KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – When you approach a new path in life, you don’t always realize how that choice is going to affect the rest of your life. When your children are born, you reflect about those choices and how they will shape your family’s future.
As the Month of the Military Child came to an end, Lt. Col. Todd Cheney, deputy garrison chaplain for U.S Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz in Baumholder, Germany, talked about how his military career drove many decisions his family took, but also how it inspired his oldest child, Kyle, to pursue a military career as well.
“All three of my kids are military children,” said Cheney. In the past 17 years, he and his family went through countless moves until arriving in Germany in 2021.
In his position, he enables religious support across the Garrison footprint, managing religious support staff, providing developmental counseling, and ensuring Unity Ministry Team training is complete.
Cheney was born and raised in Los Angeles County, California. He decided to join the military after a conversation with his own father.
“At the time, I wasn’t really doing much with my life,” he said jokingly. “I really wasn’t given a choice. My dad basically said, ‘you’re either going to join the military or you’re going to go to a trade school.’”
Cheney realized that this could be his opportunity to shine. He was excited to carry on his grandfather’s legacy, proudly serving his country. Fred Cheney served as a Marine during WWII.
Cheney initially enlisted as an emergency medical technician for the U.S. Army Reserve from 1989 to 1997. He had a break in service of about 9 years during which he attended school to obtain a second master’s degree and worked in the medical insurance field, before returning to the military in 2006 when he received a direct commission in the Army Chaplain Corps and became and active Army chaplain.
One major accomplishment during his military career was helping the Army Chaplain Corps establish the Graduate School for Army Chaplain Corps Professional Development at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he said.
“The thing that the Army has taught me the most is leadership,” Cheney said. “Being able to look at problems as a leader and then make good decisions that help the greater good has been a wonderful thing for me.”
Seeing that his son Kyle was struggling to figure things out for himself, Cheney decided to have a conversation with him.
“I sat down with my son and told him it was time to decide what he really wanted to do with his life,” he said.
Kyle PCS’d to Germany with his parents in November 2021. After three full years of college in the United States working on a nursing degree, he still wasn’t sure it was the direction he wanted to go.
“I had been dropping hints to him since he graduated high school a few years ago,” said Cheney. “I told him that the military could give him a baseline of medical skills. If he still wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, the military would be a great option to get started.”
The very next day, Kyle told him about his decision to join the Army.
Kyle contacted a local Army recruiter on Kleber Kaserne, and by Aug. 15 he was on a plane to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to start Basic Training. He graduated from Advanced Individual Training in March and now holds the rank of private first class.
“As parents, we want to prepare our children to be able to ‘leave the nest,’ said Cheney.“ I told my son that it didn’t feel like his mom and I were being good parents unless we helped him become independent.”
When Cheney and his wife Kristin heard about Kyle’s decision to enlist in the Army, they felt an elevated sense of pride.
“We were thankful and happy for him,” Cheney said. “We are really proud to see him doing something that goes beyond himself, serving others and supporting his nation. It is really something that fills your heart with pride and joy.”
Cheney encourages his son and the next generation of Soldiers to never stop believing in what they can achieve.
“Your potential is only limited by your attitude and your effort,” he said. “And, always do PT, you have to be physically fit to BE ALL YOU CAN BE.”