by Kelly Gatzke, National Council For Adoption
My husband is in the Army and during our seventeen years serving, we have had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people and many amazing families. One of the most inspiring couples I have had the pleasure to call friends are Lana and Eric Thornburg. We were stationed with them while my husband and Eric were teaching in the Math Department at the United States Military Academy. They had two biological sons named Spencer and Owen. While there, I heard their story of adoption and how they were adopting from Africa. I didn’t know at the time (and neither did they) that it would be years before their children would actually come to States.
Erica and Lana said they had always talked about adopting, even before they were married. They did consider domestic adoption, but prayed on it and their hearts lead them to adopting from Africa. Initially, when they started the program to adopt from Ethiopia, they were told the process would take 12-18 months. After submitting their dossier, they were then told it could take about two years before even being matched with a child. In the meantime, they found out about an organization doing independent adoptions from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Lana says she felt very lead to the program and they decided to do both programs simultaneously.
After submitting the paperwork to the DRC, the Thornburgs were matched with two biological brothers who were at the time 10mos and almost 2, Albert and Ishara. After a few months, the DRC courts legalized the adoption for their sons. Three months later, the country announced no adopted children were allowed to leave the country. Lana and Eric were told it would only last a few months while some adoption practices were being altered. A few months dragged into almost three years, during which the Army moved their family (and ours) to Washington state from New York. Rumors would surface periodically that the children would be released and then nothing would happen. It was very frustrating and taxing on their family, knowing that their sons were waiting for them and they couldn’t do anything.
In February 2016, they finally got a call telling them to be ready to bring their boys home! Meanwhile, Eric was deployed to Afghanistan, but the Army sent him home so he and Lana could travel to the DRC together. A month later, three years after getting their referral, they went to the DRC and finally met Albert and Ishara face to face. The four flew home to Washington to reunite with Spencer and Owen. Lana says “it was amazing, exhausting, overwhelming and wonderful.”
Of course, in true Army fashion, just three months after their adoption was legalized in the US, they had to move cross-country to Pennsylvania. Luckily, all of the Thornburg boys are healthy and happy and adapted easily to the PCS (permanent change of station). Albert and Ishara are flourishing with their new family and getting involved in sports and school.
I asked Lana if adoption was made harder by being a military family and overall, she says no. Of course, they have moved twice since they started the initial adoption paperwork, but that is par for the course in Army life. The Thornburgs consider themselves very blessed with their new, larger family and are looking forward to the adventures that life and the Army take them on!