Kristin Heck has served in various capacities over the years, both as a military member and in her career as a lawyer.
But where did this dedication to the good of others come from?
“My parents raised us very intentionally,” she said.
Heck grew up in Salina, Kansas. Her parents always encouraged her and her five siblings to give back to their community. She said this emphasis on service was something that was built into their lives as they were raised. It stuck. Besides Heck, one sibling pursued a military career with her, two of her siblings went on to careers in education, while another is in the medical field.
Growing up, Heck had her mind set on another career path. She wanted to go to college and then pursue a law degree.
From a young age, Heck knew that Bartlesville Wesleyan College would be where she attended. Three of her older siblings went to Miltonvale College in Kansas, and when that merged with BWC, Heck knew that she would spend her collegiate years in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
“There was never any discussion about where you go,” said Heck. “It was ‘you’re going to Miltonvale.’ And when Miltonvale closed, you’re going to Bartlesville.”
Heck wanted to attend law school, so she came to BWC to study social studies. A professor told her that her chances of getting into law school would be better with a different degree, so Heck studied business administration and earned her degree from Bartlesville Wesleyan College, graduating in 1981.
But Heck didn’t immediately go to law school. Instead, she and her sister, Judi, decided to join the Air Force.
A New Venture
Judi attended Miltonvale during its final year and met her husband, Brad Scott. After they married, Scott became an Air Force pilot. In 1981, while stationed in Spain, Scott was killed in a mid-air collision. Kristin had visited just a few weeks before the accident.
Judi moved her family back to Salina, where Heck was living. And as the sisters began talking about what the next chapter of their lives would look like, they decided to pursue commissions in the Air Force.
“She and I partnered on many adventures,” Heck said with a smile. “And we talked one another into joining the Air Force.”
Kristin and Judi attended officer training school, graduating three weeks apart. Judi had a decorated Air Force career before retiring as a full Colonel in 2006. Kristin spent 9 years in the Air Force as a supply and logistics officer. The sisters were both stationed in Okinawa, Japan, together for two years.
But while Judi had found her calling, Kristin felt that she needed to go another direction. In 1991 she left the Air Force and enrolled in law school at Washburn University. She earned her JD in 1994.
Life on deployment
Heck started a successful law practice following her graduation, but the call to service was soon beckoning again. A colleague had been recruiting her for years to join the Army Reserve, and in 1997, Heck began to pursue an Army Reserve commission. She continued her law practice, serving as a judge-advocate, until she received an opportunity to join the Army full-time in 2002.
“And I had even more adventures in the Army than I ever had in the Air Force,” Heck said.
In 2006, Heck was deployed to Iraq during a particularly bad time in the conflict. She was the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for a unit providing convoy logistics for forces throughout Iraq, deploying the trucks that took supplies to the front lines and providing security to ensure the shipments were delivered safely. While she didn’t experience any active combat, the base she lived at was mortared daily.
“You just learn to sleep with everything going on,” she said. “Every once in a while, it would be severe enough that you’d have to get up and go report in to let them know that you are still alive.”
She was in Iraq for just two days short of a year before returning to the States.
“You never forget stuff like that,” she said.
Heck also served a tour in Kuwait in 2010. That experience was quite different, although challenging in its own ways.
“I equated Kuwait to more like what I think it would be like to be in prison. You’re in a highly secure area, and you don’t leave except to go to another military installation.”
She did administrative law for the commander of the base while in Kuwait. After her tour, she returned home and served until retiring from the Army Reserves in 2012. She remained active as a civilian attorney, working for the Army. She worked as an administrative law attorney providing legal guidance on a broad spectrum of legal issues to include investigations for things like soldier misconduct, soldier deaths, contract and fiscal law, and ethics before retiring completely from military law in 2018.
Always Something to Learn
Back home in Salina, Kansas, Heck decided to make the most of her time and return to school. She enrolled at Kansas Wesleyan University to study history, eventually earning her fourth degree in 2020.
“I decided why not use the GI bill and go back and finish up that long-deferred history degree. I love getting into the geeky world of the past,” she said.
She was also offered a position at the university, joining the staff in early 2020 as the interim director of the marketing and communications office. A few months later, when they hired a full-time replacement for the position, Heck accepted a role as special assistant to remain in the office. She now works for two offices at the university, doing whatever research needs to be done for the marketing and advancement teams at KWU.
To Heck, that culture of serving others was instilled by her parents and further cultivated by her time as a student at BWC. One professor in particular, Melba Craine, stands out.
“I had a good high school education, but you’re not always necessarily prepared for college. Melba taught me how to write, and she also mentored me in so many ways. And personally, she just taught me how to be a better person.”
Another professor, John Beinecke, encouraged Heck to develop an active lifestyle.
“John said to get out and run and be physical,” she said. “And of course, with the military, that physical side was absolutely invaluable.”
Additionally, Heck notes that BWC helped her to develop her faith in God.
“At BWC, the spiritual message is a foundation, and it certainly has been the foundation of my whole life.”
The One Another Award recognizes an alumnus who has actively served others in some capacity for at least five years, advancing Christ’s Kingdom through compassion and exemplary commitment of time, talent, and treasure. Heck and the other Alumni Award winners will be honored at Homecoming 2023.