Their Stories Told

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Lynnette Hupman

The Gift of Gab

“The gift of gab.” That’s what Lynnette Hupman calls it. It doesn’t take long for someone having a conversation with Lynnette to realize she likes to talk, but it’s how she uses her words that make her cheerful chatter a gift. Throughout her military career and volunteer work, Hupman has used her words to serve, lead, inspire, motivate, and witness to others. From achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) in the Army to serving as Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) President, talking with Lynnette feels a little like talking to a WELS celebrity. Even with all her accomplishments, Hupman would humbly deny such a claim stating, “I just talk about other people’s stuff a lot.”

Born in 1957, Hupman grew up as the oldest of six farm kids in Nebraska. Her parents were both teachers, until her father was called up for Korea and returned to his career of farming after his military time. Growing up in the farmhouse, daily struggles were normal to Hupman. Lynnette’s family home had no indoor plumbing until she was nine years old, and even then, shallow pipes meant running water in summer only with frozen pipes each winter. Rather than feeling sorry for growing up as a “poor kid”, Lynnette’s parents instilled a can-do attitude. “You wake up cold, you go throw corn cobs in the furnace,” Lynnette said. “We went into town twice per week for swimming lessons and filled gallon water bottles when the well went dry.” Army life never felt like a hardship to Hupman because she was raised to conserve whenever possible. She never learned to waste and lived comfortably without common luxuries.

As a way of gaining financial assistance, Hupman soon enrolled in a civilian-acquired skills program through the local Army National Guard (ARNG) Armory in Norfolk, Nebraska. She fell in love with the Army ethos, and it was common for Lynnette to go to the armory on Saturdays just to see what she could help with. A recruiter urged her to join the Guard, which had just opened its doors to women. When Hupman turned 17, she eagerly joined the ARNG and made the local newspaper. Unfortunately, her enlistment was later declared fraudulent. At that time, women had to be 17.5 years old to join instead of 17 years old. Lynnette said, “The recruiter didn’t know, because he had never recruited a woman.”

Eventually legalities were sorted out, and Lynnette served in the ARNG while attending college at University of Nebraska - Lincoln. The Guard paid 75% of her college tuition, and Lynnette carpooled to Omaha on drill weekends. Hupman says she always felt safe during drill weekends and spent those nights on cots in the armory with a few other women. “The Senior Warrant Officers were a physical hedge around the girls. There was never a single moment of sexual harassment.” After attending drill weekends throughout the school year, Hupman completed basic training in the summer of ‘75.

Since she joined the Guard through the civilian-acquired skills program, Hupman did not have to attend additional schools for training. With her already-existing skills, Hupman served as a clerk typist and became one of many “two-week wonders.” Those participating in this program received a basic military introduction, which for Lynnette included physical training (PT), learning to iron her uniform, salute and understand basic ranks, wear a protective mask, make bunks, and clean floors. At weigh-in time, Hupman was shocked to find out that she was 8 pounds overweight. “I pitched a fit, because no one ever said anything to me!” For three days, Lynnette had nothing but water and lettuce to lose weight. She weighed in again and made the cut, and Lynnette graduated from basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

After this two-week period, Lynnette became “a regular Guard gal, Private First Class.” The program that Lynnette completed was part of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC), which began during World War II. The program had very different standards and training than the male units, and according to Lynnette, “Basically taught women to avoid M-16’s and fox holes.” In 1978, the WAC was disbanded, and women were fully integrated and “issued fatigues and boots instead of Oxford loafers and uniforms we had to iron.”

As her service in the Guard continued, Hupman got out of personnel and into supply parts and administration, eventually working at the Nebraska USPFO (United States Property and Fiscal Office). When she went to Camp Guernsey, Wyoming, Hupman saw artillery and drove a 5-ton truck, making her fall even more in love with the Army. “Being a farm kid prepared me for it. I would try to wear makeup, and it always looked goofy on me.” When an administrative position opened in Washington, D.C. Hupman applied and left for Fort Myer, Virginia in ‘83.

At that time, Lynnette was married and “didn’t want to be married to my husband, the man I’d agreed to stay with until death.” Hupman recalled the guilt of living together and rushing into marriage without counseling. The couple tried counseling through Fort Myer and attended church at Grace Lutheran in Falls Church, Virginia. Lynnette had a trusted relationship with her pastor, whom she calls “a legend.” Lynnette told Pastor Beckmann that her then-husband was going back to Nebraska, and that she was staying in Virginia. “My pastor said, ‘No, divorce is not okay. You’re not in the Word, Lynnette,’ and I wasn’t.” After the couple separated, Lynnette did not take communion for three years.

Lynnette shares that one of the best ways to stay connected to faith life is “by following the rules,” which Lynnette states she didn’t do well at the beginning of her career. Her faith life progressed along with her career. “Keeping the faith was living the faith. I walked the walk, and I talk about God a lot. When you’re not a closet Christian, people call you on it, and that helps keep you accountable. If you’re talking and someone hears you swearing, they’ll say, ‘Hey, I thought you weren’t supposed to say stuff like that.’ Once you are cast in the mold, people help keep you there.”

Hupman worked her way up in the enlisted ranks while completing a bachelor’s degree in government and political science. She was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant and served as an instructor in the Standard Army Maintenance System and Tactical Army Computer. She remarried and “made a commitment to God for real.” At the National Guard Bureau (NGB), Hupman networked while playing on the ARNG softball team. “I became the catcher, so you get talking to a lot of people.” Hupman became friends with Lieutenant General Temple, who to this day says, “Hey Catch, how you doing?” when she calls him. Hupman finished the Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College, and earned a master’s degree at Virginia Tech near the top of her class. She worked on the Program Objective Memorandum (POM), a long-term budget, and worked 10–14-hour days at the Pentagon.

When Hupman remarried, she made a promise to always uphold her marriage vows as the second most important thing in her life, second only to honoring God. Lynnette stepped back from the long hours at the Pentagon and applied to serve as a liaison officer to the Department of Defense (DOD). A connection at the Staff Congressional Program and connections from Hupman’s softball team helped to get her set up with the job. She went from wearing a uniform to wearing civilian clothes, continuing to work with the active Army, but from the congressional side. Lynnette served in the House of Representatives as a congressional staffer, working with organizations like the VA, DAV, and American Legion. Hupman worked “on the Hill” for a year and returned to NGB serving in a prestigious personnel position, the General Management Office. Hupman retired as Lieutenant Colonel and states it was, “The most charmed 28 years of military existence that I know of.”

Since her military time, Lynnette has devoted countless hours to volunteer work. “I’ve been given so much, and I can’t see wanting to read all the books, see the movies, or do social media. I’m not afraid to go up and meet people,” she says. Lynnette has volunteered for her church preschool, helped kindergarteners learn to read, served with WELS Prison Ministries, supported Kingdom Workers and the Befriend A Mission project, worked with shut-ins, and brought calendars to local Veterans through the VA. Among all her volunteer work, Lynnette is proudest of her service as LWMS President.

Lynnette grew up hearing about LWMS and going to conventions with her mother. She loved getting to meet missionaries sharing God’s Word across the world and loved being able to represent them as LWMS President. Lynnette was so dedicated to her role as President that she even hired a personal trainer and housekeeper once elected so that she could bring her best and put as much focus on the organization as possible.

Hupman says that the proudest moment of her life came at the LWMS National Convention in Denver, Colorado in 2009. As President, Lynnette led the procession of flags representing each country where WELS does mission work across a busy street and down the aisle of the convention center. Traffic stopped outside, and inside the crowd rose as Lynnette carried the American flag down the center aisle. Hupman became overwhelmed with emotion as she described the feeling of carrying our country’s flag, while remembering her military service and standing in front of her family and a crowd of believers. Hupman’s service to this country and to God’s family of believers is an inspiration to others, and she doesn’t hesitate when given an opportunity to share more of herself, time, and talents to benefit others. Lynnette says, “If God presents an opportunity, I take it. I find great joy in sharing Jesus with people who know Jesus and getting them excited about it again. I give people a smile because I can. I can’t do hair or quilt, but I’ve got the gift of gab.”

Written by Natalie Lendt, 2023

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