Kylie Owen Willis graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Promotion from the University of Arkansas in 2018. Kylie’s journey, like many college students’ journeys, wasn’t a straight-line trajectory. She says, “My journey began at the University of Arkansas right after I graduated high school. There, I quickly fell into a depression from being away from home and processing what I had been through as a Gold Star child, on my own for the first time. I finished one year at Arkansas and decided I needed to move back home. Once I was home, I went to Tulsa Community College (TCC) while I figured out where I was going next. It didn’t take long for me to realize where my passion lies – and it’s where it had been all along – health and exercise. I found a program at TCC that linked directly to a program at Oklahoma State University (OSU). So in 2017, I got my Associate of Science at TCC in Health and Human Performance, then quickly finished up my Bachelor of Science at OSU. Needless to say, I ended up loving what I studied, and it made it so much easier to do well in school.
“While in college, I was President of the Health Promotion Club at the OSU campus in Tulsa, and I also coached the sophomore girls basketball team at my former high school, Sapulpa High School, and absolutely loved it. I am pursuing my master’s degree in sports and leisure administration at Oral Roberts University.”
Kylie is currently serving as the Enrollment Coordinator at Children of Fallen Patriots. She says, “While I’m not currently in the health field, much of my education prepared me for my current role because I studied a lot about the way people think and behavioral theories which helps with customer service and interaction. My degree also heavily focused on programmatic development and implementation which has also been helpful being in the programmatic arm of a scholarship program."
“Working at Children of Fallen Patriots is my way of helping other children and families just like mine. Prior to Children of Fallen Patriots, I worked in the Health and Wellness field at a gym in Tulsa (as well as coaching at Sapulpa High School) I basically decided to put my health education and exercise career on hold to continue the service to our country that my dad never got to complete by taking care of those left behind. I do plan and am very excited to one day return to the health and exercise field. I love coaching and teaching! I think my dream job would be the head coach of a girls high school basketball team and a high school biology or health science teacher.”
Kylie’s father, Army Staff Sergeant Kirk Owen, was killed in action by an improvised explosive device (IED) while leading a minesweeping mission in Afghanistan in 2011. Kylie was fifteen at the time. Kylie says, “My dad was a true patriot and selfless soldier, he died because he chose the seat that he knew was the most dangerous so that none of his men would be in danger. He led his life to honor the Lord and show everyone around him Christ’s love through his actions. He even taught Sunday school for many years. Before he felt the Lord calling him to serve his country in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, he also loved classic cars and spent his life rebuilding them (beautifully at that). He joined at 31 years old and excelled in every task he was given, even being given the title of “Soldier of the Cycle” in Basic Training (which he didn’t tell us about until we showed up to his graduation!). He was very humble, and I strive to be a fraction of the wonderful person he was. Because of his sacrifice, he gave me the life that he had hoped I would have.
“I have been very active with the media and other organizations telling my dad’s story since the day he was killed. I’ve been involved in news stories, fundraising events, a movie release, and most recently I’ve been working on the Army’s Survivor Advisory Working Group that reports directly to the Chief of Staff of the Army on quality of life issues for Gold Star and Surviving families.”
Kylie and her husband Chase live in West Virginia and are expecting their first child.
Regarding her experience with No Greater Sacrifice, Kylie says, “No Greater Sacrifice has been there for me at times when I didn’t know where I was headed and I thought everything was falling apart – they’ve always provided me with the support I needed to keep moving forward. I am so grateful for the love that stemmed far beyond financial assistance.”
Scholars like Kylie are the future of America, and by honoring them, we honor their family’s sacrifice.