If you’re ready to jumpstart your 4th of July weekend, look no further for inspiration. Active duty Army helicopter pilot Amy Lou Hawthorne is fearless – in the skies, in sharing her honest take on marriage and in her devotion to motherhood. We are in awe of her giving spirit, which we’ve found extends far beyond her duty to serve her country. Thanks for taking a few minutes to share with us, Amy!

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Tell me a little about you and your family.

Hey y’all! I am Amy Lou Hawthorne (Amy, Amers, Ames, Amy Lou, you name it). I’m half Korean, which is a huge part of why I love and adore learning about different cultures. I was born and raised in Kentucky where I lived until I was 18 and then I moved to New Jersey. After attending Seton Hall University for a few years, I transferred to Auburn University in Alabama and graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mathematics. Upon graduation, I also commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the United States Army. My first Army assignment was at flight school where I met my (now) husband, Blake, on a blind date! We both graduated as OH-58D Kiowa Warrior Army Reconnaissance Helicopter Pilots and were stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington. While stationed in Washington we did a nine-month tour to the Republic of Korea and upon returning to WA, we had our beautiful first child, Miss Everly Brynn Hawthorne! We consider our little six-year-old beagle, Bella, our other daughter.

Specifically about me? First and foremost, I love the Lord. I am a southern girl at heart, but I love the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I love traveling, watching and playing sports, crafting, pretty handwriting, decorating the house for every holiday, camping, Auburn football and coffee! I am VERY passionate about soldiers and sharing my life lessons. We want to one day adopt a little Korean boy or girl. I am addicted to being organized and writing lists! My love language is giving; giving to someone who does not expect it makes me feel complete. Lastly, I am a living testimony that failure is going to happen and it is okay. It is how you grow from that failure that really confirms your true character. 

I am in awe of your career choice. Tell us about it and why you decided to go the military route.

I am the daughter to a courageous veteran of the Vietnam War. I was born on a military base and raised just off the post for 18 years. The Army life is truly all I knew. I loved the discipline, the physical fitness challenges, the leadership potential, the motivation and the deep traditions of the Army culture. As an 18-year-old small town girl, I took a leap and moved to New Jersey to work in NYC, hoping to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. The Lord had other plans. Soon after arriving in New Jersey I accepted a Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC) scholarship, beginning ROTC at Seton Hall University, before transferring to Auburn University in 2009. At Auburn, I continued ROTC and eventually commissioned into the Army.

I cannot sugar coat it. Being a female in a male dominant organization is difficult. Add on top of that the fact that I’m a pilot in the male dominant Aviation branch makes it even more challenging. I’ll put it this way; in nearly all five of the major courses I’ve been in (ROTC, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Flight School and the Aviation Captain’s Career Course) I have been one of or the only female in every course. So that’s hard. Especially cause I do have a girly side. I love crafting and fashion and pretty things and so I find myself fighting a constant battle with “what pants am I wearing today?" Ha! Additionally, I’m married to another service member. Being dual military is so incredible rewarding and fulfilling, but many challenges come with the territory, which I will talk about later. Now, having a daughter only adds to the difficult schedules and many, many tears. With all of this, while you may find me an emotional wreck on some days, and while other days are incredibly challenging and demanding, I will never NEVER look back on my decision to serve this country. Wearing the uniform, representing the red, white and blue and being a part of the greatest organization on this planet is the most incredible honor and privilege I could ever be given. 

What's the best thing about flying a helicopter? Where did your love of flying come from?

To be honest, I did not grow up wanting to be a pilot. I never pictured myself getting into Aviation. I have been flying in planes since I was only 3 months old (flying to Korea to visit family), but I never pictured myself behind “the sticks.” I always wanted to be a meteorologist or a sports broadcaster or an actuary! Ha! (I know, completely different ends of the spectrum). Once I joined ROTC, I quickly realized that as a female, Aviation was one of the “coolest” and most challenging branches I could go into. So, I made it a challenge and goal for myself to be an Army helicopter pilot. It did not come easy though. There were 4,700 cadets in my 2010 commissioning group from collegiate ROTC programs across the country. I had to graduate in the top 470 (top 10% in the country) to be guaranteed Aviation. I ended up graduating as the 51st out of 4,702 cadets in the country and so was guaranteed a slot in flight school! It was super hard though. I am not a mechanical person. While I love math and science, technical and mechanical subjects have never come easy for me. So I fought hard through flight school, and you’ll love this; I was the only female in my flight school graduation class of 52 men. And….I finished #1 in my class! haha, girl power?! But really, the best part of flying is when you’re flying in calm, beautiful skies, looking down on the day-to-day things you see everyday while driving. Flying 100-3,000 ft. over something gives you an entirely different and surreal perspective. It is so calming and peaceful.

You've been open about the fact that your first years of marriage had their ups and downs. So many people just give up -- why did you stick with it?

I’m an open book when it comes to talking about our marriage. Our first two years were rough. Very rough. We spent the first year apart, living in two separate states across the county. We got married only four months after meeting on our blind date. I hate to say it, but truth is…we didn’t know anything about each other. We knew the good stuff, but that’s what everyone tells each other when you first meet a potential partner. You share the good…not the ugly. And so the truth is we didn’t know all the annoying and boring and ugly aspects of each other’s lives. So here we are over Skype trying to learn one another and well, Skype dating is just hard. Then, a year later, we were thrown into living together AND working together and we were a signature away from divorcing. Living with someone you barely know is hard work! So many things that get on each other’s nerves that can be detrimental to a new marriage! Throw on top of that working with your spouse! Ugh! So hard! Marriage counseling and the power of forgiveness saved our marriage; it saved us. I had to hear from a professional that we needed help!

I had to honestly swallow all of my pride and take a hard and deep look at myself before anything could be fixed in our marriage. And that’s the key. Self-awareness and self-assessment. We cannot be better wives and better partners if we aren’t happy with ourselves. I realized that so many of the things that bothered me about my husband were that way because they were things I was self conscious about for myself. I realized that he was not the bad person, but that I was making him out to be the bad person. I can proudly say that 4 years later, we have the most beautiful, forgiving, loving and open marriage, and it is because we chose to fight through the ugly and remember the beauty. And now, we can share these insights and the importance of love and hope with our baby girl.

How did you pick the name Everly?

Haha! This is a very funny subject. So as I sat there, night after night during the first trimester, coming up with first and middle names, I would say a name and Blake would hate it. I would say another, and he would hate it. And this went on and on and on! I kinda thought we would end up having the baby and she would have no name! I loved the name “Channing” and I loved the name “Tatum”. Not together. Just individually, I liked both of those names! I told him and he looks at me and says, “Really, Amy? Channing Tatum? First off, that is a guy. And second, well, just no. I can’t look at my baby and think of him every time I see her!” hahahahah. So, that was a quick, obvious no.

I was about halfway through second trimester, and I came across the name Everly! I thought, wow, that’s beautiful. Timeless and classy, yet a little modern and edgy and most importantly, it was different! Score! But then, I started thinking about how Blake would react and I “just knew” he wouldn’t like it! So I hesitated telling him. But then, one night over dinner, I just said it. “Hey, Blake, what about Everly?” And immediately, he looks at me and says, “that’s it.” We knew right away that was the one. I knew just because it was the first name he truly loved and did not hesitate over for a second! Fast-forward to third trimester, a few days before Everly was due. There I am, scrolling through Yahoo News stories and I see that Channing Tatum and his wife had their first baby, and….yup, her name was Everly. HAHAHAHA! Moral of the story is, now Blake thinks I had a hidden agenda the whole time and named her Everly since I could not get Channing or Tatum! ha! 

What's been the biggest change going from no kids to having a baby?

Wow. For sure time management. I cannot even remember what I did when I had so much time! I feel like every second of my day is devoted to this child, and I would not change it for the world by any means. But, day-to-day tasks take so much longer now! I feel like I am planning for a vacation when we are just going to the grocery store. While I am at work all day, I am running through lists of things to do for when I get home that all involve Everly. Going to bed takes 2 hours now because I’m getting her and myself ready for bed. Which, by the way, our bedtime is 7:30 every night now! Ha! Time management is critical after having a baby though. Through it all, you still have to find time for your faith, your marriage, work and don’t ever forget yourself. You have to find time for yourself too.

Tell us about your prints. What inspires you and why do you letter?

You know that whole time management thing. Yea, I have not quite figured out how to work the prints part back in there. :) However, honestly, those prints are my creative outlet. That is where my journey all began. I started just doodling scriptures during my devotional time and quiet time with the Lord, and eventually people started asking me to sell them. So, that’s how it all began. Once I realized there was actually something there, I began receiving custom orders for wedding invitations, business cards, t-shirt designs, book covers, etc! I am so inspired by pretty calligraphy and whimsical designs. I love learning new techniques and seeing how my style changes from year to year! Now, I am in the journey of bible journaling and it’s been such a huge blessing. I just love using my creativity to bring awareness to people with needs and most importantly to build God’s kingdom! 

What is your motto this year? What are you trying to live by?

This year is all about growing my faith through art worship, learning how to be a more committed and loving wife by providing for my husband’s love languages, learning how to be an intuitive and patient mother and most importantly, this year for me is about being true to myself. For years, I lived to please other people and to make myself “look good” to others. This was at an expense to myself and those I loved. I was not authentic. I was not genuine. I was not honest. This year, I have truly found my humility and I’m so happy with who I am and why I am this way. So for me, this year my motto is “Be happy with you.” Cause that is where it all begins.