Take Offs and Landings
05/06/2016 01:00PM ● Published by Jennifer Gonzalez
Gallery: Take Offs and Landings. Photos by Kiara Love. [44 Images] Click any image to expand.
Antigua, Rome, Pompeii, Greece and Hawaii: these are just a few of the beautiful places Mike and Shannon Lynch have travelled to together. From mountain biking in Pompeii to private tours of Vatican City, Mike and Shannon have made their life together an adventure.
“We try to travel each year to some place different,” they said. But whether it’s jet-setting to an exotic city or to their beach house at Holden Beach, they always land back at their favorite, and quite possibly most interesting destination: home.
Just over two years ago, Mike and Shannon decided it was time to downsize and find a new place to call home.
“We were trying to downsize, but we actually upsized,” Shannon said laughing while standing in their master bedroom. The walls around her are painted an indigo-coastal blue, which they didn’t change once they moved in, and from where she stands, the view of the backyard outside the picture windows is more like an oasis.
Just beyond the window is a set of red hummingbird feeders, which Mike says feeds “a whole squadron of dancing hummingbirds.” Beyond that, there in-ground teal-blue saltwater pool, which they leave open year-round is surrounded by a black-powder aluminum fence (“It will never rust, and it will never rot,” Mike said). Their gazebo with optional mosquito netting or panels for privacy is equipped with a chandelier. The hemline of a forest tucks them in.
“It’s a beautiful sight to wake up to,” Mike added.
“This is what sold the house,” Shannon said, looking around the master bedroom. “We love blue. It was already all the colors we wanted.”
“We wanted a place where our grandkids could come and enjoy and run around,” she continued. And they do have plenty of space; their house sits on an acre of land, which is also an asset for their 90-pound German Shepard, Jaxson.
This three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath house has 3,000 square feet. It comes with a Jacuzzi, a sauna and a bonus room. Their master bathroom has a two-person shower and a white porcelain soaking tub. The kitchen is complete with granite countertops and a glass-top stove. Hardwood floors go throughout the house. There is a guest bedroom, a “grandmother’s room,” which is full of memorabilia from Shannon’s grandmother, complete with her old make-up table and a small rocking chair Shannon herself rocked in when she was a little girl. Adjacent to their main foyer is a formal dining room. Finally, “Mike’s hangout” is where he works and studies. It’s equipped with windowed-doors they are hoping one day to frost.
On the screened-in porch, right off the kitchen, a map of the world hangs above the couch, perhaps where they dream of their next worldly adventure. Mike and Shannon use their screened-in porch in the warmer months. There is an outdoor grill and Mike especially likes to use his Big Green Egg. During the summer, they say they swim every single day.
While it wasn’t difficult for them to find what they were looking for in a house, the location was far from what they expected.
Eastover Air Ranch is a small, private community located on the eastern edge of Fayetteville. The homes are beautiful, the lawns are well-kept, and the neighbors are friendly and keep to themselves. It’s a place many would want to call home. But what’s truly remarkable about this coveted subdivision is the 300 ft. wide by 3,000 ft. long active runway.
Mike remembers the first time he visited the subdivision.
“When we first drove through, I thought, ‘A lot of these homes have huge garages,’ and then we drove by and one of the garages opened up, and this plane just drove right out and took off.”
“When we’re coming home,” Shannon said, “and a plane comes in, I always watch.”
In front of their house azaleas, gardenias and pansies are in bloom. Monkey grass leads the way to their glass front door, where a bright and welcoming wreath is affixed.
While Mike and Shannon don’t indulge in the neighborhood hobby, they appreciate what the subdivision has to offer their family.
“It was a place that met everything we were looking for, you feel there’s a sense of community.”
Community. That’s a word Mike used often when talking about the journey that led him to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Orphaned at a young age, Mike moved between relatives in California and Hawaii.
“I was a wayward youth, I lost my parents when I was very young. I didn't have any foundation, so I really latched onto the Army for that foundation to kind of anchor me. I knew if I didn't have something, I’d get in trouble.”
Mike joined the Army in 1975. In 1980, he came to Fort Bragg as a Sergeant. He served for seven years before transitioning into becoming a civil servant.
At first, he had no plans to stay at Fort Bragg, but after transitioning out of uniform, he found himself immersed in the community around him.
“Fort Bragg is a very unique and special place. The community is very connected and supportive of the military. You can really feel that.”
In 1991, Mike became Fort Bragg's installation range officer. He deployed to train soldiers and build ranges during the First Gulf War. In 2000, Mike became Chief of Training, a position he held for five years before taking his most recent assignment as Director of the Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
As a civilian, Mike served for 39 years. In his almost four decades of work, he helped lead Fort Bragg's response to environmental threats, ensured troops were properly prepared for deployments and implemented BRAC, base realignment and closure process. In 2014, Mike retired in a ceremony at the Main Post Flagpole, a location typically reserved for Fort Bragg's highest ranking officers.
“Mike won't tell you this,” Shannon said, “but he won The Order of the Longleaf Pine for his conservation and training efforts.”
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina. It is awarded to those who show exemplary service to the state of North Carolina and their communities beyond the call of duty. Beyond The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Mike was awarded an Army Certificate of Appreciation and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award. The Meritorious Civilian Service Award is the second highest award and medal presented to civilian employees within the federal government agencies of the United States.
Mike continues to contribute to Fort Bragg’s community. He works for the Chamber of Commerce as the Director of Military Relations and Leadership Programs while also running his own private consulting business. Recently, Mike was elected to the Board of Directors for Sandhills Area Land Trust, which is working to preserve land aligned with Special Forces.
Shannon, who grew up as a military brat, had a father in the Air Force. Her favorite place to live was Madagascar, off the coast of Africa. She lived there from when she was four until she was seven years old and remembers not having a television. Her parents started an American school there since there were other federal agencies in the area, too, NASA being one of them. She learned French and Malagasy, the national language of Madagascar, but was teased by other children when she returned back to the states.
“I could kick myself about not keeping up with the French,” she said.
The passion to serve Fort Bragg’s community is shared by both Mike and Shannon.
Mike said, “Fort Bragg is really a national treasure. It’s thousands of acres that’s owned by the American public that the Army is a steward of. The Army has taken great care of it.”
Shannon works as the Public Affairs Officer for Womack Army Medical Center.
For now, Mike and Shannon have no plans to leave the area. They both insist, “Fort Bragg is home now.”
“If you're lucky enough to end up at Fort Bragg,” he said, “the caliber of people, the mission, the significance and the history, once you're a part of that, you don't want to lose it.”
These two will continue to travel around the globe. Next year, to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, they plan to vacation in Tahiti. While they won’t be flying out of their neighborhood airfield, after their vacation they will be returning home, back to their own runway, touching down back at a home they love.