An early influence
Monday, February 25, 2013
Born in Columbus, Miss., to a father serving in the Air Force, state Rep. John McCaherty, R-Murphy, spent many of his formative years in proximity to some form of military influence.
After completing his enlistment in the early 1970s, his father moved the family to Bossier City, La., near Barksdale Air Force Base.
“As a child, I grew up watching the B-52s flying over every day,” McCaherty recalled.
Graduating from Airline High School in 1983, McCaherty began attending Centenary College, but left after completing only one semester.
“Like many kids that age,” he said, “I really wasn’t mature enough for college.”
Impressed by his early exposure to the military culture, he joined the Air Force in 1984. The young recruit spent the next fourth months at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he completed his boot camp and technical training as a security police officer.
During his initial training, McCaherty requested a “worldwide remote” assignment, but instead received a transfer to Barksdale Air Force Base.
“I was ready to go almost anywhere in the world, but they sent me back home,” he laughed.
He spent the next three years at the base in several security related capacities such as guarding the B-52s he had watched as a young boy, and providing security for nuclear storage areas. As the veteran notes, the base was at that time the largest nuclear weapons storage facility in the United States.
While still in training at Lackland AFB, McCaherty had met a young woman named Chris, and the two began dating. When her training was completed, she was able to swap duty assignments with another airman and was stationed at Barksdale with McCaherty.
The two married in 1986 and became parents to two sons while they continued to serve in the Air Force. In 1989, McCaherty and his wife were discharged and moved to Illinois to be near his wife’s family.
Throughout the next several years, McCaherty worked in several jobs including oil field work, logging and as a prison guard. However, in 1994, he experienced a “call to serve” and took the part-time job as the pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Illinois.
He went on to finish a master’s degree in church planning and evangelism at Liberty University. After six years with his first church, he moved to High Ridge in 2000 when the linen company he worked for full time opened a new plant in the area.
“I became the pastor for First Baptist Church in Murphy (near Fenton) in 2002,” McCaherty said. “I’m still the pastor there and continue to preach three services on Sunday.”
Disenfranchised with a manner in which his own state representative was “handling business,” he began to consider his own run for elected office. After approaching his congregation and receiving their support for such a decision, he filed for office in 2010.
“I felt that the Lord was leading me into making such a decision,” he said. “I knew that regardless of whether my campaign was successful, the education and lessons I would receive by being out there in the community and talking to people would benefit me as both a pastor and a candidate.”
Successful in his election bid, McCaherty became the new representative for the state’s 90th District.
Having recently begun his second term, the legislator recognizes the impact his military service has had in both the direction of his career and his time at the state Capitol.
“I’ve always had a passion for politics,” he said, “but without the work ethic, discipline and focus that is stressed and reinforced in the Air Force, I probably wouldn’t have settled down long enough to pursue this interest.”
Recently selected to serve on the House Veterans Committee, McCaherty believes his experience transitioning from the military into civilian employment will help him devise legislation that will be of benefit to more recent veterans.
“Though this is only my first year on the committee, my primary goal is legislation that will help the state’s veterans assemble back into society,” he said. “I believe we can best honor their service by ensuring they have quality educational and employment opportunities available upon their return.”
Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.