    Wow, I can relate to this one, my son in law was in Iraq for 6 mos. He is a Major in the USAF and is back home with my daughter in Colorado Srpings. My daughter kept her family together while he was gone, she has 2 kids 6 and 3. At times she would cry missing her husband, but she is a Christian and she surrounded herself with great Christian friends. I really didn’t know much about the military until my daughter married her husband. Thanks for sharing. We should always pray for our military.

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