Sargeant Mike Ballance and Specialist Lysette Ballance, who will be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary this year, are the epitome of a military love story.
The husband and wife said they met while stationed in Vilseck, Germany in 2001, serving in the United States Army. Prior to meeting, both took basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina before advanced individual training at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
In 2003, the Ballances also served in the Iraq War, with Mike spending time in both Kuwait at Camp Victory, as well as Iraq to sweep the country for hidden ammunition supply points. Lysette was honorably discharged in May 2008, followed by Mike in February 2009.
“We were 55 Bravos, which are ammunition specialists” Lysette said, who also spent a month in Ukraine on a NATO mission. “We were directly in support of the front and those that were infantry. We supplied about 80 percent of the ammunition.”
Lysette’s parents immigrated from Mexico in the 1960s, and although she is a first-generation service member, she said she had a calling to serve her country at a young age because of what it represented. Mike said he was inspired by his father, Donald, who served in the Navy, and his uncles, David and Bobby, who served in the Marines.
“I grew up always wanting to be in the Army,” Mike, a Louisiana native, said. “Nobody is more proud than my dad of me being in the Army.”
Finding a love for soccer from a young age, Lysette said her father played soccer in Mexico and remembers watching Tigres UANL matches together. When Mike moved from Louisiana to Houston after the impacts of Hurricane Rita in 2005, he said he had no choice but to fall in love with the sport himself.
“Soccer is pretty cool because it’s intense,” Mike, whose favorite Dynamo player is Héctor Herrera, said. “I can’t believe how much these guys run nonstop the whole game. The best part is when they score. Just the anticipation, and finally when they make one, everybody just goes crazy.”
“When we found out we were going to have a soccer team here in Houston, we thought that was awesome,” Lysette added about both the men’s and women’s squads. “Being able to have the team and being proud in rooting for them to succeed and play games, I just love the sport.”
When it comes to lessons learned from their time as servicemembers, Mike pointed out accountability, being responsible for your actions and making the best decisions for everyone around you – all of which can be applied to teams competing on the soccer pitch.
“The importance of trust and integrity with your team,” Lysette added. “There is huge importance with that.”
Both Sam Houston State University Bearkats, the Ballances now work at local utility company, Lysette as an account manager of competitive retailer relations and Mike as a service consultant. In their free time, they are actively involved with the local veteran community, volunteering with The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that connects military veterans with new missions in under-resourced communities.
Mike and Lysette will attend their first Houston Dynamo match of the year on Saturday, alongside their daughters Isabella, 12, and Ellie, eight, who have both taken up the sport of soccer.
“I’m looking forward to the game itself,” Lysette, whose favorite all-time player is Lionel Messi, said. “To me there is so much going on. There’s the battle between the offense and defense and who is going to get to the goal first. To me it’s exciting. I love to watch it. People don’t realize it, but it is so strategic.”
The Houston Dynamo are proud to honor Mike and Lysette Ballance as the Heroes of the Match during Saturday’s matchup against Inter Miami CF at Shell Energy Stadium.