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A Military Marriage

How does a match made in R.O.T.C. thrive despite dual careers and 19 moves in 32 years? by Annette Heinrich LaPlaca ’86


Military CoupleWhen Jody Hansen arrived on campus in 1975, she became the first woman at Wheaton on a four-year R.O.T.C. scholarship. Donald Bradshaw was also on a full R.O.T.C. scholarship, studying chemistry with a pre-med focus. Both took inspiration from then President Hudson Armerding ’41, a retired naval officer, for his “example of servant leadership and integrity,” says Jody. The two married before Jody’s senior year—though Don had already moved to Maryland to attend medical school. Jody spent the next year at Wheaton, seeing her new husband infrequently. But Don and Jody had a plan: married status would encourage the Army to assign them together once Jody graduated.

With a shared sense of adventure, they embarked on a joint military career. “And we loved every minute of it,” says Colonel Jody Hansen Bradshaw ’79, who retired in 2002, after 23 years of military service, when the timing seemed right for their family, which now includes two daughters. Brigadier General Donald Bradshaw ’77 retired in 2009 after 32 years in the Army. During those years, the couple moved 19 times and was only separated for a total of three years. Their careers included two joint assignments in Germany, and one solo assignment for Jody in Korea, where she served as the first female G1/AG (the chief of human resources) for the 2nd Infantry Division.

Though professionally gratifying for Jody, this time in Korea was perhaps the most difficult season, since Don spent the time working toward his master of public health degree in Seattle while caring for their infant daughter. With a student’s flexible schedule, he made time to “take Katherine to baby swim lessons, learn to fix her hair, and push her for hours in her swing.”

Calling their marriage a true partnership, Jody says, “The biggest challenge over the years has been managing how we support one another.”

Throughout her career, Jody worked in human resources, at one point serving as Battalion Commander in Germany with responsibility for every aspect of training and equipping soldiers.

Don practiced medicine for 15 years before moving into hospital management. He served as Commander of several military hospitals, winning the “Best Hospital in the Army” award for two consecutive years.

Don and Jody found the Army a natural place to live out their faith. “Basic Army values are consistent with Christian values,” says Don. “We work unto Christ as opposed to working for a certain commander or boss. The Army is about service to God and country.”

Moving again, Don and Jody are downsizing locally in Virginia near Don’s work for a commercial company that provides services for the United States military and veterans’ healthcare.

Jody jumped from fulltime service in the Army to homeschooling their first daughter, and in 2003, the couple adopted their second daughter, who has special needs.

With one daughter now attending George Washington University and the second in elementary school, Jody says, “My experience with training and leadership development prepared me for my role now—that of equipping my daughters for lives of service in their own chosen fields.”

And so Don and Jody begin yet another adventure with characteristic enthusiasm and with one simple understanding: “Wherever you land,” says Don, “God’s in charge.”

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