With hard work and God’s help, this former Army ranger found himself becoming the man he’d always wanted to be
- Posted on Aug 8, 2019
“Push-ups, now, Private!”
The 75th Ranger Regiment recruiter barked at Private Brandon Young. For weeks, Young had been dropping by his office and leaving his name to volunteer to become a ranger. Young was 18, fresh out of basic training and weeks into Airborne School. Going into Ranger Indoctrination was the next step to operate at the most elite level in the U. S. Army. Young thought his enthusiasm would impress the recruiter. It didn’t.
In the sticky Georgia heat at the Fort Benning Army base, Young spent the entire recruiting brief doing push-ups.
Growing up in Fremont, California, the youngest of three, he always dreamed of serving his country. When Young was 11, his father abandoned the family and Young was thrust into adulthood at an early age.
When he was old enough, he got a job to help his mom, who worked four jobs. As they scrimped and saved, he felt isolated from his classmates in the wealthy Bay Area. In high school, he had his future planned out: He would pursue the most elite and demanding assignments the Army could offer.
He excelled in basic training and was chosen as platoon guide over 40 recruits. Taking on tasks he’d never heard of before was challenging, but he remembered what his mother taught him: Never quit. Ever. Now the persistence that helped him push through obstacles seemed to be ruining his chance to be a Ranger.
A week after the recruiter ordered push-ups, he walked toward Young with a clipboard. “Young! Pack your bags,” the recruiter said. “You’re going to Ranger Indoctrination.”
Ranger Indoctrination was the most intense training Young had ever gone through, but he graduated and was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington. “I was very much at home. It was the first time I felt like I belonged,” he says.
One night in 2000, he met a beautiful young woman named Kelly. By July 2001, he had proposed. They planned to marry in December. Then the country was attacked on September 11th. They married a few days later and a week after the wedding, he deployed to the Middle East. After a month, he was able to call Kelly. He could feel her excitement through the satellite phone. She was pregnant. His heart swelled and then deflated. They were going to have their first child. And he was thousands of miles away.
On June 14, 2002, he listened through the phone as his wife gave birth to their son. Pacing around while serving in Bagram, Afghanistan, he could only visualize what his family looked like.
“The one thing I never wanted to be as a father was absent, and that was the very first thing I was. That hurt me in a very profound way,” he says.
Over the next two years, he deployed three times. While he was excelling as a Ranger, his family life was falling apart. When he returned home, his15-month-old son barely knew him. There were times his family only made ends meet because of his tax-free combat pay. “I was focusing on saving, but when you’re in the military and you have a young family, you’re scraping,” he says. In a good month, he’d have $50 left over to take his wife out.
Financial stress was not the only problem. There were things in Young’s life he hadn’t dealt with, from childhood to war. He remembered feeling abandoned and unworthy when his father left. He never wanted his son to feel like that. Something had to change.
He once dreamed of being a soldier. Now a new dream emerged, “which was the family that I had this opportunity to be a part of, if I could just get out of my own way, and be present,” he says. Young made the toughest decision he’s ever made when he asked his command for a break from the deployment cycle.
Young moved to Fort Benning to be an instructor at the 75th Ranger Regiment Ranger Indoctrination Program. Kelly became pregnant again. This time, he was there, holding Kelly’s hand when their daughter was born. He knew he’d made the right call.
He started to work on himself and his marriage. Thanks to counseling and conversations with Christian friends, he realized that, despite feeling abandoned, God loved him. “I looked back and I saw God was guiding me throughout the whole journey,” he realized.
He no longer had to bury the pain of his past or the heartbreak of war. He could be a better man for his wife and children because God found him worthy just the way he was. Understanding that, he eventually left the Army for a job in the private sector.
Young and Kelly joined a church in Colorado that offered a Financial Peace course. They created a monthly budget, avoided credit card debt, paid tithes and saved.
“It was a blessing. Not only did we become grounded in solid financial principles, but for the first time in our marriage, we were on the same page,” he says.
Young describes faith as “being the real engine of transformation.” As he and his wife deepened their faith and managed their finances together, he became more emotionally available and present.
The closer he got to God, the more he desired a career that felt more meaningful. He took a job working for a veterans’ charity that came with a 60 percent pay cut.
By saving everything they could, selling off a timeshare and planning meals, they were able to afford the income change.
After years of working with vets, Young is now the Chief Advancement Officer for the Tennyson Center for Children, a nonprofit organization serving children healing from trauma. Young is still as determined as he was when he was an 18-year-old, doing push-ups in the heat, but now he understands that he doesn’t have to look outside himself to feel whole. Now he helps children who’ve suffered learn what he has learned
“What happened in the past does not have to be your reality for the future. You are loved.”