“I give God all the glory of putting me in and bringing me through the military,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Donna Brion. “If it wasn’t for him, I would not have made it through. He carried me through so much. He just put that on my heart to go in the National Guard. It was all guidance from the Lord.”
Brion joined the National Guard in 1986, a move she said was spurred on by a variety of reasons.
“My step-father was in the National Guard and I believe that the Lord just said, ‘You can do this,’”Brion said.
She said that she still remembers her step-father’s reaction to her decision.
“He was proud of me,” Brion said. “I turned 29 in basic and I still say, ‘Lord I can’t believe I made it through that.’”
She attended basic training at Fort McClellan.
“I was picked on a lot,” Brion said. “I was ridiculed—whatever you want to call it—from some of the younger ones (recruits). I was made fun of but I just did what I had to do and got through it with all the help of the Lord.”
After four years in the National Guard where she made it to an E-4, Brion made the switch to active duty and joined the Army in 1990. She had two children at the time.
“The Lord led me into active duty,” Brion said.
Brion was a 75D or records personnel specialist and when she joined the Army she reclassified as a flight operations specialist or 93P at the time.
“I went into aviation because I knew I’d eventually come back to Fort Rucker,” Brion said. “Also, being an NCO, I had to give training classes, which I had never done before.”
Brion was not ordered to the Gulf War due to her reclassification process.
“This is how God worked, it kept me from going over to the war by being reclassified and going through school,” Brion said. “By the time I graduated from 93P school, the war was over. I know God protected me from that.”
Her first orders stationed her at Fort Greely in Alaska. Brion said that as a Southerner, she didn’t like to be cold.
“It was definitely cold,” Brion said. “But I was fortunate, we didn’t have to do a lot of PT outside. I did have to sleep out in the cold going through my PLCD (Primary Leadership Development Course) to make my E-5 rank and that was an experience.”
Brion received orders to return to Fort Rucker in 1993 just before she lost her son. She said that the return home was a welcomed one and helped her deal with that loss.
“When I got the orders to come back to Fort Rucker I thought, ‘Lord why are you sending me home so soon?’” Brion said. “He knew I needed to be here. It was good to be home around family. I did miss the beauty of Alaska. My mother got to come up and see the mountains and all—it’s just breathtaking. It’s just beautiful up there—God’s country—but it was good to be home.”
In 1996, Brion was ordered to go to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. She said she enjoyed being stationed there.
“(I) saw the pyramids, rode a camel, walked where Jesus walked—it was all just awesome,” Brion said.
She returned to Fort Rucker in 1997 where she stayed until she received a medical retirement in 2002.
“Alaska, Egypt and Fort Rucker at home, you just couldn’t ask for better duty stations,” Brion said. “My body just broke down really quick—my feet and my legs and my lower back, I just was not able to run. I had to walk, which sometimes that was more painful since you had to walk longer than you had to run for the PT test.”
Brion reflected on her career and said that the one Bible verse helped her through her time in the military is Philippians 4:13.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” the passage reads.
Brion said throughout her career God has been an ever-present force even if she wasn’t always the most willing Christian.
“I was a hard-headed Christian,” Brion said. “I was like, ‘Are you sure this is what you want me to do?’ I’d question the Lord and I know you’re not supposed to question the Lord and I’d ask for forgiveness but I couldn’t believe little old me—even though I had been on my own since I was 16 and I was strong—was obedient. But yet when it comes to something like that (joining the military) I felt that I was weak. It was all him. I don’t mean to keep talking about The Lord but it was (all him).”