News - Calling: From Lady Panther to Lieutenant Colonel

Calling: From Lady Panther to Lieutenant Colonel

By Carla Morris

Vonjia“God ordered my steps into the military,” reflects Vonjia Shannon ’84, recently retired after 29 years in the U.S. Army. The former Lady Panther basketball player and accounting major has served as company commander, battalion commander and deputy director G1 in a career that has taken her to Baghdad, Iraq, and Seoul, South Korea.

“It was my opportunity to reach many individuals, giving guidance spiritually, financially and professionally,” she recently said in retrospect. “It’s a great feeling when I run across someone I’ve led, and they tell me how I helped them. [It’s] nothing but God!”

Here is how “calling” unfolded in Vonjia’s experience.


Think back to your high school days, what kind of future did you envision?

First let me start by saying I NEVER had any inkling of joining the military. For one my, Dad wanted me to join after high school, but what teenager goes along with what their parents want? Also, the military wasn’t a part of my long-term goals to become an accountant and take the business world by storm and rise to the top of a corporate ladder.

You majored in accounting at GC and afterward took a job with a CPA firm—so far so good in terms of your goals, right?

Until they downsized! In September of 1986, I was out of a job, living at home and job-hunting. But, I was determined not to take just any job; it needed to flow with my goals. Meanwhile, my cousin had just started a new position with the Army as a recruiter for the Reserves.  He asked if he could use my name and information just to meet his quota. I was not obligated to do anything, so I agreed; and that’s when it started.

That's when the Army actively recruited you?

Yes. They asked if I would take the ASVAB, and, not doing anything else during the day (still not working) I decide to take the test. I scored very high. By mid October, a sergeant was calling me nonstop, bugging me about joining. I put him off, but all the while, I had this nagging thought that it might not be so bad . . . So, I came up with these ridiculous requirements that the Army would have to meet for me to join: (1) I had to be an officer, (2) all training had to be completed within one year (I still had a career to pursue), and (3) every detail of the agreement had to be in writing.

How did the Army respond to your outrageous requests?

They accommodated all of them. I went to basic training at Ft Dix, NJ, then to Officer Candidate School at Ft Benning, GA. After receiving a commission as a second lieutenant, I went on to my Officer Basic Course at Ft Benjamin Harrison, IN. 

Through my 29 years of service, and obtaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, I came to the conclusion that God ordered my steps into the military. My service allowed me to share my gifts with people whom I would never have met were it not for the military. Today I am still in contact with those I’ve met from basic training, Iraq, Korea and units in between. My life is enriched because of the military.

Tell about a time when God used your gifts to bring about good during your service.

Once when I was in Iraq, my executive officer (‘XO,” second in command) shared how she and her sister hadn’t spoken in a while. I told her a story about how at the unit I just left, my supervisor really put me through hell. Later, when my XO and I were in the process of leaving Iraq, we ran into that former supervisor. We spoke as if nothing harsh existed between us. Walking off, my XO questioned how I could be so nice. I said forgiveness is hard, but by forgiving, I am at peace and don’t have to carry that weight around. Months later my XO contacted me and said that because of that encounter in Iraq she was able to forgive her sister, and it was the best thing to happen.

Often times in my position, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor junior officers and enlisted [personnel]; I’ve been a sounding board and provided guidance.

In all of this, what have you learned about the path where God’s call leads us?

I’ve come to understand that He gives us the choice to step off the path. For me, when I am following God’s plan, I get a déjà vu vibe, which let’s me know a move is right. Throughout my military career I experienced that vibe, which is what kept me in.

How did your eventual rise through the ranks strike your dad?

My Father was quite proud of me for achieving all I did in the military . . . but he still said that I should have joined out of high school!

GC Vision: We inspire our students to embrace God's call. Go here to tell us your story about embracing God's call.

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This story was published on October 21, 2016

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