Army Couple Takes on College Degrees

By Margo Myers

First and foremost, Chris and Lyn Armstrong want you to know they’re a team. Chris retired from the U.S. Army after serving 22 years, and his wife Lyn, is on active duty at Joint Base Lewis McChord, with more than 20 years served. Together, they’re not only raising four children, but they’re working towards college degrees at Brandman University. That moment when Armstrong decided to go for his Bachelor’s degree? “It was when I saw my 22 year old son, Jabb, graduate from college, and I realized I had to stop slacking,” he says. “It opened my eyes, and going to college was something I had always told my soldiers to do. I had to start walking the talk.”

And “walking the talk” he is. Armstrong is going to school full-time, working on his Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership, while holding down the fort at home with the couples’ other children, 18 year old Mizelle, Chris, Jr., 10, and Jaiden, 11 months.

Armstrong, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, had a successful Army career, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany and Korea, before retiring as a First Sergeant working primarily in logistics. Lyn Armstrong is a Master Sergeant, Automated Logistics Specialist with the 593rd Sustainment Brigade. While funneling paperwork through the proper channels is a big part of her job, she also teaches resilience training to other soldiers on base. “The Army describes it as PT (physical training) for the mind,” says Armstrong. “It’s a way to help soldiers be mentally fit.”

That mental toughness could be used to describe the Armstrong’s. Juggling teaching, Lyn’s job, the demands of a family and college classes isn’t easy, but the couple has a support network in place to help them. This is where the concept of ‘team’ comes into play. Lyn grew up in the Philippines, moving to San Diego at age 17, and then joining the Army. Her father is currently living with them to help with the young boys, and both Lyn and Chris have coaches through Brandman to help guide them through any school issues. With Lyn’s schedule, finding time for homework can be a challenge after a full day on the job, and a baby to care for at home. “The good thing about it is I can talk about it with my coach,” says Armstrong. “She helps me analyze what’s challenging me, what’s next? And we come up with a solution.” Plus, Lyn says it helps that Chris is taking the same statistics class. “He can help me understand, and it makes it easier.”

Chris Armstrong knows having his 4-year degree will make a difference when it comes to transitioning into the civilian workforce. He wants to work in real estate, and decided to attend Brandman after researching several other schools. After talking with Brandman’s JBLM campus director, Mary Ann Bardoni-Barbe, “it just felt like home.” Once Chris started, Lyn decided on a similar path for her future, starting on her degree before she retires. “Whatever I’m doing after I retire from the Army, I don’t want it to compromise my time with my family,” she says. “I want to do something with a purpose and do some good.”

As challenging as it can be, one of the biggest advantages of Lyn and Chris being in school at the same time is the measure of support each gives the other. “We have always pushed each other to be the best we can be,” says Chris. And the Armstrong’s are confident they’ll make it through graduation. “Failure is not an option,” Chris states firmly. “We want to see each other be successful.

This article was originally published in FTE magazine.