State lawmaker, wife both willing to serve

Jim and Amanda Banks (file). Photo courtesy of WFYI.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – He’s used to serving the people of northeast Indiana, but on Friday, state Senator Jim Banks will be serving his country in a new and very sacrificial way.

Jim, who’s also an officer in the Navy Reserve, will deploy to Afghanistan for eight months on Friday. While he’s away on active duty, his wife Amanda hopes to take his place: both at home and at the Statehouse.

“The way I broke the news to Amanda could not have been worse than how I chose to do it,” Jim told NewsChannel 15. “I broke the news to her at a restaurant in a public place, which was a huge mistake.”

“Honestly, it was quite devastating,” Amanda recounted. “You know, the thought of Jim being gone for eight months is a very difficult one.”

“[It was] definitely the most difficult experience, maybe, that I can remember in our marriage. It didn’t go over well,” said Jim.

That incident, however, happened months ago. Amanda has had time to adjust to the reality of Jim’s deployment, and her outlook has changed.

“I hope to not just survive it, but I’d like to thrive in it,” said Amanda. “I believe that God has something good for us in this… just like he does all challenges in our lives.”

And that “something good” could include filling her husband’s shoes in the Indiana Senate while he’s away. State law allows precinct officials to elect a temporary replacement for Jim.

“I heard it from friends over and over again: well, obviously Amanda should take your place,” Jim shared.

Amanda wasn’t interested at first, despite her past career as a federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family. Eventually, however, she warmed to the idea and has thrown her hat in the ring.
“For me personally, it’s a great opportunity to offer unique leadership in the Senate. There are no other stay-at-home moms serving currently, and you know, as a military wife, that’s another unique perspective that I’ll bring.”

So in one sense, this is an exciting chapter in their lives, potentially opening up new public service opportunities for both Jim and Amanda. But make no mistake: big picture, this will be a trial for the couple and their three daughters, ages 1 to 4 years old.

“Just not having him here to touch and to, you know, just be in the same room with is going to be probably the hardest part for me,” said Amanda. “It’s going to be tough. You know, I am really glad that we have the technology that we do to be able to communicate -over Skype especially- and to be able to see him.”

As a supply corps officer, Jim will probably be helping with the logistics of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Though he won’t be on the front lines, Amanda is concerned for his safety. She’s also gaining a new appreciation for the thousands of fellow military families going through the same ordeal. “They’re choosing to serve their country in this way, putting themselves in harm’s way and leaving their families behind for a time. It’s just a big sacrifice. I really appreciate those that do it.”

Jim said he hasn’t thought a lot about his own safety. His thoughts are focused on ensuring his family’s well-being -both Amanda’s and his parents will help with the girls- as well as on serving the country he loves.

“The feeling of accomplishment and honor that I have when I put on the uniform really is… It really is overwhelming,” Jim said. “To come home and feel like I did something significant for my country is a sense of pride that I look forward to.”

Jim is unopposed in his re-election bid this year, so after he’s officially elected and sworn in via Skype this fall, precinct officials will hold the caucus to temporarily fill his Senate seat.
Jim and Amanda estimate that caucus could happen around mid-November.

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