Their Stories Told

Image
Image
Image

Julia Buller

Family Love

Patriotism has always been part of Julia’s family. Growing up as a military kid, Julia and her family traveled across the world, following her father’s career as an Air Traffic Controller in the Air Force. The family lived in Iowa, Delaware, Germany, West Virginia, Texas, and Minnesota, while Julia’s father also served in South Korea and Thailand. Julia enjoyed extended camping trips with her family as well, spending time in Paris, London, and Austria. Buller fondly remembers the flags going up every morning and the way everyone would stop their car or bicycle and face the flag when the bugle sounded. “I still tear up at the national anthem, doesn’t matter where I am,” Julia says. With this strong family background, it’s no surprise that Julia went on to serve in the military as well, though her path has been far from predictable.

Julia grew up attending church and Sunday school and was confirmed Methodist. Her faith began to take a firm root when a new youth group leader and his wife were introduced to the church, a couple “on fire for Jesus.” Their encouragement and zeal for God’s Word helped light a spark in Julia, and she saw how her relationship with other Christians helped to grow and strengthen her own faith. This motivated her to attend Bethel University after high school, a Baptist institution in Minnesota, where Julia continued to find joy in being surrounded by other believers. Things changed for Buller after a bad relationship experience. “I was seeing this guy at the time and didn’t know he was almost engaged to a girl overseas. I kept calling him over spring break, and then he came back engaged.” With relationship stress, uncertainty of what to study, and the financial struggle of paying for school, Julia decided it was time for a change. “It was pretty spur of the moment. I went down to the recruitment office and went from there.”

Buller hoped to serve in the Air Force and work in military intelligence, but no open positions existed at the time. Rather than wait an extra year, Julia decided to enlist in the Army instead. Though many shared with her their opinions of joining the Air Force versus the Army and talked about the rigors of basic training, Julia wasn’t fazed. “If it weren’t for the running, I would still be in the Army, because I just liked it. It was fun.” Buller credits much of her success during basic training at Fort Dix, NJ to the words of preparation from her father. “He told me basic training would try to tear me down and build me back up. He said, ‘If you put up a tent for five hours, and they tell you to move the tent two feet over, don’t complain. Just do it.’ That was my philosophy as I went through it.”

While Julia seemed to be mostly thriving in a military environment, her faith was not. “When I joined the army, I had a friend at Bethel who told me to be careful with my faith and that things would pull at me.” Buller says she felt that everything was fine at basic training until she was walking by herself one Sunday. “I didn’t feel that God had left me, but just not that close to him at that point.” Julia then attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Devens, MA, and was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, CA as a Signal Security Specialist. Julia struggled without the support of other believers and says it felt different than being surrounded by things and people that helped her faith at school. “I just didn’t go to church. There was a bit of drinking going on. I didn’t crack a Bible, but I still prayed. It just wasn’t in the forefront of my mind anymore.”

While working as a Signal Security Specialist, Julia’s job was to monitor phone and radio conversations to ensure that sensitive information was not shared. Conversations with sensitive information were recorded, so that the sergeant could then tell the company that sensitive information was compromised. There were four Signal Security Specialists in Julia’s company, but Julia worked in administration due to a lack of job spaces. She got to know her coworkers well, especially one soldier, Jeff, who seemed to have an awful lot more administrative paperwork to do than Julia’s other coworkers. The two became friends, then went on their first date in September that year, while on a mission in New Mexico. When they returned, Jeff received hardship tour orders to South Korea, and Julia received orders to Germany. Knowing that Jeff’s hardship tour orders were likely unchangeable, the two decided to get married in November that year, and Julia and Jeff both went to South Korea. “It was now or after a three year tour in Germany. We always joke that our first year of marriage was kind of like dating, because we didn’t really know each other yet.”

Julia’s parents may have been more shocked by her news if their own story wasn’t so unique. Buller’s parents were both from Iowa. Her father graduated high school and joined the Air Force immediately following, while her mother had become a beautician and had a job in Iowa. His grandmother rented a room to Julia’s mother and invited her to a “Coming Home Picnic” for her grandson’s return visit from the military. The couple met at the picnic and wrote letters back and forth while Julia’s father was serving in France. When he returned, they were married. Julia stands by the phrase, “When you know, you know,” with her parents being married 64 years, and 40 years of marriage for herself and Jeff.

Despite the usual formalities of slow, military paperwork, Julia and Jeff’s quick wedding plans went smoothly. After their marriage in November, Julia’s sergeant and battalion clerk were able to push their wedding paperwork through, thanks in part to Julia’s role in administration. By January, the couple was stationed in Korea. With all the details of getting her wedding dress the day before the wedding to having orders changed, Julia’s only explanation for everything going smoothly is that “it was totally a God thing.”

Julia and Jeff’s first year of marriage certainly felt more like dating when they were stationed in separate cities. Julia went to Seoul, South Korea, while Jeff was stationed at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, two hours away by bus. Initially, there wasn’t enough space for Julia in the barracks, and she lived in a hotel for three months, taking taxis to work and ordering room service until she did eventually move. Jeff was placed in a Quonset hut with 18 other men. The couple coordinated times to meet during the week via letters and phone calls and would frequently meet at hotels.

On one occasion, Julia decided to be frugal, choosing a $13 hotel room over the $18 alternative. When she woke up to “a rat the size of a chihuahua, which they didn’t think was a problem,” the hotel managers agreed to upgrade her to an $18 room. At the time, Jeff was not reachable by phone and could not be informed of the room change. Imagine the surprise of the South Korean man, who answered the knock on his door in the middle of the night to find an American soldier holding a giant teddy bear for his wife! “After that, we always stayed in the $18 room,” Julia laughs. 

Julia and Jeff also took part in a Team Spirit training exercise while in South Korea, a deep woods experience. Julia remembers staying in a tent with five girls and their sergeant for two weeks, no running water or bathrooms. The team worked out of a pick-up truck outfitted with equipment and took “helmet baths” instead of showers. Julia would later work with that same sergeant again at her final duty station in Fort Hood, TX, becoming good friends with the sergeant and his wife. Buller worked in administration at Fort Hood until she separated from military service in 1986 after four years of service. Jeff finished college and studied computers, and the couple soon moved to Minnesota to start a family.

Julia’s faith life got a jump start when her daughter began school. “We were looking for a kindergarten, because the neighborhood school did not have a good reputation.” They found Good Shepherd Lutheran in Burnsville, MN, and chose it for their school. “Halfway through kindergarten year, we figured we should know what they’re teaching our child. So we started going and looking.” Slowly, Julia began forming relationships with those at church and found herself renewed through a network of believers once again. “God was always there. He led me to Jeff and into the Army, but you don’t realize it really until you’re there.” Julia and Jeff became active in Bible studies, Jeff became church president, and Julia taught Sunday school. Since then, the couple has remained active in the church.

Julia remains active at Good Shepherd Lutheran School as well. While her son and daughter attended school, Julia served as PTO president, volunteered to chaperone field trips, and ran the hot lunch program. Now that her children are grown, Buller says she is blessed to live close to her family and loves spending time with her granddaughter. Julia still serves Good Shepherd as a preschool aid and is currently in her ninth year of assisting, which she states is “the best job ever.” She serves the Lord joyfully and loves helping Jesus’ little lambs, constantly growing the family of believers.

Image

Connect with Us

EMAIL: info@lutheranmilitary.org
MAILING ADDRESS:
PO Box 483 New Ulm, MN 56073

Lutheran Military Support Group is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization
(FEIN #47-3977190)