I’m Anne Bronkema, and as an intern for Discovery House Publishers, I recently had the opportunity to interview Called to Serve authors Lt. Col. Tony and Penny Monetti. I was given a lot of liberty as to what to discuss with them, so I asked them questions about things in their life that interested me. I hope these topics interest you as well!
Did you know that, in addition to Tony being a B-2 stealth bomber pilot, Tony and Penny also own an Italian restaurant in Missouri? Find out this and more about their fascinating life, and glean from their wisdom as I did. Read on!
Annie: Hi, Tony and Penny! To begin, what does a typical day looks like in your home, or is there such a thing?
Penny: (laughing) That doesn’t exist. A typical day is just busy-ness. I’ve always thought that it was going to calm down as my children got older, but life just speeds up! To have a peaceful day, I really need to start with prayer, and Tony and I do that. We also read Proverbs together every day. Then we ask each other how we can pray for the other, and by doing that we stay in tune with what is going on in each other’s lives. When you get so busy, you can really lose each other. We’ve already experienced that, so this is one way that we keep in touch.
Tony: No, there is never really a typical day. As a B-2 pilot and Director of Operations, my job is everything but routine and boring. I am constantly making decisions and resolving challenges. I fly weekly and have lots of team meetings. Most of my time is spent on planning and scheduling. A solid plan and schedule usually leads to a successful mission.
As a restaurant owner, I am coordinating with employees and team leaders on various issues. My primary responsibility is paying the bills and team building. To be successful in business you have to have a good product and know how to market it. It is a constant challenge and you have to have thick skin to run a restaurant! You also have to love dealing with people.
As a new author, I thoroughly enjoy sharing our experiences with the hope that we will help and inspire others. God is central to my life and I rely on His protection and guidance.
Annie: Let’s talk about that restaurant a little bit, Monetti’s—how does the story start?
Penny: We had just come back from Italy, being stationed overseas, and because you’re only allowed to take one car overseas, Tony had his other car stored at his brother’s home inIndiana. We lived inMissouri, so we took a road trip to Indiana to pick up the car.
On the last day we were there, Tony went out with his brother on an errand. While they were out, they must have had a huge discussion, because once they came home, I heard Giuliano (my brother-in-law) say to his wife, “Guess what? We’re starting a restaurant with them. Get packed because we’re moving to Warransburg.” While Tony and I were in Italy, they had discussed how nice it would be to have a restaurant together!
My sister-in-law is very organized and very structured, and though she had doctor appointments and even a tonsillectomy scheduled for her son, in an hour and a half, she had the whole place packed and the doctor’s appointments rearranged.
We had no beds in our house in Missouri because our things hadn’t gotten back from Italy, so we all literally slept on the floor. But they found the building for the restaurant. It was an old video store that my brother-in-law had seen in a dream. He knew this was it and so we started the restaurant. This is my spontaneous family!
Tony: That was in the summer of 2004, so we’ve been open almost seven years now. We were just voted the number 8 unique eatery in the state ofMissouri, so that was quite an honor.
Annie: Tony, what do people say when they hear that you’re an Air Force pilot and a restaurant owner?
Tony: Well, honestly, people are kind of in awe and are like, “How can you do that?” How am I able to be the founder of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, president of the Lion’s Lake Initiative, teach at the university on weekends, run a restaurant, and do all these other things? I almost died a few years ago, so I try to live my life as if every day was the last one. If you live your life with that kind of attitude and that kind of passion, if you give it all you’ve got, you can do a lot more than you think. I don’t waste time playing video games and watching TV a lot; I am a very disciplined person. I get up every morning and I read the Bible, I pray with my wife, I work out, and I go over my goals, which I have written down in the front of my planner. By writing things down and applying the S.M.A.R.T. principle (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and a time bound), you’re able to achieve goals. If you don’t have a plan and you don’t have a vision for where you want to go, what you want to be, you’re just going to fly all around. As a pilot, before you take off, you plan, and if you have a good plan, you’ll get to where you want to go.
Penny: I also want to share something that we’ve never really shared with many people. The restaurant has been a really big part our life. I didn’t want to get involved at first because I knew what owning a restaurant did to people: you’re “married to it” and “have no life,” and because of all of this, I told Tony, “The only way that I am going to be able to be excited about this restaurant is if we make it a ministry.” So my approach was that we would pray. I would go into work and pray that the Lord would reveal to me who needed help that day. Homeless people have come through that are now not homeless; prostitutes have come through; we’ve had Wiccan people come through, and I’ve had a chance to witness to many and hopefully display through our lives and our family what it is to have Christ in your life. For most of these stories I’ll never know the ending, but about three years ago, I gave a Bible to one of our guys that is Wiccan. He continues to talk to me periodically, and that alone might be what we’ve been here for.
Tony: But let’s be clear: you’ve got to be a little crazy to own a restaurant—and we are!
Annie: Have your daily lives changed since you wrote this book? Like your three interviews just today, for example?
Tony: I don’t think they’ve changed much. We’ve always led a very active life as far as being involved in a lot of things, and if anything, it has just made us stronger in our relationship.
Penny: The thing that is really neat about it is that we’ve done more things together. We love to do community projects together, but as far as “his work” and “my work,” it puts us in separate realms. With the book especially, since it is built on relationships within the military life, we’re working together on it, and so that’s been a great aspect. We’re in the same room a lot, which is nice.
Annie: Yes, and having people like me asking you questions about the details of your lives must be interesting!
Tony: It’s fun, though, and I really think that it’s strengthened our marriage if anything. As you know, we are really transparent in that book. We made ourselves vulnerable to open our lives up in the way we have, but I think it’s important that we are honest with ourselves and with our readers—what you see is what you get, you know?
Annie: Yes, and that’s one of the things that when I read the book really struck me as very important to you guys. Your level of vulnerability made you both more credible in my eyes. What you write in your book isn’t fake; it is very real.
Penny: And I tell you, we really talked a lot about that too. We use the word “sex” in the book! Before we began this project, Tony and I were talking, and we agreed that we’d have to be real because otherwise we’re not approachable. So that’s what we tried to do.
Annie: Let’s talk about your family a little bit—tell me about your kids.
Tony: My oldest son, Nico, just graduated from college with honors and is an outstanding writer. His college has an award for screenwriting, and he won that award for a script he wrote. He’s also an actor and starring in a movie called Sincerely Forever and we’re really excited about that. He’ll be going for his masters next—he’s very self-motivated and knows what he wants to do.
My middle son, Antonio, recently signed the dotted line and begins Army training in a few weeks. He’ll go through basic training first this summer, and then he’ll go through ROTC. He wants to eventually become an officer, but he wanted to get a feel for what it is like to be enlisted prior to becoming an officer. As of right now, he plans on making a career out of the military. He is in for at least six years. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone in their right mind would pick the Army over the Air Force, but that is another story for another day!
Gabriella is my smallest; she’s fourteen and wonderful. She’s the president of her class, a straight-A student, a soccer player, and just a great person—I love her to pieces.
Annie: What would you say to other young people who are contemplating joining the military, like your son just did?
Tony: I’d tell them to do it. I encourage all young people to serveAmericain one form or another so as to gain a greater appreciation for whatAmericameans and offers. We are blessed to live here. The military service offers many benefits that will help you later in life. Teamwork, leadership, character development, and a sense of purpose are just a few of the benefits, not to mention the many educational opportunities the Department of Defense offers. Your life will take on a new meaning when you are part of a unique team dedicated to protecting America and her values. I would do it all over again if I could! In fact, after I retired I was asked if I was interested in returning to the USAF as part of a military voluntary recall, and I did!
Annie: War is a tricky subject for Christians who are commanded not to murder. What are your thoughts on pacifism and war?
Tony: I think it is fair to say that American military men and women are not eager to fight, but we will do so to perform our mission. In our book I explain the story of a rabbi’s tattoos and the effect they had on my life. When he showed me the tattoos that the Nazis put on his forearm like he was a head of cattle, I understood at a very young age why it is necessary to confront evil head on and defeat it before it defeats you. Unfortunately, in this world, evil men and regimes do exist and must be confronted.
Annie: Whose idea was it to write a book about your experiences as a military couple?
Tony: It was Penny’s idea. She went to a Marantha Christian writers’ conference and came up with the idea after some reflection and divine intervention. She tells the story so well. In a nutshell, one of the speakers suggested that if you do write, it is best to have expertise in the area you are writing about. As Penny reflected on that, she asked herself, “What do I know well?” and then the idea occurred that she knows military service as a spouse for over twenty years. She then heard another couple speak (husband and wife) on a project they were working on together and it dawned on her that we should write a book together from a warrior and a spouse perspective on military life. I was working on writing another book, and Penny knew that I had a passion for motivational speaking, so she suggested that we commit this idea to our Lord and see where it takes us. The rest, as they say, is history!
Annie: Tony and Penny, I had a marvelous time speaking with you—you encouraged me immensely during our chat, and I appreciate you opening up your lives to me and many others! Blessings on your future!
To find out more about Called to Serve or to purchase your copy, head over here.