Though his primary influence to become a Lutheran minister did not stem from his Air Force service, some of the lessons Warren Brandt learned in the military have been of benefit during his nearly three decades of ministry.
Growing up in rural Wisconsin, 66-year-old Brandt recalls attending class in a one-room schoolhouse with eight grades and one teacher.
He went on to graduate from high school in 1964 and, within a matter of months, made the decision to enlist in the Air Force.
"My parents didn't have money for college because they were paying to send my brother to a Lutheran school since he wanted to someday become a pastor," Brandt said.
"I also had a cousin who was serving in the Air Force, and as a young 17-year-old kid, I got the idea that I wanted to be a career military man myself," he added.
The young recruit traveled to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to complete an abbreviated boot camp of six weeks since, as he notes, the military was ramping up for the Vietnam War and needed "bodies to fill slots."
Having scored high in electronics during his entrance examinations, he was sent to Lowry AFB near Denver to receive training as a weapons control systems mechanic.
During the next seven months, he learned the basics of maintenance and repair of the F-4 Phantom jet's airborne attack radar, which was designed to spot enemy aircraft and fire the air-to-air Sparrow missiles.
While in training at Lowry, he asked his girlfriend Lois to marry him.
In July 1965, he received orders for Elgin AFB in Florida. After only a few months at his new duty location, he learned he would be sent to Germany.
"Because of the deployment, Lois and I moved up our wedding date and were married back in Wisconsin," Brandt said. "I was 19 years old and everything really seemed kind of rushed back then," he chuckled.
He arrived in Germany in early 1966, assigned to the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg.
The next couple of years would run the full range of emotions - his father passed away from cancer, but his wife later joined him in Germany where she gave birth to the couple's first child.
As Brandt also explained, his new unit was still assigned the older F-105 aircraft, not the F-4s he had been trained on. The airman instead ended up working on external power supply equipment necessary to power up the fighters on the flight line when maintenance was required.
Preparing to leave Germany in early 1968, Brandt requested assignment for either the East or West Coast since he believed those were the only locations where F-4s were located stateside. He received orders to report to McConnell AFB in Kansas.
"Guess what!" he exclaimed, with a grin. "I reported to my new assignment and all they had was F-105s."
The following August he got an early release and left the service to attend college on the GI Bill.
For the next couple of years, he attended college while working a part-time construction job. In the fall of 1970, he left school and went to work full time to support his family.
Spending a few years in the union building trades, he was hired by Dana Corp. in 1973, a company that built axles for 4-wheel drive vehicles. After seven years with the company, Brandt lost his job when it closed down its plant in Edgerton, Wisconsin, in 1980.
"The pastor at my church had once suggested that I think about attending seminary," he recalled, "but I told him I couldn't afford that with a family."
Seeking direction in his career, Brandt answered "the call" and applied for seminary. Graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1985, he became the pastor for St. John's Lutheran Church in Lohman later the same year.
This June, after 28 years of serving the congregation at St. John's, he will retire with his wife to the Holts Summit area.
Looking back on his time in the Air Force and the influence it has provided throughout his ministry, Brandt notes its single greatest impact.
"With all of the unexpected surprises, like not working on the equipment I was trained to work on, the military helped me realize that you are often confronted with situations that are beyond your control," he said.
"You quickly learn to cope with adversity. And, as is often the case when you are called to serve the Lord, such past experience can help when assisting those in your congregation facing difficult situations," he added.
Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.