In “Ode to Field Mouse,” Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” For Pfc. Kristie Hawley, her plans didn’t exactly go awry, they were just delayed.
Hawley has been in education for more than 20 years, the last five at Independence High School in Independence, Kansas, where she teaches career development and life skills.
“I always tell my students my story about how I got to where I am, what I wanted to do when I grew up,” said Hawley. “I wanted to be in the military and my parents were not thrilled about that because it was a different time. Through my lessons, I talk to my students about reaching their goals. ‘Don’t give up on your goals, don’t give up on your dreams no matter what. Everything is attainable if you work toward it.’ And they go ‘Hawley, why aren’t you doing that?’ The kids got me!”
As it happened, she had a recruiter coming the next day to talk to her class. After class, Hawley talked to the recruiter and later to her husband, a former military contractor.
“He said, ‘Go for it!’ He was 100 percent supportive. That was October 2019.”
However, before joining, Hawley had a hurdle to overcome -- her age. Because she was over 35, she had to get a special age waiver.
“That took about two years,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rudolph Draper, Hawley’s recruiter. “She had to have outstanding reasons for approval. She was a center of influence a teacher and community activist.”
With letters of recommendations from two state representatives and others, Hawley obtained her waiver and took her oath of enlistment June 30, 2022. She left for armor school at Fort Benning, Georgia, Aug. 31, where, at 43, she was the oldest recruit in the class. Despite her age, Hawley got along well with the younger recruits.
“They looked up to me for advice and leaned on me for support and I needed them, as well. We had a really great relationship.”
Although Draper tried to steer her into a different Army career, Hawley was adamant about joining armor.
“If I’m going to do something at my age, why not do something that cool?” said Hawley. “It’s already crazy at my age, to go in at 43, so I’m going to pick a job that’s amazing and what’s cooler than being able to operate and drive the most deadly weapon in the U.S. Army?”
Hawley’s advice for others considering a military career is the same she always gives her students.
“If the military is something you have always thought about doing, then do it,” she said, “because as hard as it is, the reward comes ten-fold. I’ve done things I never could imagine – rappelling down a 40-foot tower, firing a sabot from a tank at night. How many people can say they’ve got to do something like that?”