Major Jason P. Willey ’97
It is our privilege to recognize Major Jason P. Willey as the deserving recipient of the 2011/12 Alumnus of the Year Award. He is an outstanding example of the fulfillment of DC’s mission “to impact the world through Biblical thought and action”. Maj. Willey has served 9 years in the United States Air Force progressing through the ranks from an Officer to 2nd Lieutenant to currently a Major. This award will be presented at Commencement on June 8, 2012.
The following is his story...
Upon graduating from DC in June of 1997, with only a brief respite of three weeks, I in-processed as a basic cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. I spent the better part of that summer in a 5-week basic training course designed to immerse recent high school graduates into the life of a military cadet. This training led to the four-year undergraduate program at the same institution. After four years, I graduated with a BS in history from what is known as an engineering school. During those four years, I had the opportunity to hone and refine my follower-ship and leadership skills in preparation of becoming an officer in the Air Force. Since then I have acquired a graduate degree in Leadership and Business Ethics from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
After graduation from the Academy in 2001, I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and had an Undergraduate Pilot Training slot for the following year. Before attending pilot training, I served a brief period in the Academy’s history department. It was during that time that 9/11 occurred. I began the 1-year AF Pilot Training Program at Columbus AFB in Columbus Mississippi in early 2002. In March of 2003, I received my pilot wings and was rewarded with a first assignment to fly C-5 Cargo planes out of Dover AFB, DE.
It was during pilot training, however, that I met, or I should say was reintroduced, to my future wife, Devon Montgomery, a 2000 graduate of DC and the younger sister of my good friend and DC classmate Steven Montgomery. I spent four years flying C-5s at Dover to destinations around the world, principally Iraq. In 2007, I volunteered for a new aircraft and a new location, Las Vegas, NV. Devon and I spent three years in Las Vegas before relocating to build a new AF squadron from the ground up in Missouri. I have now progressed through the ranks and am currently a Major.
From a very young age, I wanted to become an officer in the US military. I grew up with a father in the military and was enamored with history, thanks in large part to my mom. I wanted the experiences found in the history books I was reading. Looking back, I acknowledge that it was God who implanted this desire in my heart out of His sovereign plan for my life. In a twist of irony, I spent my whole life wanting to attend West Point Military Academy but ended up instead at the Air Force Academy. That is a story for another day but looking back, I am grateful that the Lord disrupted MY plans for His. It has been a terrific adventure and I acquired experiences beyond my wildest dreams.
Leading men and women in the military while serving our country has been a rewarding experience. At times it has also proven challenging, especially during certain stressful periods unique to war. Perhaps the greatest challenge is being a light in a largely secular world. I truly believe we are all missionaries no matter where we serve. Cornelius “a devout man who feared God” (Acts 10 1-7) serves as a model soldier for his country and more importantly for God. I always liked this passage as it somewhat relates and speaks to why God placed me where I am today.
DC impacted me in countless ways from the teachers who inspired, to the friends who encouraged and most importantly to the constant attention given to the saving grace afforded us through Christ’s sacrifice. I could never do justice in attempting to fully explain how various teachers sharpened my character for the challenges that were in my future. They all had a role in shaping who I am today along with the many friends I had during that time period. I would like to single out Mr. Caywood (7th, 8th grade) and Dr. McFarland (high school) for ensuring that I would never lose my desire and passion to experience and learn history. One of my post military/business career goals is to return to a classroom to teach history and share my experiences.
While I have many valuable and specific memories I could recall about my days at DC, I simply like to reflect on the simplicity and innocence of those years. It was a time before I was fully exposed to seeing and experiencing the ugly outcomes and affects of a sinful fallen world. The military experiences expose one to the darker realities of our world not obvious on a day-to-day basis. I recall the joys of playing soccer in green and white, or playing freely on the old elementary playground, concert choir trips, the DC Invitational, friends, working maintenance with Mr. Keelan in the summers and of course history classes. The list could go on.
My faith, a gift from God, has served as the foundation of what I do. It grounds me in truth. Often times, I find myself caught up in the accolades of a military life and the competitive nature it arouses in me. It serves to humble me as does my wife on occasion, which is one of the many reasons I love her. God’s grace is beyond our full understanding. I cannot credit myself or anything else for what I have achieved and for where I am in my career. Each person, in my life has been a gift from the Lord, my parents, DC teachers, friends, mentors and my wife, Devon Montgomery Willey '00. I am truly grateful and humbled. Of course, this is easier said than it is acknowledged on a daily basis. But this is where, with God’s strength, I hope to persevere.
I am an avid reader of history, theology, philosophy and politics. My most important hobbies involve being a husband and father of two wonderful little girls. In the past my wife and I have volunteered with Young Life and other minor church roles. I currently help to lead a Bible study in our immediate community. We also like to travel.