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All footsteps lead to WCU for Hutchison family

By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell

Huchisons

 

They are polite, to the point in conversation and drop enough “yes, ma’ams” to make Miss Manners swoon.

But for retired Lt. Col. Kyle Hutchison and his son, Capt. Joshua Hutchison, good manners and family genes aren’t all they share. Both are Western Carolina University alumni — Kyle graduated in 1985 with a degree in business administration and Joshua in 2009 with a degree in criminal justice — and members of the same fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. And both found careers in the U.S. Army.

Hutchinsons

 

The Hutchisons are WCU’s February Alumni Spotlight and part of a featured group of alumni during the “I Love WCU” month of February.

Kyle, who grew up in South Florida, but now lives in Clyde to be near his wife’s family, was recruited to play football at WCU. He spent his freshman year struggling athletically and academically before calling it quits and heading back home to regroup. Once he did, he returned to WCU and joined another team of sorts in the ROTC, which eventually awarded him a scholarship. “I said I want to settle with this and get commissioned and go in and spend four years and then see if I want to do something else,” said Kyle, who was commissioned a second lieutenant the day he graduated from WCU. “I had no clue or no reason to believe at that time that I was going to do over 20 years.”

Kyle retired from the Army in 2005, after spending much of his career overseas working in intelligence. He served during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in Bosnia and Kosovo, and in Iraq and Baghdad in 2004. Since 2006, he has taught JROTC at Madison High School and will retire again in a few years. “I got to bounce around and spend a lot of time jumping out of airplanes and doing some work for the special operations community,” Kyle said of his Army career. “It was an interesting time.”

And a great education for his two children. “My kids got to do a lot of traveling. We lived in Hawaii for four years, Italy for three years, England for three years and Germany for a year. They grew up as Army brats and learned a lot about the world that way,” he said. “I visited over 34 interesting countries as a tourist and some as a soldier.”

Huchisons

 

Joshua, who was born in Italy, agreed. “We took every advantage to travel and experience new cultures,” he said. “Some of my most fond memories were Christmas markets in Germany, a ski trip in the Bavarian Alps, Paris, Normandy, Sainte-Mère-Eglise and Caen battlefield visits, Amsterdam, and a mission trip to Czech Republic outside of Prague.”

The family returned to the U.S. for good in 2002, and Joshua graduated from high school in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2005. Once Kyle retired, the family moved back to Haywood County where his wife, Tammy, is from. She and Kyle had met her freshman year at WCU. Although Tammy didn’t graduate — she left school to marry Kyle — she had fond memories of her time in Cullowhee and as a member of Phi Mu sorority.

Hutchisons

 

“My son and my daughter both went to Western, and the reason they did is because my wife and I were always talking about how much we loved it there and how neat it was,” Kyle said. “And then, on occasion, when we were either stateside or close by, we would always try to do homecoming when we could and bring the kids on campus and show them around. They both knew from a young age they wanted to go to Western, especially my son.” Kyle’s daughter, Kaity, attended WCU for three years before leaving and then transferring elsewhere to complete her degree. She, too, was a member of Phi Mu sorority.

Not only did Joshua follow in his dad’s footsteps to WCU, but he also joined the same fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, and served as its president, once he got the Greek organization’s charter reestablished in 2008. Other than focusing on maintaining his grades, Joshua said Greek life took most of his spare time. “Most of my fondest memories are of the big events we did with the frat, like our annual watermelon bust, which is our huge philanthropic drive that we do that involves all of the sororities,” he said. “We had our fun, but we also took things seriously. You consider it a business. We made sure we gave back to the community and helped within the Greek community as well.”

Kyle Huchison

 

Joshua said he had wanted a career in law enforcement after he graduated in May 2009, but the ailing economy meant jobs were scarce. He reasoned that a stint in the military might give him a leg up when the economy improved. About 18 months later, he officially started his Army career, first with basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia, where upon graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

In the spring of 2011, Joshua was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he currently lives. He’s had two deployments to the Middle East, both for about 12 months. He’s also father to three girls, a 3-year-old and 16-month-old twins. His wife, Marianne, whom he met in Oklahoma, is a nurse.

Now 10 years in and a plan to retire after 20, Joshua said he has stayed with the Army because he had a change of life goals: a family. “It’s like, well, the Army’s really not too bad right now. It’s taking care of the family,” he said. And he likes what he does. “I’m an air defense artillery officer. Right now, I’m a captain career course instructor. It’s the professional military education point for young captains either as they’re about to promote or are just getting promoted to captain. It’s the next level of education within the military they receive. And it’s a milestone that they have to hit typically before they go off and take command and continue on with their services as they choose to.”

Huchisons

 

This summer, the family will leave Oklahoma for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Joshua will participate in the “next professional military education level for majors.”

Both Joshua and Kyle said they keep up with WCU through the Catamount Club, which they’ve been members of off and on for years, through their fraternity alumni association, and through sporting events. Joshua credits his leadership role in Lambda Chi with helping him get into the military as an officer.

Joshua said following in his dad’s footsteps wasn’t necessarily intentional, but he’s glad he did. “I look up to my father and saw the success and satisfaction he had during my life, whether from the long-lasting bonds from fraternity brothers to his success in his military career and how it provided for his family,” he said. “It seemed like a good path to follow and I don't regret any decision I've made. My sister did the same thing, went to WCU, went Phi Mu like my mom, and became a nurse like my mom.  I think my sister and I appreciate what our parents have done in raising us and showing us how to be fulfilled and successful.”

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