During the M*A*S*H series finale, a 10-year-old Kerry Childe glanced at her dad on the couch and did a double take.
There he was. Sitting at attention. Clad in his United States Marine Corps uniform.
His explanation: “The finale is on, and I have to pay my respects.”
With a Navy man for a stepfather – and being a direct descendant of Robert E. Lee’s sister, Mildred – it’s not much of a surprise Childe followed in her ancestral footsteps, serving her nation by joining the Air Force.
Childe is the Senior Corporate Counsel of Privacy and Information Policy at Best Buy. In simple terms, she makes sure sensitive customer and employee information is always treated carefully.
She’s also one of the many employees at Best Buy with a background in military service, and also a Best Buy Military Employee Business Network Director Sponsor.
This Veteran’s Day, we’re taking a moment to learn more about the talented linguist, who happens to have studied Korean, reads Spanish perfectly and has taken courses in Japanese. Oh, and her current hobby isn’t Netflix marathons – it’s learning Russian.
1. So dropping the music education major two years into the program was your personal impetus for joining the Air Force?
I had a classmate who had joined the Navy, so I talked to the recruiter, as I had been wanting to do something truly different … and this ended up being just that. So I joined the Air Force in 1993.
I learn languages easily. And in the service, linguists are very highly coveted.
I’m not bragging. As part of the test, they made up a language and asked you to figure out the grammar rules for it – and it was so much fun. Because I scored so high, I could take any one of the hard languages – Arabic, Korean, or Chinese. I studied Korean.
2. Give us the inside scoop on your training…
I trained for two years. I started out at the Presidio of Monterey in California, run by the Army. So that meant the food was terrible.
I then moved out to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. It’s in the middle of nowhere in West Texas … 90 minutes from everything.
Along the way, though, I developed back problems, and there’s a requirement to consistently lift 50 pounds in order to be able to be overseas. And the only place for my language to go was South Korea.
I was honorably medically discharged after two years and 20 days in the service.
3. How differently does the public treat veterans now as opposed to the 1990s?
The amount of respect we are shown now is 180 degrees from when I was in. Back then we would get ‘I smell something funny’ looks sent our way. Now uniformed personnel are able to get preferential boarding at airports.
4. Your family law history includes practicing illegally?
I’ve wanted to become a lawyer since … forever. My dad’s a lawyer. My step-mother was a lawyer. My great grandfather Cyril E. Childe practiced in front of the Nebraska Railroad Commission, but we’re not sure he even attended law school.
There’s actually a court case saying the practicing of administrative law in front of an executive agency like the Nebraska Railroad Commission can only be done if you have a license. My great-grandfather was the named party in the case.
In the end we have a long family history of service to others and being lawyers who like to get angry.
5. Tell us more about that realization you had while finishing up law school…
Of the 47 people in one of my final law classes, there were just two prior service members in that room. And this was in Texas.
Law school can be the door opener for a lot of things – virtually all politicians have law degrees. You have to know the rules to be able to change the rules.
But the number of people who have served who are in elected government is astonishingly small.
6. Why did you come on board at Best Buy earlier this summer?
I said this in my interview … Best Buy is the last standing consumer electronics retailer. And I want to be part of that. I want to see what we can do with that. That challenge is what gets me up in the morning.
7. How rewarding is it to see people bridging the gap between veterans and the public?
The other day on the plane, I saw a guy with an Operation PTSD cap.
It made me stop, appreciate, and realize how proud I am that there are people out there who are working so hard to bridge the gap. And that’s what the Best Buy military network is there, to bridge the gap.
And it’s not just between the military prior service and civilian life, but the other way, too … for civilians to understand people with military prior service. I’m so proud to be part of that.