April 29, 2022
Story and photo by Joe Vinduska
When Kate Hanlen went on a mission trip to Honduras at the age of 19, she didn’t know she would discover her career calling that would be 30 years in the making.
“We were there to help build buildings and paint mostly,” she said. “One day there was this six-year-old girl that was on the other side of a fence, and she spoke Spanish and I did not, but she showed me her leg and it had a big wound on it. I ran and grabbed a medical kit we had, and I didn’t know very much but I helped her as much as I could and I thought ‘Lord, if this is what you’re calling me to, I embrace it.’ Since that day, I’ve always prayed that my hands will be used to help as many people as possible.”
That pivotal moment caused Hanlen to enroll in nursing school, but after two years she wasn’t sure exactly in what specific arena she wanted continue helping people so, she enlisted in the Army reserves and served as a combat medic for eight years. During that time, she met her husband who was active duty and they married in 1995. Over the next 26 years, they had six children and traveled the world as a military family with her often handling all the parental duties when her husband was on deployments.
“We’ve traveled all over the world,” she said. “However, the needs of our family were always my treasure. I wanted to be with my kids, make our house a home since we did move so much.”
With her husband retired and four of her kids out of the house and the youngest two not far behind, Hanlen realized her amazing journey as a mother was going to transition into a stage that would allow her time to focus on herself.
Her son had utilized Barton’s LSEC courses in high school at Fort Leavenworth so he could graduate college more quickly. These classes are offered on scholarship to soldiers and their families that are stationed at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley.
“My son and I came down to the Army Education Center and we couldn’t believe we were able to take these classes at no charge, she said. “I kept asking them ‘Are you sure a bill for thousands of dollars isn’t going to show up in a few months?’”
Of course, no bill ever showed up, and now Hanlen is utilizing Barton’s LSEC classes at Fort Leavenworth to fill in some gaps on her transcript that she needs to finish her pre-requisites before transferring to St. Mary’s University to finish her nursing school. At that time, she hopes to find a job in hospice care.
“There is beauty in life beginning and my husband and I have had the privilege of bringing life into the world, but there is a time when your life will be finished and your heart can only beat so many times,” she said. “I think there’s a fear for so many at the end, but it doesn’t need to be fearful, there can be peace and I pray that in that time I can work with people, and to give them any peace and comfort at the end would be a privilege and an honor of mine.”
Hanlen will be 50 as she starts the beginning of the end of her educational journey and encourages others, especially military spouses, to pursue their dreams.
“Every day is a gift,” she said. “As long as my heart is beating, I just want to continually give. I had a couple years ago where I thought I was too old, but the call was great in my life to keep going. If anyone has a concern, doubt or they’re feeling like they don’t have confidence, I urge them to just keep going. Barton has been a huge gift to our family. I’m overwhelmed with how this (LSEC coursework) is offered and to be a part of it.”