Co-Authors, Home & Away: Story of Family in a Time of War (2011)
Captain in U.S. Army Reserves
Senior Counsel with the American Center for Law & Justice
Attended Harvard Law School
Attended David Lipscomb University
Editor of SixSeeds.tv
Co-Founded political website www.EvangelicalsforMitt.com
Author, Not Afraid of Life, and Red State of Mind:How a Catfish Queen Reject Became a Liberty Belle.
Attended David Lipscomb University
David and Nancy French: Following the Call of God
The 700 Club
A CALL TO DUTY
David and Nancy French lived a comfortable, “normal” family life in Philadelphia. David was a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard Law graduate, attorney, and president of a free speech organization. Nancy was a freelance writer working from home and was raising their two children.
One morning in 2005, David read a newspaper article about a wounded soldier in Iraq who was his age. This story deeply moved David. He asked himself, “How was this man any different than me? Why was it right for him to sacrifice and not me?” To David there was no good reason why he should spend his life with the knowledge that “someone else” would volunteer. Then David told Nancy he wanted to join the United States Army Reserves. It wasn’t an easy decision, but the family felt that God was calling them into service with the military.
David says many times we don’t think of joining the military as being a calling from God, but the French family found that it was. He had a fierce surge of conviction and quoted something by Stonewall Jackson to Nancy, “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me.” The French family embraced God’s call on their lives with the thought in mind that God was with them safe at home or on the battlefield.
When 9/11 happened, it awakened his desire to serve in the military, but he assumed he was too old. After reading the newspaper article, David had a renewed conviction to serve in the military and was able to get an age waiver to be able to serve. Nancy also recalls when she first met David in college and in passing he mentioned that he wanted to be in the Air Force. Nancy remembers that she didn’t think much of his I-wanted-to-join-the-military schtick at the time. She thought that’s the type of thing people say to get credit for being virtuous without actually having to sacrifice anything. He was commissioned in the Army Reserves but found himself assigned to a place reservists don’t usually go…an armored cavalry unit in Iraq.
David was deployed to Iraq as a JAG officer with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He worked in “operational law,” the branch of military law that directly applies to the battlefield. After a few weeks in-country (October 2007 – September 2008), David’s unit launched an assault on an al Qaeda stronghold in Diyala province. “Operation Raider Harvest” was David’s first exposure to the war “outside the wire,” as he worked on detainee operations, built relationships with local Iraqi leaders and saw the horrible toll of al Qaeda atrocities. He was shocked at the challenging scale of building a functioning, orderly society in Iraq.
On the home front, Nancy wanted to get her life together and not “screw up” their two kids or the family. She wanted to try to make their lives better and have David return to a better family. Never having balanced a checkbook, Nancy learned to pay the bills and decided to tackle the family debt while David was away. She sold things and got extra jobs to help tackle this. That year she was able to pay off everything except the house. Unfortunately, David and Nancy say many times military members returning from deployment come home to debt. David and Nancy also say this sense of purpose for Nancy helped her get through David’s time of service. Nancy also credits her church for helping her with practical, emotional, and spiritual support. Both of them learned absolute trust and reliance on God for everything – a true manifestation of faith in action.
ONE OF DEPLOYMENT’S HARDSHIPS
David says one of the untold scandals of war is the high number of family break-ups and infidelity in spectacular ways. He heard many stories as a lawyer, even though this was not his specialty. Many times he felt like a chaplain. Nancy and David set up some common sense rules to keep this from happening in their relationship – no socializing alone (no drinking, no going out to lunch, no phone calls) with the opposite sex. While David was deployed she followed the common sense guidelines and was accountable to a female friend. David says one of the biggest problems is that many times people are not aware of their humanity and their sinful nature. There is a misconception that mixed gender friendships are the same as same gender friendships, which isn’t true. Both David and Nancy mutually agreed on the guidelines and boundaries. David cautions against opposite gender friendships. Don’t go out alone with someone of the opposite gender if you’re married. Abstain from the appearance of evil. Nancy gives an example of her own. On Facebook, a former flame contacted her…she did not respond.
END OF THE TOUR
David’s tour of duty ended a few weeks sooner than scheduled. Reluctantly, he left Iraq. It was hard for him to leave as most of his team was still on duty. David describes his homecoming as “terrible” because twenty minutes after he returned home he found out a close friend was killed by a suicide bomber. Nancy wanted to surprise David with the news of their debts being paid off but couldn’t because of his friend’s death.
The couple found it was a huge adjustment going back to family life. Both David and Nancy were different people. Nancy describes David as “having an edge,” which David says was him processing everything he had just been through in Iraq. Nancy says it was a big transition because they had changes in their personalities. They have a much better marriage now. They love more and their lives are more purposeful. David says that doing what God wanted him to do changed him for the better. Now they are less disturbed at the normal adversities of life and there is a shared purpose.
THE CONTINUING STORY
David and Nancy describe their story several ways. Nancy says this story is about marriage, love, God, community, church, family, and faith. It’s also the story of a family’s life when they follow the call of God. David says he wanted to tell the story so his group’s part of what they did in the war would not be forgotten. Courage was there. He was on the field and saw firsthand true heroes. People say WWII was the best generation, but he saw men laying their lives on the line every day. Life is difficult, but if you’re following God’s plan it is best and He is with you. No matter what life brings, God is good and He won’t break.David would not trade his experience for anything. They have grown better individually and as a family.
Before his deployment he defended the free speech of this nation, but since his military service his job has expanded. He now defends liberty and free speech internationally as a senior attorney for the ACLJ, and his time in the Army has helped to equip him. Nancy has co-authored a book with Bristol Palin (her experience as an Army wife helped her relate with some of Bristol’s experiences). They are concentrating on raising their three children: Camille, Austin, and Naomi (whom they were in the process of adopting from Ethiopia while David was in Iraq). Later, they learned Naomi was born the day David was flying into Iraq – which was a personal confirmation that God was with them the whole time.
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