Long-story-short: Within ten years of both parents joining the Army they had college degrees, several assignments, a few pets, and three daughters. My mother decided to stay home with us, and my father completed Officer Candidate School, officially becoming a career serviceman.
I had no idea what a life separate from the military was until I graduated from college, and I cried the day I had to hand over my military ID card.
Until I was a preteen, I thought every adult served in the military. If a friend's parent was a doctor, dentist, lawyer, teacher, they did that for the country. I spent most of my early years overseas, so it was huge shock when I discovered what a civilian was… and that I was one.
My parents had a way of making the family feel like we were part of the Army. To date, I have never lived anywhere more than three years, so this collaborative effort and sense of unity and purpose played a crucial role in making me feel secure.
Yes, we, “the Kleppingers,” were in the U.S. Army.
It was evident in the way my two sisters and I played, the vocabulary we used, and even in the ways we were disciplined. When we did something wrong, we did push-ups. We shopped for food at the commissary and clothes at the PX. All three of us were Girl Scouts (proud of our uniforms and patches), went camping, and enjoyed a good salute. Instead of chores, we each had AO’s (Area of Operation). Our AO’s were our bedrooms, where we were expected to pass weekly inspections. My sisters and I would rush to pick up toys, fold clothes, and make our beds. We couldn’t leave or play until we passed inspection.
Scurrying to put away a Barbie doll or shoe, we would jump as a deep voice from behind the door announced, “Room inspection!” We would stand at attention by our beds. (Before I continue, in case you're thinking, “those poor little girls,” I should add that while cleaning was no fun, my sisters and I enjoyed being treated like little soldiers, breaking “attention” with giggles because of my father's mock seriousness).
Many a Saturday I prayed that I would pass inspection the first time so I could go outside and play with my friends. It took many failures for me to realize that my father found every toy misplaced under the bed or hidden in the closet. He checked under the covers to make sure I properly made the bed. “Meghan, when will you learn that you won’t pass until you've done it properly?” became a common phrase.
That phrase became a mantra into my adult life. My father taught me, through exercises like room inspections, the importance of honesty, discipline, hard work, and doing a task right the first time.
A few years ago, I heard a pastor deliver a sermon about living victoriously through times of testing. God allows periods of testing to help us become spiritually mature, to become more like Him. This pastor reminded the congregation that when it comes to Christian living, tests must be retaken until passed.
Basically, I discovered that if it’s important, God is going to keep re-teaching the same lesson until I get it right.
My sisters and I used to dress in Dad’s fatigues. Sometimes when he came home from work, we would line up at attention wearing parts of his uniform, which always included green envelope hats, and we would salute him as he walked in. We wanted to be like our dad and, even more, we wanted him to be proud of us.
In my early adult life I remember looking in the mirror and seeing my dad in my features. Even now, certain habits will be exhibited or words will come out of my mouth and I'll laugh and/or cringe as I realize, “that's my dad.” The person I am happy to be today – including my character, faith, physical appearance, even flaws – is thanks to him.
God continues to use my earthly father to show me what a relationship with my Heavenly Father should be! I hope when people look at me, they see my Heavenly Father's love in me as clearly as they see my dad's blue eyes. When people watch, are they seeing Christ?
When God takes a “room inspection” in my heart, He shouldn’t find any hidden objects, but a little girl who wants to please Him and be just like Him.