Military Son Shares How Faith and Family Shaped His Life

by Jocelyn on April 19, 2012

Matt Malcom (far right) with his parents and three sisters, Summer 2011

by Jocelyn Green

In honor of April being the Month of the Military Child, I’d love to share with you an interview I did with a young man named Matt Malcom, a military child all grown up. I hope you enjoy getting to know him and his perspective as much as I did! Without further ado:

Jocelyn: You are the only guy in a house full of women/girls when your dad is gone, right? How does that affect you? Do you feel a great responsibility for them as “the man of the house,” or do you not feel any additional pressure?

Matt: We all like to joke around and say that I’m so put out because of my predicament but it’s done a lot to shape me into a patient (relatively at least) man. It has also taught me to appreciate the differences between men and women. I think this will ultimately help me in dealing with people for the rest of my life. And yes, I do feel some pressure because I want to be a good example for them, and I don’t want any harm to fall upon them. But that’s a universal truth regardless if my dad’s home or not. I don’t really ever feel like “the man of the house” because I know that’s my father, but I always try to do the right thing and help my mom no matter who is around.

If you do feel a responsibility to “fill in” for your dad while he’s deployed, what does that look like? What do you do around the house that perhaps others guys your age don’t even think about?

My dad instilled in me the value of helping and appreciating my mom regardless of circumstance so that’s what I did.

This is kind of hard for me to answer to be honest. I think that my case was a little different than normal military families and the result only came about through the grace of God. I experienced my first deployment when I was 5-6 when my dad was in Korea for a year. These years helped shape the way I would operate basically for the rest of my life. My dad instilled in me the value of helping and appreciating my mom regardless of circumstance so that’s what I did. I really don’t feel like I acted any different when he was deployed, I just made sure to practice the lessons he taught me. The main one he taught me during that time was to always have an “attitude of helpfulness.” He used to say that all the time to me.

Tell me about the Modern Day Knight ceremony. What was that, why did you go, what vows did you take? How has participating in that changed your life?

I’m glad you asked about this. The Modern Day Knight Ceremony did more than any other single event in my life to mold me into the man I am today. Basically, my parents compiled letters from men who have meant a great to deal to me over the years; Christian mentors. He also gathered some of the men from my church at the time (we were in Germany) who lived the life which exemplified the values of a Modern Day Knight. We lived in a small German village so my father drove us out into the forest overlooking the town and we had a small ceremony in the woods gathered around a campfire he had set up earlier in the day. Throughout the ceremony we prayed, read scripture, read the letters, and I was talked to by each of the men present. I cannot express to you the value and vastness of knowledge that was imparted on me that evening. At the conclusion my dad had me “take a knee” and had me vow to live a life that set an example for others in speech, purity, conduct and love, (In direct reference to 1 Timothy 4:12) and to live a life that glorified God. I agreed and he knighted me with a sword with my life verse on it, Joshua 1:9.

I truly don’t feel like I can do a justice to impart just how important this event was in my life. And, I don’t mean to get preachy, but I think it exemplifies the necessity of a powerful father and mother for young men and women. Even though my dad was not always present because of deployments I knew his motives, I knew his heart, and I knew he loved me. He always utilized every possible opportunity to council me and help me grow spiritually. In fact, the other day I opened a time capsule I made in 1st Grade to be opened before my graduation from high school. After reading the letters from him and my mother I know that they had a stable, powerful, and Christ-centered role in my life since the beginning.

Here is the oath I took;

“I, Matthew Ganaway Malcom, do solemnly swear, before the one true, Almighty and
triune God and this body of elders That I will commit to consistently strive to
live a life that is honoring to God.
That I will set an example for all to witness in speech, in conduct, in love, in
faith and in purity.
That I will actively pursue God’s teaching through His living Word and use it to
seek His will as I make the decisions I encounter along my journey.
I will treat others, especially women, with dignity and respect, always seeking
to serve rather than to be served.
So help me God.”

Do you have any stories you can share with me about answered prayers, particularly during one of your dad’s deployments?

Well, I think the best example of this would be a spiritual battle I fought during my dad’s deployment to the Middle East during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During the time, for some reason, I found that I somehow had become a little smarter than the years past and all of the sudden couldn’t believe in God. I underline believe because it’s not that I didn’t think He was with me or my savior or wasn’t real, it was more that I couldn’t intellectually reconcile His existence. So, I prayed about it, talked to my mom about it, and even talked a great deal about it with my father whenever I could. It took a few years but I eventually came to the conclusion that I couldn’t reconcile my thoughts because I’m not God! I couldn’t even begin to understand how awesome and glorious He is. So, instead of worrying I used the realization that I had a tendency to doubt as a way in which to glorify Him. I knew that because I doubted but was still somehow close to Him, still bolstered in my faith by Him, and still living according to his purposes that my doubt was not of my origin but a hindrance placed within me to prove the sovereignty of God! It caused me to search harder for Him. I mean, even though I struggled to believe in Him I am still saved and can still be his child. I hope that one day this can be something I can share with others with similar problems to bolster their faith too.

I understand you are finishing your first year at West Point soon—congratulations! Did you ever have any hesitations about going into the military, or have you always known this was the path you wanted to take for your life?

I have to laugh when I answer this because no, I didn’t always want to go into the military. In fact, on a summer vacation to Texas when we were living overseas I indignantly proclaimed to my father that I would never even consider the military because I had “served enough.” (Bad move considering I was talking to a man who had been in the Army since he was 17.) He (as always) diplomatically pointed out the gross flaw in my statement and assured me I didn’t have to join, but wanted to make sure I knew that in fact I hadn’t served enough. And, that no matter what I did, I would have to do something in the service of others before I started my money-making career. A few years later I was on a trip with him and sat in on a conference he was attending. After that meeting I realized what the military truly was and decided that this was the life for me. From then on I think the correct word to describe my state was obsession. I decided that West Point was the best way to go about my plan and haven’t looked back since. Of course, I have spent countless hours in prayer about my decision, but I always felt the compass pointed toward West Point.

I’m sure you are so proud of your father, but there were probably some times when his absences were difficult to get through. Can you think of a time when you were struggling with his being gone, and tell me how your faith helped you get through it?

You know, this might sound untrue, but I’m a cadet and I’m not allowed to lie! Honestly, I’ve never felt his absence was a struggle or the core of an issue for me personally. Like I said earlier, I always knew his motives for being gone, where his heart was, and that he loved me very much. I knew it was God’s plan for him at those times to be where he was. That’s the way we’ve been taught to think in my family. Now, I will say that I’m sure this answer would be a little different for my mom. She bared a great deal of the stress associated with the deployments and in retrospect, her hard work was probably another great factor of why the deployments affected me and my sisters so little. I’m not saying life was always perfect, but knowing that we were all in God’s perfect plan went a long way in coping with the stress.

What difference does your faith in Jesus make in your life?

Wow. What a question! I think that the influence of Christ not only affects my life, but it’s truly the driving force behind literally everything I do, or at least that’s my intention. I say this next statement with the understanding that I’m trying to effectively answer your questions and that I’m not trying to be prideful. But I digress. Over the years I’ve had countless people tell me that I’m one of the nicest people they’ve met, and that there’s something different about me. I always give them the same answer. “Nah, I am who I am by the Grace of God. This isn’t me, it’s God’s love.” Want to see some confused faces, give that to them. It never fails that I strike a chord deep within their hearts. It always makes an impact and that’s just God!

Basically, without Christ, I am nothing. He’s my savior!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

My mother was just as much an instigator for who I am as my father was.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the great affect my mother had on me not only through the deployments, but peacetime as well. She has devoted her life to me and my sisters and it shows. We live such blessed lives and have been given so many great opportunities because of her. She was just as much an instigator for who I am as my father was.