Coast Guard Family Buoyed by Faith and Friendships During Military Transitions

Coast Guard Lt. Cdr. Zeke Lyons and his wife Abby live a life not too far removed from most military families. They both work hard, think their kids are the best in the world, and face the same concerns, frustrations, and burdens that military transitions have on their lives.

How do they get through it?

“Every military spouse finds their community to be the most important thing,” said Abby. “We know we have to be invested with the people we’re doing life with.”

The Lyons have been part of many communities over the past 19 years.

Zeke, who is originally from San Diego, attended Officer Candidate School at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center. He met and married Abby in Portland, Ore., spent time in Hawaii, completed graduate school at Columbia Teachers College with a cohort at United States Military Academy – West Point, N.Y., and served with Activities Far East, Yokota, Japan prior to his current assignment at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C.

“We’re a small service that provides a great value,” added Zeke.

When he said small, he wasn’t kidding. The Coast Guard currently has less than 50k members. That’s 130K less than the Marines who have carried the motto: The Few and the Proud for nearly 45 years. Zeke admits that Coast Guard life is very close to that of a family full of leaders who want to help others.

“We’re a humanitarian service, and those who join just want to go out and rescue those in distress, protect the environment, and combat illegal activities. 

Throughout his career, Zeke has had some unique assignments where he has had a chance to help others including appointments as an overseas liaison and as an instructor at the Coast Guard Academy.

“It was such an honor to walk into an overseas embassy wearing a suit and knowing I’m the Coastie who gets to represent the Coast Guard and my country,” said Zeke. “And, sailing with the cadets gave me a chance to be part of a leadership development program where we sailed for two weeks, and grew together as a crew, it put my teaching, leadership, and sailing skills to the test all at once.”

Along the way, the Lyons welcomed two boys. Their oldest, Levi, is ten, and his little brother, Saylor, is eight. He and Abby both acknowledged that the boys are bright spots in an ever-changing environment.

“It helps to have kids because they help you make friends,” said Abby, who admits that in addition to sports and other activities, the Lyon’s church community “has been a gift to the family.”

Although the family works to unpack quickly and integrate themselves into the community, they admittedly walk a fine line knowing that the fun times make great memories, but a set of orders and a moving truck of boxes for another transition to a new duty assignment seems to be always around the corner.

“Every PCS is really hard,” admitted Zeke who confirmed that just like Soldiers, Marines Sailors, Airmen, and Guardians, Coasties move every two-to-four years, also. “We lose our community, and it’s gotten harder as the kids have gotten older.”

Abby admitted the family’s last move from Japan to D.C. was the hardest thus far.

“The kids knew even if we went back their friends wouldn’t be there,” added Abby. “It was a psychological burden we weren’t prepared for.”

The Lyons admitted that as their children have gotten older they understand more about transitions from the states to overseas, new homes, new friends, and the repeating of that cycle.

“They ask, ‘How long are we going to live here,’ and ‘when are we moving.” Said Zeke. “These are not typical kid questions.”

Although moves have impacted the family, the Lyons admit there are lessons to learn from every situation.

“Zeke and I both value friendships, and we have those around the world, continued Abby. “Our kids have learned the importance of staying in touch. You have to teach your kids that.”

Abby is currently a 4th-grade teacher at Capitol Hill Learning Group, a small, private school in D.C. She admits that her family’s faith, along with a strong educational support system has been a difference-maker for her family.

“We been so fortunate to find the best schools in every community,” added Abby. “They have been our touchpoints and allows us to thrive. They act like and treat us like family.”

That comment was no truer than over the past year. When COVID impacted the public school option for their boys, the Lyons faced a tough decision where Abby contemplated resigning to take care of Levi and Saylor. In 2 Corinthians 2:12, the Bible reads, “…the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me.” For a family who is lifted by its community and grounded by faith, it was almost apropos that Abby’s school blessed the family by offering two positions for Levi and Saylor to attend the school so she could continue teaching.

The Lyons celebrate 20 years as a military family in 2022. As they look back on where they’ve been as a family and anticipate the unknown of what may lie ahead, Abby and Zeke both admit,

“It’s been worth it, and we wouldn’t change a thing.”

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