In 2001, Boone County native James “Luke” Mondy joined the Army for all the right reasons. He wanted to do his part to protect his community and country. Luke was determined to excel, so when he arrived in bootcamp, his mind was laser focused on the tough training, the hard classes and learning how to be a warrior and leader. Nothing was going to distract him from his mission of being the best.

However, Luke’s plans took a slight detour when he noticed another recruit in his platoon also determined to excel. This warrior was tough and always near the top of the all the classes, including hand-to-hand combat and shooting. He also thought this Soldier beautiful. Luke called his father that night telling him he had just seen the girl he was going to marry. When his father asked her name, Luke replied he didn’t know as he hadn’t met her yet.

The Soldier’s name was Callandra “Callie” Peters from Indiana. Callie came from a military family, her mother being career Air Force and her grandfather an Army combat engineer during World War II. Callie wanted desperately to continue her family’s legacy of serving their country, but she severely injured her leg leaving her unable to join the service. After surgery and a full year of painful rehabilitation and hard work, she finally got medical clearance. After all this, the last thing on her mind when she arrived for basic training was falling in love. Besides, on first impression, she thought Luke a bit cocky and full of himself.

The powerful forces of nature quickly took charge and during classes they found themselves, as Callie puts it, “making ‘googly eyes’ at each other.” This led to them standing way too close during formation, for which they got yelled at frequently by their Drill Instructor. By the end of bootcamp love was in full bloom. Luke proposed and Callie said yes — but the Army had other plans.

Both were selected as avionic specialist working on Blackhawk and Apache helicopters. When they got their orders, they were shocked to find that Callie was headed to Germany and Luke to South Korea — both for two-year tours. Knowing this kind of long distance relationship almost never works, they called the engagement off. Had it not been for Luke’s determination and a case of Budweiser, they most likely would have never seen each other again.

The case of beer was a bribe Luke paid to a guy who worked in Army intelligence in South Korea to find Callie’s phone number in Germany. Callie was shocked at the sound of Luke’s voice and over time the calls became more frequent and longer. Then Luke came back to Boone County on emergency leave when his father got seriously injured. He called Callie in Germany in need of a friendly voice, only to find she was also home on leave. She flew to Harrison to support Luke and the sparks instantly reignited. This time she proposed and Luke said yes. Being old-fashioned, Luke later proposed again, this time on one knee and with a ring.

So three proposals, several countries and 20 years later, the couple now live in Boone County with their two sons, Wyatt and Garrett. Their combined 24 years of military service in the Army and National Guard is to be admired, but they are far from done. Both are determined to continue serving their country and community by helping fellow veterans.

“Every time I meet a veteran they are instantly like family to me” Callie said. “When Luke and I got out of the service, we had a hard time adjusting. I wish there would have been someone to show us the ropes. I want to be that person for other veterans.”

Luke added, “I was raised to help your neighbor and follow the Golden Rule. Like Callie said, veterans are family to us and when they are in need, we want to be there. That’s what Patriots do.”

Both are members of the VFW where Callie is Quartermaster. They are also very active in the DAV and the Boone County War Memorial Association. Luke is an accomplished 32nd degree Mason, winner of the Pillars of Solomon award and Captain of the Honor Guard of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Arkansas. It’s hard to be in their presence and not be inspired by their enthusiasm, energy and undying devotion to their children, each other and our country. If people like Luke and Callie represent the future of our community helping local veterans, then I know they will be in great hands.

Thank goodness for googly eyes and beer!

Matt Russell is a USMC Vietnam combat veteran and Commander of the Boone County DAV. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent the position of this newspaper, the Disabled American Veterans or any other organization.

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