David “D.J.” Stinard grew up in the small village town of Greene, New York. He was a lively and athletic kid with a love for sports, and a knack for trouble. He was a rambunctious teenager who seemed to crave excitement and search for purpose. When he graduated high school, his father, a somewhat stern fellow, made it clear that D.J. was expected to conduct himself as an adult and make his own way. A moot point for D.J. because he had already made the decision to join the military anyway. All he needed was his father’s signature because, at the time, D.J. was only seventeen years old.
D.J. Stinard joined the Air Force in 1991, and it was everything he hoped it would be. Challenging, enlightening, and most of all Fun! On more than one occasion, early in his career, young Airman Stinard’s off-duty behavior landed him on the wrong side of the law. He appeared to have a talent for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then making the wrong choices for the sake of a good time. Lucky for Airman Stinard, someone would intervene into his professional life, and draw out a potential that existed in D.J. he was not aware of.
To D.J.’s recollection, Technical Sergeant Bryan Denmark was, as most would refer to him, a “hard-ass.” He was a tough and immovable object when it came to military standards and his expectations for his Airman were nothing less than excellence. Sergeant Denmark challenged young Stinard in every endeavor, but, the biggest impact he made in D.J.’s life would be something he said in response to Stinard’s reason behind his military service.
One day Airman Stinard was asked what was his purpose for joining the military, and he responded, “to die in the service of my country.” Sergeant Denmark replied, “Why not live in the service of your country?” When it was apparent he had stumped the young man, Sergeant Denmark went on to explain that if Stinard grew to be a leader, he could save a lot of lives that way. After some thought, D.J. realized that’s exactly what he wanted; To lead people and make an even greater impact for the benefit of his country. He had found his purpose. Or so he thought.
And so, began his commitment to making himself and those around him better. He dedicated countless hours to technical training and proficiency, professional enhancement, and higher education. D.J. became known as someone who not only had solutions to the various problems that would arise on any given day, but also as the kind of person who was approachable, candid, and fair.
Although, D.J. had moved past the rambunctious behaviors of his youth, he never really became one to pass up an opportunity to socialize. Of the few regrets he has, it’s one he still thinks about because while he was spending extra hours on-duty to improve the units he was assigned to, he also spent a large portion of his free time mingling at parties, bar-b-que’s, bars, etc. If there was fun to be had and alcohol present, more than likely, so would D.J. Stinard.
Unfortunately, it became apparent that the time he devoted to the unit and its personnel would far exceed what he was willing to give to his own family. At home, D.J. had a loving and supporting wife, Julie, whom he married when they were still in their teens, and three beautiful children. “D.J. the Leader” had taken priority over “D.J. the Husband and Father.”
As the years passed, tensions rose in the Stinard household, and in 2009 it all came to a head. D.J. had begun making poor choices off-duty and his absence at home had become too common. Julie had had enough, and they began to take steps to begin their separation. And then…Divine Intervention?
The Stinard family were not exactly a staple in the Christian community. They had visited churches in the past, but never actually committed themselves to practicing their faith in a church setting. But around the time that D.J. and Julie were contemplating ending their marriage, Julie would be invited to attend a church in North Charleston, South Carolina. She extended the invitation to D.J., and he accepted.
To hear him explain the experience, it sounds like something out of a movie. He was a man of little faith, and whose soul was in turmoil, but when he entered the structure, he felt he was in the presence of something powerful, and he found himself at ease. By the end of the service, Stinard surrendered himself to the force, and found a new purpose he had never considered before. Devotion to family and faith in God.
Shortly following, he and his family moved to Montgomery, Alabama where, now Senior Master Sergeant Stinard, would be assigned as an instructor for an academy for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers. D.J.’s hard work and reputation all but guaranteed his next promotion to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant, however, the promotion would require him to commit at least two more years of service. By this time, Stinard’s priorities had changed, and he thought about what that would mean for his family. So, he and his wife would practice something they came to trust only recently. They would pray together and ask for guidance.
One night, while attending a couples retreat with their church, the pastor approached the Stinards with the prospect of getting more involved with the parish. The pastor there needed help in the areas of business and leadership, and he had come to know D.J. was someone with the skills to successfully manage both. When presented with the opportunity, it was seen as the answer to his family’s prayer and Stinard declared his military retirement the very next day. From that point forward, D.J.’s role in the church increased to the point that, only a few years later, he eventually became the senior pastor of the church itself.
This year, D.J. and his wife will be celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary. Their children are happy and flourishing. Daughter, Alexandria, completed a degree in Psychology, and has started to take steps to work in a field supporting those in special education. An interest brought about after Pastor D.J. sent her on a church retreat to Guatemala where she helped in their special needs community. Son, Austin, went into the family business, so to speak, by enlisting in the Navy and working in cybersecurity. Finally, daughter, Cassidee, a recent high school graduate, will be attending Troy University in the Fall.
It’s been a long road, personally and professionally for D.J. Stinard. By the end of his military career, Senior Master Sergeant Stinard had a multitude of accomplishments to his credit. The most important of which was that he had solidified his reputation for being a military leader. A goal he set early on, thanks to the mentorship of one Technical Sergeant Denmark. Unfortunately, it would not be until late in his career that he would realize that he had placed his professional relationships well ahead of his relationship with his own family; damaging it. Fortunately, he would eventually appreciate what he had, thanks to a newfound connection to his faith and in the years following, would repair the family bond and earn back their trust. Today, now Pastor D.J., finds himself using his leadership skills and faith to save souls, not in the service of his country, but in the service of God.