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Third time’s a charm, a chaplain's journey

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donnette Boyd reads a Bible Aug. 18, 2014, in the pews of the base chapel at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Boyd commissioned into the military in 1987 with no initial intentions of becoming a chaplain. After her experience with three spiritual calls, becoming a chaplain became clear in her future in the Air Force. Boyd is now a 31st Fighter Wing chaplain.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman)

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donnette Boyd reads a Bible Aug. 18, 2014, in the pews of the base chapel at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Boyd commissioned into the military in 1987 with no initial intentions of becoming a chaplain. After her experience with three spiritual calls, becoming a chaplain became clear in her future in the Air Force. Boyd is now a 31st Fighter Wing chaplain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman)

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donnette Boyd wears the patch of a Christian cross on her uniform to identify her as a chaplain Aug. 18, 2014, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. During her upbringing, religion and church were not a part of her daily life; however, she became a strong believer after discovering how to pray on her own. Boyd is now a 31st Fighter Wing chaplain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman)

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donnette Boyd wears the patch of a Christian cross on her uniform to identify her as a chaplain Aug. 18, 2014, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. During her upbringing, religion and church were not a part of her daily life; however, she became a strong believer after discovering how to pray on her own. Boyd is now a 31st Fighter Wing chaplain. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) -- "I had to preach in body armor while everyone was told to stay low, but instead of staying low, I chose to stand and preach because I said to myself, 'If something struck me right now, I know I was doing what I was called to do,'" said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donnette Boyd, a 31st Fighter Wing chaplain, talking about a deployment to Iraq.

After stumbling into a ROTC class during college, Boyd would soon discover her calling to become an Air Force chaplain through a love of military history, which would lead her to enroll and commission into the Air Force in 1987.

During her upbringing, religion and church were not a part of her daily life; however, she became a strong believer after discovering how to pray on her own. Throughout college and her first few duty stations, she was still skeptical about religion.

"I grew up in a drug-infested, gang-infested neighborhood and one day I discovered the power of prayer," Boyd said. "The gangs didn't beat me up, I never got into drugs and I honestly believe God was the one who rescued me throughout every situation."

When Boyd was 26, she said she was given a choice.

"One day, I kept hearing the voice of God in my head," the chaplain said. "I approached a 'Y' in the road of my life and was given the choice to serve him completely and keep my hand of protection from God, or live the life I was living. That day, I chose to serve him completely."

This was the first of three calls Boyd experienced during her road to chaplaincy.

Boyd explains the first calling when she was uncertain about how becoming a Christian would interfere with her social life and her ability to have fun.

"I didn't think you could have fun and be a Christian,” she said. “I judged Christianity based off what I saw in other Christians. Looking back on my experiences, I have a lot more fun now than before."

Two years later, while Boyd was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, she had her second calling.

"My second calling was into ministry," Boyd explained. "I kept having these vivid dreams about preaching, but no direction. My first thoughts were that I was nervous, scared and I am very shy in front of crowds. But then I thought, ‘Do I worry about man or do I listen to God?’"

Boyd explained how she was determined to get a clear answer on what she needed to do, and if it wasn't right in front of her, she wasn't going to pursue it. She opened her Bible, opened it to a random page, and the verse she read had the word "minister" and she took that as a clear sign of confirmation.

Boyd then took her next step and began filling in teaching Bible study at a local church in Kaiserslautern, Germany, six months later, she received her final call to becoming a chaplain.

"I remember one night I was praying, by myself, and said 'Lord, someday I want to become a full-time minister, I don't know how, but I do,'” Boyd said. "I love serving in the Air Force but I also wanted to do ministry and I did not know how I to do both.

"'You should become a chaplain,' my husband said two days after I asked the Lord how I could become a full-time minister. He explained to me how I already preached, counseled people and gave out Bibles and did the job chaplains do, and I knew that was what I needed to do."

Four years later, Boyd returned to the Air Force as a chaplain and knew this was her calling.

Boyd comes to Aviano Air Base, Italy after serving various chaplain duties at eight different locations, including two deployed locations. Her position as the wing chaplain features her leading the chapel staff and is responsible for the wing commanders spiritual fitness program for Airmen and families.

Boyd plans to expand the family outreach ministry and to improve off base religious relationships and accommodations.

"For me, religion means one word--relationships," Boyd said. "Religion is about our relationship with God and how it should reflect on our relationship with others. We can't say we love God and don't love our fellow man.

"Looking back, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I can see that this is the path God put me on a long time ago."

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