Growing up without a biological mother and father really hurt, but looking back, it was a season when God was working for my good.
I was born into a difficult situation, with a biological mother struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and an absent biological father. But my grandparents were quick to adopt me, providing a loving Christian environment. In their home, I was loved and couldn’t have asked for a better life. But I was confused. I didn’t understand the reality of my situation and why it was different. Many honest and difficult conversations helped me accept the life I lived, and I chose to focus on the love I was receiving.
As life went on, like many young boys, I was curious and adventurous, but for me, it was leading down the wrong path. During this season, my grandfather unexpectedly passed from an aneurysm and, one week later, my grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was then, my life took a turn.
Thinking of my future, my grandmother and a wonderful long-time friend of the Ranch, Larry Fuhrman, explored Big Oak. I arrived at Big Oak a fragile, angry, and uncertain 12-year-old boy, only to lose my grandmother to her disease 6 months later. Despite the seemingly infinite acreage of the Ranch and so many people around me, I felt alone. But that didn’t last long. Little did I know, receiving Rickey and Donna Duke as my houseparents would be one of my greatest blessings. From them, I learned the importance of remaining humble and loving God, always putting Him first. I learned that family is not always connected by blood, but often relationships from God made up of people who choose one another.
Mom and Pop Duke, and the entire Big Oak staff, molded me into who I am today.
I am Petty Officer First Class Christopher L. Dorrough, and I have served in the United States Navy for the past 15 years. I joined the Navy in 2006 and have traveled the world. Upon graduating boot camp and my focused Navy training, I was stationed for four years in Whidbey Island in Washington, during which I deployed twice. My first deployment was to Misawa, Japan for six months and the second was to Camp Tallil in Iraq, close to the Euphrates River and the House of Abraham. From there, I transferred back to Misawa, Japan where I spent another four years and met my wonderful and loving wife Silvia.
As my journey continued, I transferred to Atsugi, Japan close to Tokyo, and was attached to the USS George Washington and the USS Ronald Reagan. I did four deployments in the 7th Fleet onboard those aircraft carriers. Since 2018, I have served as an instructor in Pensacola, Florida teaching Aircrew Survival Equipment Technician School. My job requires incredible attention to detail as I inspect and repair life-saving equipment. This is a characteristic Mom and Pop Duke instilled in me, and now I use it to serve my country.
Silvia and I have two beautiful daughters, Aiyana (9) and Eva (3). Life as a sailor isn’t easy and, second to my relationship with God, their love and support are among my greatest blessings.
Being stationed in Pensacola ushered in unexpected ups and downs, but they’ve made us stronger. My wife, who is Romanian and had never spent time in the U.S. was terrified of the move, but, together, we agreed it was best. As we were transitioning to life in the States, the terrorist attack occurred at NAS Pensacola – right in our backyard. That day, I went to work early and Silvia had taken our oldest daughter to school off base. As the attack unfolded, the base was shut down and she and my youngest daughter were stuck amidst the chaos. That day, I saw my wife as a hero. Despite being fluent in Romanian, Japanese, and English, she was unacquainted with life in the States and understandably afraid. She had a daughter at school, a baby in her arms, no food, diapers or access to our home. But she made perfect decisions and her strength astounded me. Not only did she find a way to care for our two children, but she also brought many other children from our neighborhood to the safety of their homes. That’s my wonderful wife and my hero!
I am a very fortunate soul who has found love and happiness. God blessed me beyond belief. I consider myself rich, not with money, but with family…something I had searched for throughout my life.