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The Cross & the Pen: A Conversation with Ellie Kay

  • Eva Marie Everson
  • Updated Mar 31, 2003
The Cross & the Pen:  A Conversation with Ellie Kay

Welcome to "The Cross & the Pen,"'s newest author interview column.  For our first interview, I am pleased to introduce a timely book, Heroes at Home, by best-selling author Ellie Kay, who believes God created her to be a military wife. "For me this has been the big adventure, which is strange when you consider that I grew up in one neighborhood my whole life until I married Bob."
Heroes at Home honors both our nation's service men and women, but also those who serve our country by loving them. Both during wartime and peacetime, the parents and siblings, spouses and children of our military are often forgotten. Ellie Kay's book not only reminds readers who the heroes at home are, but also encourages us in what we-the average American citizen-can do to help.
Eva: Ellie, tell us a little about your husband. 
Ellie: Lt. Colonel Bob Kay, "The World's Greatest Fighter Pilot," and has flown several different jets including the Stealth F-117 fighter.  He is a man of integrity and great leadership.
Eva: You and your husband have a special nickname for one another.  Would you mind sharing it?
Ever since our honeymoon, my husband and I decided we wanted to call each other something special and out of the norm.  Thus, we came up with the term "Beloved" that comes from Song of Solomon "I am my Beloved's and He is mine, His banner over me is love."
My father was in law enforcement, so I know some of the fears that go along with hearing about tragedies and fearing the worse for the one you love.  You share in your book that you and Bob have a code so that you don't have to experience that. 
When an accident happens, the squadron shuts down--no calls in or out.  Bob will TRY to scramble to a phone before "shut-down" and call me.  He says, "Hi Beloved, I had a good flight."  That is code for:  a jet has gone down, someone might be dead, but it's not me.

Eva: Tell us more about your family.
Ellie: We have two adult children Missy-23 and Mandy-21. Five school-aged children:  Daniel-16; Philip-14; Bethany-12; Jonathan-9 and Joshua-8.
Eva: How do your children cope with their father's job?

Ellie: They look at it as what he does for a living. When there are causes for concern (an accident, a war, a separation) we provide a solid foundation in our home life and that carries them through.  They are all well adjusted and all are honor roll students who know Christ personally, this is also a source of their strength.
Eva: How do you?
I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.  When Bob is flying a dangerous mission (and sometimes training missions are the ones with the highest accident rates), I pray Psalm 91 over him, substituting his name in the passage.  This keeps my focus on eternity, which keeps my internal focus on Christ.
Eva: What is the greatest challenge to sending a loved one into "harm's way?"
Knowing it may be the last time you ever see them, knowing that they may not come back.  There are no guarantees.
Eva: What passion drove you to write this book?
There was no book on the market that spoke to all branches of the military about the challenges of military life. There wasn't anything that showed new military families how to move smarter, make new friends, handle the military pay finances, and stay connected when you're apart from your spouse or handle sending a loved one into harm's way. I filled that gap with this book.

Eva: If you could look your reader in the face and say, "Please don't miss this part," what part would it be?
: Mend fences before your spouse is deployed.  No matter what the cost, make it right.

Eva: Ellie, I have found that when we are hurt or angry-or even dealing with self-righteous emotions-we don't always see the obvious.  Even though it may be obvious for some as to why you suggest mending fences "before," would you elaborate?
The military member should mend fences with those around him.  If he is estranged from his parents, if his in-laws drive him nuts, if he's giving his wife the cold shoulder---he needs to make these situations right.  It is hard to send your spouse away on a deployment; it is doubly hard if you know they don't have their "affairs in order."  They may not come back and life is to short to carry grudges when it could be as simple as making a phone call or sending a letter to make things right.  
Eva: You incorporate quotes and stories from all branches of the service and all ranks, yet there seems to be a commonality among all military families.  How do you explain this common bond?
We all face the same challenges, circumstances and we are all in the "business" of defending our nation's freedom.  We know the "price" we pay for freedom (separations, moving, employment challenges for the spouses, new schools for kids, lower pay) are all for a greater good.  We were patriots long before being a patriot was cool.

Eva: You write that many military families develop a keen sense of humor in order to get by.  Can you give us an example?
When Bob is gone, something usually breaks.  I like to put it in good news/bad news terms.  Here are a couple of actual examples.  "Honey the good news is they have another garage door in stock."  Or "The good news is that the neighbor was home at 6:00 a.m. when the hot water heater broke and flooded the entire bottom floor of the house--he helped me shut off the water.  The other good news is that the kids all helped me mop up the mess and we still got them to school on time." 

Eva: Your book features "Hidden Hero Profiles."  Why did you add this unique feature?
I always enjoy reading the personality profiles in the Sunday paper's magazine insert (Parade).  I thought it would be a unique format to use to get to know some of these heroes better.

Eva: Can you give us an example of a hidden hero?
1)A woman whose husband deploys for war and she has a baby two weeks later.  She doesn't know when he will see his son for the first time and she willingly accepts this lot in life, choosing to make the best of it and support her husband the best she can. 
2) A mother with three sons in the military who watches them all go to war at the same time and is proud of their chosen profession even though she faces her own fears of knowing they may not come back.
3) A toddler who only sees Daddy on the weekends when he's in a school for eight weeks in another city five hours away.  He doesn't even know that this sacrifice on his part makes him part of the heroes at home club.

Eva: What methods do our servicemen and women use to "stay in touch?"

Ellie: I recommend that before they leave, the cover all the special days (birthday, mother's day, valentines, etc.) and buy gifts and cards to leave with the neighbor.  When the special day rolls around, the neighbor delivers the gift.  This makes the spouse feel connected even when they are apart.  Videotape daddy reading his child's favorite story and let the child play it each night before bedtime.  Email and buy a camera so that you can see each other over the Internet.  Keep a video journal at home, to document some of the day-to-day stuff that is so missed when they are apart.  Incorporate some of the "Serviceman's Wish List" in chapter 16.

Eva: How important are those operations that send email, cards, letters, etc?
They make all the difference.  They give the serviceman hope, they take them away from the conflict for a little bit of time, they make them feel that they are still a part of their family's life, they let them know people care and are praying for them, they give them a reason to come home.

Eva: You write "Helping American military families makes patriots of us all."  How does that work?
When we come alongside a military family, it gives the serviceman confidence that his loved ones are cared for.  Without worrying about them, he is more able to compartmentalize and do his job.  Sometimes that job translates into saved lives.  Helping military families is a way of saving lives overseas.

Eva: How can the average citizen get connected, to join alongside our stateside heroes?
Get a copy of Heroes for any military family member (spouse, mom, dad, brother, etc) and give it to them because it is chock full of ongoing things you can do to help our military members and their families. 
Pray for our military and their families. Offer practical and specific forms of help such as "I want to bring your family a meal, which day is better Tuesday or Thursday?"  Buy them phone cards, movie passes, restaurant gift certificates, a camera for their computer (to view their loved one and let him see them).  On your calendar, write down a reminder to do something for them each week--even if it's just sending a card or an email letting them know you care.  If this war tarries, the ones at home will soon be forgotten as people go on with their lives.  We must see that their sacrifice is not forgotten because they are still watching and waiting for their loved one to come home.
We are, once again, at war.  If you could speak for your husband right now, what is the one thing you think he'd want the country to know above all else?
I think he'd quote someone else and say "America is great because America is good. If she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."  Please show America how "good" you are by supporting our president, our troops and their families. If we want God to continue to bless America, we will need to bless Him. What better way to bless Him, than to bless our neighbors.

Eva:  Ellie, will you close this interview with a short prayer for our country, our service men and women, and our leaders?
Dear Lord,
We know that there are no atheists in foxholes. We pray that you would call these men and women to yourself. We pray that you would send people to share the gospel with these military members and their families. We pray for a great revival among our military and their families that will spread across America and the world. We pray for our President and for those who influence his decisions and we pray that you would bless him and bless America. Amen.


Eva Marie Everson of Pen In Hand, Inc. is an award winning author & speaker.  Her work includes Shadow of Dreams and Summon the Shadows. If you would like to comment on this article, you may contact her at or visit her website by  clicking here.