New Jefferson City business owner shares valuable lessons from Army

Born in 1983 at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, where his father was at the time serving in the U.S. Navy, Cameron Stephens has called many locations home throughout the years.He eventually made the decision to enlist in the military to help provide the resources to care for a son with medical needs while also receiving important lessons by working as part of a team in support of completing the mission.”I lived in Hawaii for a couple years, and then we ended up moving for a short time to the San Diego area,” Stephens recalled. “Next, we lived in North Carolina for a few years before moving to the Washington, D.C., area after my father got a job with HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development).”The next move landed his family in Littleton, Colorado; however, his father’s work eventually brought them back to northern Virginia. In 2002, Stephens graduated from high school and soon moved to Aspen, Colorado, to explore his interest in snowboarding while also working in a retail business.”By this time, I was married and had a son,” he said. “The Gap store where I was employed was preparing to shut down, so we decided to move back to Virginia in 2010 since some of my family were still in the area. My decision to join the Army came in 2012 because I had a son with learning disabilities and since I had no job, I couldn’t afford the insurance for him.”He added, “Also, several generations of my family have served in the military … so enlisting seemed like the best option for me at that time.”Private Stephens soon reported to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, spending the next several weeks completing his basic combat training. From there, he was sent to Fort Eustis, Virginia, for several months of training to teach him how to repair the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, a tandem-rotor helicopter with a heavy lift capability.”It really sounded like a neat job to me and my military testing showed that I had the aptitudes for that type of position,” he said. “One of the interesting things about being in that career field is that I never was the type to work on cars or anything like that, but it was the type of position that attracted a lot of gearheads … and understandably so.”His first duty came in 2013 with assignment to the 1st Air Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas. Throughout the next three years, he worked on Chinook helicopters while also completing training rotations to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana (soon to be renamed Fort Johnson).”One of the most interesting experiences I had with the Air Cavalry was being a member of the Downed Aircraft Recovery (DART) Team,” he shared. “We trained to recover downed aircraft by sling loading them to our Chinooks and then airlifting them to a safe location. Fortunately,” he added, “it was a skillset I never had to use outside of a training environment.”Although he enjoyed his work in the Air Cavalry, Stephens reclassified for a new position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, training at Fort Leonard Wood to operate electrical power plants. But it was also around this time that the divorced father of two young children was given an involuntary separation since his responsibilities as a single parent interfered with his ability to deploy.”I was discharged from the Army in 2016 and used my GI Bill benefits to get a culinary certification from a school in Portland, Oregon,” he said. “Then I earned an associate degree from a film school and finally was able to earn my bachelor’s degree in business.”For a short time, he lived on the West Coast and worked a temporary job at a national park in the San Francisco area.He then met a woman with whom he shares a blended family of five children.The family later lived for one year at Stephens’ birthplace in Hawaii, where he enrolled at the University of Hawaii to continue exploring his interest in film.”I’ve always loved everything about film, but it’s such a tough industry to break into,” he said.When his father received a misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Stephens traveled to Arkansas to assist him in selling his property there; his father has since experienced a remarkable improvement in health.Stephens’ daughter later enrolled at the University of Missouri, inspiring him and his family to relocate to mid-Missouri.Stephens, with the assistance of this father, opened Out of Time Collectibles at 1128 Jefferson St. in Jefferson City in December of 2022. This store now provides him with an outlet to make a living while sharing with the community an interest in pop culture and art.The unique path he has walked in his life is one featuring many military experiences which, he humbly asserts, helped a once selfish youth see beyond himself.”Before the military, I was the type of person constantly late for things … and just a rather selfish individual,” he said. “The Army taught me to work as a team member and to become the type of person that I would want to be around.”I love the person that it made me into, and although each person has their own unique experience in the military, it tends to change you into something much better.”Jeremy P. Ämick is the author of the military compilation “Show-Me Veterans.”    Cameron Stephens trained at Fort Eustis, Virginia, to work on the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, a dual-rotor helicopter with heavy lift capability. (Courtesy of Cameron Stephens)  

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