Military Family Month: PACAF family shares story of adoption, love, duty

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs
For Majs. Brian and Amanda Evans, life is a constant balancing act with work and a family. At work, Amanda's the commander of the 15th Comptroller Squadron and Brian is a Special Operations Command Pacific air operations planner. At home, they're parents to three energetic kids -- two of whom are adopted.

From the outside looking in, they are a unique military family with an inspiring story of how they all found each other in life. But to them, they are an ordinary family with weekend soccer games, beach outings and lights out at 9 p.m.

"Sometimes it's hard to balance everything," Amanda said. "With both of us in the military, it's challenging, but we make it work. Brian and I do a good job tag teaming all the things we need to do."

In the Department of Defense and across the nation, families like the Evans are recognized in November as part of Military Family Month, highlighting the commitment and sacrifices made by military families. November is also National Adoption Month, so both designations mean a lot to the Evans and their family story.

In 2006, two years after their marriage, Amanda and Brian decided it was time to start the adoption process, which according to their domestic adoption agency would take 12 to 24 months to be matched with a birth mother and her child. They were fine with the anticipated wait, because it would give them time to prepare their lives for parenthood -- in addition to completing all the paperwork, fees and other legalities the process would take.

To their surprise, only six weeks after signing a contract with the agency, they were notified a mother was interested in them as a fit family for her unborn son, and by the way, she was eight and a half months pregnant.

"We talked to the birth mother after being notified, and sure enough, the next day she chose us," said Amanda, a Salinas, Calif., native. "The mother was young, about 16, and she said she chose us because we seemed like a good fit for her son with us being military. She liked that he would be raised in a diverse environment."

Their first son entered the world one week later while they were on vacation in Hawaii. Amanda and Brian were enjoying a hike when Amanda noticed they had several missed calls. Once she found out it was because the birthmother was in labor, they started making their way down the mountain and by the time they reached the base, they were parents.

"Then we had to travel for 36 hours across the U.S. to Pennsylvania where he was," Amanda explained. "It all happened so fast. We've heard stories of the process happening fast, but we thought we were going to have to wait for at least a year."

Amanda and Brian welcomed home their baby boy, Trevor.

"Trevor is a real character," said Brian, a Cornwall, Penn., native. "He has a silly side, and he can really get going and make us all laugh."

The couple said the fact that their first adoption experience happened so fast was a welcomed challenge due to what their next surprise in life would be.

Backtrack a few years before Amanda and Brian met, doctors told Amanda that due to a medical condition, she would be unable to have children, which is why they decided to adopt in the first place. To their surprise, she found out she was pregnant eight months after they brought Trevor home.

"We just assumed I couldn't have kids," she said. "But we were glad the adoption process went so quick. If we would have been waiting to adopt when I found out I was pregnant, we might have stopped the process, so it all worked out."

The family welcomed their second boy, Parker.

"Parker has a really big heart," Brian said. "If he gets on a kick with something he is really passionate about it, [he] focuses his energy into whatever it is."

Having welcomed two sons in two years, the Evans decided to wait a few more years for their next adopted child -- this time a girl.

Instead of going through the same process they did with Trevor, they decided to adopt from China. An international adoption is completely different from a domestic adoption.In China specifically, they categorize adoptable children into two categories: healthy children or children with medical needs, which can range from minor correctable abnormalities to moderate or severe needs.

"If we wanted a 'healthy' child, the wait was about seven years, whereas if we were receptive to a child with medical needs, it would be as fast as a year and a half," Amanda explained. "We talked and thought a lot about it and decided we would be open to having a child with minor medical needs or what the Chinese society deemed a 'special needs' child."

The process was lengthy, including customs and immigration requirements, permissions to adopt a child from The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the completion of a dossier to be sent to China, to name a few.

In March 2011, three months after sending their dossier, they were matched with a two-year-old orphan girl.

"She was abandoned by her family and had a first-degree cleft lip which is barely noticeable," Amanda said. "She still has it -- never had surgery and you can't even tell -- but that is what made her a 'special needs' child in China."

At that point, all the Evans had was an outdated picture of their daughter, who was being cared for in an orphanage in Xian Province.

They received permission to adopt their daughter in August 2011. At the time, Brian was deployed to Afghanistan but was able to travel back home to join his wife for travel to China.

Aug. 28, 2011, was Katelyn's "gotcha day," the day the Evans picked her up from the orphanage. They had to spend two weeks in China to finalize the process before heading back to the U.S. Katelyn officially became a U.S. citizen Sept. 9, 2011, at airport customs in Detroit, Mich.

"Katelyn is really loveable," Brian said. "She loves giving hugs and is just real cuddly."

Finally, their family of five was complete. Today Trevor, Parker and Katelyn are 8, 7 and 5, respectively.

"My kids are very energetic and a handful, so they demand a lot of attention and it can get tough," Amanda said. "Sometimes you just want to go home and go to bed, but there's so much to do. It's a challenge, but all your challenges are opportunities."

Brian said those challenges are just like any family of five and being part of a community with other military families is invaluable.

"It's absolutely important to have the support of other military families and to be able to depend on each other and get each other through tough times," Brian said.

Amanda said the adoption processes they went through were a lot of work but worth it, and families looking to adopt should be flexible and patient.

"You have to be ready for the process to happen quickly and be ready for it to take years," Amanda said. "You also have to think of all the ramifications that come with adoption. If you adopt domestically, you're going to have birth parents. We have an open adoption with Trevor's birth mom, so he can choose to meet her someday. With Katelyn, she was abandoned in China, so there's no chance of ever knowing who her parents were."

Amanda said Trevor and Katelyn are fully aware of their adoptions because, "It was important for us to make sure our kids know their situations. Trevor knows he was adopted because his mother was too young and wanted a better life for him. Katelyn knows her parents abandoned her, so an orphanage could find her, so she could find loving parents. We are transparent with them, so they know their story and where they came from, and they understand."

That's why Brian thinks it's good to have November recognize the importance of adoption.

"It's definitely worth our time and recognition to highlight the importance of military families and the importance of adoption," he said. "It's a great opportunity for a family to extend their love to kids in need and give them a good life."

Their unique story is just one of many military family stories that make up a diverse service. Through family resource agencies, close-knit work and home communities, and monthly recognition campaigns such as MFM and NAM, the Evans can have the tools to thrive in love and duty.