A New Mission: Married veterans settle into civilian life

Mike Moore photo
Parents Katie and Chris Walters settle into their Glenrock home with children Colton, 3, (at left) and Ashton, 5, after spending the past decade bouncing around while serving in the Army.

Mike Moore mike@glenrockind.com


It was either breakfast or lunch, she can’t quite remember the details. Thinking back to the moment in early 2011 that would alter the course of her life forever, she admits it is starting to become fuzzy as the years drift by.
Stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, Katie’s attention that fateful day focused on a soldier entering the dining facility.
“He had come in to eat, and I saw him,” Katie recalled. She was smitten instantly. The soldier noticed. He offered a seat at his table, and the two hit it off.
The rest is a military-style love story. The two soldiers fought to make a relationship work while serving active duty in different parts of the world. A relationship in and out of deployments wasn’t exactly easy for Katie and her new boyfriend Chris Walters.
Their strong bond endured, but not without challenges and adjustments.
Chris aspired to attend Ranger school and possibly Special Forces Assessment and Selection, a course known to be one of the most grueling processes in the Army.
“When we met there definitely was an attraction and realization of, ‘Hey, be smart, don’t go falling in love,’” he admitted. “The more I tried to pursue that, the more we were bonding and falling in love.”
Living a life devoted to serving one’s country can bring a lot of challenges most couples would never have to overcome. Regardless, the resilient and determined pair pushed on.
Katie’s third deployment overall and second to Afghanistan brought the first major hurdle soon after the two started seeing each other. To make matters worse, Chris broke his femur.
“It was pretty stressful,” Katie said as she thought back to the moment the pair were separated.
After four months apart, and six months after his broken bone, Chris was deployed to Afghanistan.
“I busted my butt day in and day out to make that happen,” he said. Joining the Rangers or SFAS was put on the back burner.
En route, Chris passed through the base where Katie was. They had exactly one hour to spend together in the province of Balkh.
“He was flying through, and they stopped to refuel. I found out he was there, and I got to see him,” she said. “That was pretty cool.”
It was a moment of contact for the pair after months of talking through video chat on Skype. They wished they had longer together, but knew they were there to do a job.
Chris was traveling to his first deployment as a 19 Delta Calvary Scout performing reconnaissance along the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. His job involved gaining and maintaining enemy contact and giving situational reports.
Communication at that stage of their relationship wasn’t easy. Oftentimes Chris would have to wake up at 3 a.m. just to talk to Katie for half an hour. Due to the classified nature of work, they often had to be extremely cryptic about how their days went.
The fall of 2012 brought the end of Katie’s final deployment. The two later married in July 2013 and had some time together before Chris was deployed to Jordan in 2015 for six months working with security forces and three more at a Jordanian training center.
Katie left the service in 2013, and the two ventured west a few years later when Chris was to be stationed in Fort Carson just outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. While there, the couple’s children, Ashton, 5, and Colton, 3, were born.
In 2016, the family moved to Fort Wainwright in Alaska, where Chris rounded out his years of service by becoming a master arctic trainer. During the final two years of service, he pushed himself through a pinched nerve in his back. Looking back, he wouldn’t advise anyone doing that.
“I was being hard-headed and pushed myself farther than I should have,” he conceded.
His service ended in November 2018 after being medically separated for his back injury. It was time.
“As a father and husband, I wanted to stop dragging them around,” he said. “I figured it would have been too much for them.”
Katie and the two kids returned to the lower 48 seven months before Chris began his 60 days of paid leave to begin settling into a new, civilian life.
Their whirlwind journey around the world ended in Glenrock, a foreign place to her as she grew up in Connecticut, but the hometown Chris grew up in and graduated high school from in 2008.
Katie found work as a regional juvenile detention center youth advisor in Casper after a stint working as a private security guard.
“I love working with the kids there,” she said.
Chris later began a job at the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, fitting in nicely with his hard-wired routine of waking up extremely early in the morning.
“I still don’t get to know what sleeping in is like,” he laughed.
Katie, while recalling the hardships of developing a relationship in the military world, admitted its an adjustment back to civilian life, too.
“It’s really hard. When I left the military, I left a piece of my heart. It’s a brotherhood and a sense of fulfillment.”
The couple agreed being married and veterans at the same time bring both pros and cons.
“There are times we can’t stand each other,” Chris said.
On the other hand, Katie, who suffers slightly from post-traumatic stress disorder, takes comfort in knowing Chris can relate to what she is going through during difficult times.
“I think it makes our connection stronger because we’ve been through similar things,” she said.
If anything, the family is a resilient one. To be fair, they are hardworking go-getters that have military discipline instilled in them.
“Whatever knocks you down, I’m always up ready to continue the mission,” Chris said.


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