RTFU

No Regrets

By
Updated: July 1, 2012

By RU contributor Rob

Last month I was booking a criminal into jail (I am a law enforcement officer) and noticed he was born in 1991, the same year I joined the Army. At the end of the night I was lying in bed, feeling a little old, reminiscing about what I have accomplished in the last 20 years, and the journey to where I currently am. How and why did I make those decisions back then that ultimately led me on my path of life?

Growing up in the military was the best life I could ever imagine. It may sound like child abuse, but I was curious when my dad taught me to spit-shine a pair of boots and excited when he would ask me to get a pair ready for his morning inspection. I loved getting my bedroom ready for a mock inspection, paying close detail to dusting the top of the doors and the radiator in our German apartment. I think it was probably about the 3rd grade when I first realized that the Army is where I would grow old, and had absolutely no qualms about it.

In high school, I had the opportunity to do things that most kids can’t even imagine, like taking an overnight train from Frankfurt to Berlin, through communist East Germany, and having to spend multiple nights in a hotel for a high school wrestling match or having to take a 15 hour bus ride to the Netherlands to play a football game. These are the events that mold and shape an impressionable young man. Not everything was about fun though, like taking a field trip to the Dachau – Nazi Concentration Camp to experience the horrors of sadistic men. When I came back to the states for my senior year of high school and retold those stories, kids just couldn’t comprehend the amount of coolness that I had experienced.

On August 20, 1991, I left Indianapolis for Ft. Benning to become a soldier. Everyone always says that basic training is the absolutely worst time in ones career, but I disagree. I already knew what was coming and was thrilled when I could predict what torturous event was coming next. Our battalion motto was “Play the Game” and I learned to play it well.

I know the big push in America is education. “You have to go to college, you will absolutely need a degree to get anywhere in life,” are comments I have heard over the years. I have gone to college, a random class here and there, but gone none-the-less. I am not trying to mock our education system, but in my opinion, college is over-rated. I learned more embracing the suck on a 25 mile road march in the middle of the night than I have ever learned in a classroom, and thankful that I did. Now I can honestly say that I am successful in just about everything I do, not because I know how, but because I have the testicular fortitude to see it through, a trait instilled by the NCO’s who made sure I utilized my fullest potential.

I left the army in 2003, not by choice but for medical reasons. After 12 years of being an active soldier and 17 being a dependant of one, the military remains in my blood. As I look back now, seeing how I deal with the daily conundrums of life, I realize that I am still a soldier and always will be, just no longer wearing the uniform. There is a new class of Americans that has emerged over the last 10 years, the Warrior Class. I consider myself to be a member of this class and can easily recognize those who share those traits as I do. To this, I have no regrets.

How has the military shaped your life?

Comments

comments

21 Comments

  1. Antonio Aguilar

    September 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Very nice. Your end question? It’s shaped my life very well, from breaking me out of a sheltered existence to shaping my worldview. After six and a half years on active I’m still in the Guard and a police officer now (something probably would not have achieved without the experiences on active duty).

    • Michael Soetaert

      September 27, 2011 at 10:47 am

      You and I have had the same “life experiences”. I, too, was a dependant of an Army Officer. I grew up in Fort Bragg, Hedernheim, Mannheim and Bad Kreuznach. I was a Freshman at BKHS when our football team played BERLIN HS in football in Berlin. We traveled to Berlin on the duty train and were stoppede at Helmstadt for two hours while the VOPO’s and the Russians walked around the train trying to get someone to recognize the VOPOs as having authority. We stayed at McNair Barracks in Berlin (1961).

      My Dad also made my brother and I spit shine his boots and polish his brass. My Father flew C-47s for the OSS in WWII and was assigned to the 82nd AB at Bragg. He transferred to the 8th ID.

      Basic Training at Fort Ord was a joke. I actually gained 15 pounds because I wasn’t wrestling like I did in HS. I enlisted for four years with a guarantee for Europe. While in Augsburg, I found out about the 10th SF. I put in a 1049 form and found myself in Bad Toelz a month later.

      I soon came down on orders for RVN. My plane was supposed to land at Cam Ron Bay but got diverted to Ton Sun Nuht and I ended up in the 25th ID. Decided to join the LRRP Company and after serving in the Lurps, I had the chance to go SF with B-36.

      I got out of the Army after 7 years and became a Monterey PD Officer. I retired in 1994v as Chief of Police in Del Rey Oaks.

      RLTW

  2. Cole Combs

    September 26, 2011 at 5:12 am

    The Army was awesome! I grew up with a jarhead for a dad, but before the war the Army was the only service taking GEDs. Now after eating an IED or five I’m powering through college like some chicken and noodles w/ tabasco. All because I’m focused on accomplishing the mission (graduation) rather than chasing tail and drinking away brain cells.

  3. William Van Der Ven

    September 27, 2011 at 7:23 am

    I agree with your premise, it was the airforce and a tour in SEA as a aerial photographer that instilled in me a pride in self and the ability to see a job through, no matter the dificulties. However, I dispute your statement that college or acquiring an education is less important than the challenges of the military. Forget the “party animal” belief that Hollywood presents. A student competing for his/her grades by studying till 0-dark thirty every night, probably juggling a part-time job as well, learns fortitude of a different sort.
    As a parting thought, almost ALL of our winning generals had a clssical education that allowed them to use the past to form the tactics that won them their battles and eventually the war.

  4. Michael Smith

    September 27, 2011 at 8:16 am

    I had spent almost eight years in the Army. I too had to listen to the words of many that claimed I wouldn’t learn any valuable skills and I would have to start all over. I used to be upset about these “counselings” that I would receive from my family, friends, and academic elitists. I never got that kind of verbal lashing from my family that had served. In fact, it wasn’t until I returned from Iraq that I started to get it. I spent nights sitting on the back porch with the Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War veterans I have the privilege to call family. We sat and drank beer, griping about the things soldiers do, just knowing what we all had gained from our sacrifices.

    I learned so much from my time in. I know how to give my life purpose wherever I am. I have this overwhelming desire to do everything correctly and perfectly. Nothing teaches you about your own mortality like 7.62 trying to find you at night. I know how to spot the people that say “I’ve got your back” versus the people that never say it, but you know they do. I know the feeling of living on borrowed time, and live my life accordingly. But most importantly, I know the things I am willing to die for, and that makes all the difference to me.

  5. George

    September 27, 2011 at 9:08 am

    That takes me back a few years remember it like yesterday. My drill SFC Akuma giving us hell.
    Road marches, etc. The true test of man: Combat. I too past that test and I went on to become a Drill.
    I still use that same fortitude at work. Good enough isn’t. Everyday I walk into that office I must give all I have and then some.

    Anyway thanks for the memorires

  6. Tom Wasilewski

    September 27, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Couldn’t agree more. I grew up dirt poor in a Housing Project in Coney Island, Brooklyn N.Y..I entered the army right after highschool. While my friends were serving coffee in Dunkin Donuts, or flipping burgers in McDonalds, I was jumping out of planes in Central America and “playing” with exotic weaponry. The martial arts and the U.S. Army made me the man I am today. De Oppresso Liber!

  7. James Murray

    September 27, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Very true. I enlisted the summer after my junior year and shipped to Parris Island 3 days after HS graduation. The difference it made in my life cannot be measured. I left due to injuries, not my choice. got healed and reuped with the pa guard. deployed with them. I jusr began my new career as a Firefighter (best job in the world, on par with the military) Nom I will say this, college will not teach you what active duty will, but unfortunately our society places such an emphasis on it that you need to earn a degree (i am currently working on mine) that cannot be stressed enough to returning veterans.

    There was cover article recently (either time or news week) calling us the next “greatest generation”. We need to live up to this, take the wheel and education post service (and during if possible) will make this possible.

  8. Vic Duphily

    September 27, 2011 at 11:14 am

    “Members of the same family rarely grow up under the same roof.” Nice to recognize brothers and sisters as you meet them here and there along the journey. I am grateful for the courage and sacrifice of those who served before and proud and awed by those who serve now.
    You are quite correct about warriors being a separate class…a distinguished minority of society. Whether serving at the sharp end, the shitty end or the mind-numbingly-dull-but-necessary end; those who stand and serve represent something the timid, the selfish and the unwilling never will.
    26th ID, 3rd ID, 10th MTN, then 21 years behind a civilian badge…I am proud of my past and feel well-prepared for my future.

  9. THS736126

    September 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Rob’s got a good way with words and I empathize directly with him. Though a 26yr Air Force vet, my feelings are the same, particularly considering I spent 12yrs with the 82nd Airborne and special ops. Begged my way into DESERT STORM and, once in SOF, I was always working something interesting (have to kill ya, if I tell ya). I NEVER had a bad assignment and I too have been ’round the world.

    Underneath all the fun though was the knowledge that my actions would impact operations, may cost lives. Courage of convictions, responsibility for your actions, honesty, even in the face of “command” pressure, all are necessary traits of the warrior – on or off the field of battle.

    One day, after my second neck spine operation, I decided my head would feel better if I stopped banging it on the wall. I hung the uniform up and then promptly went back to work doing the same stuff as a civilian. After seven yrs of post-9-1-1 optempo and grinding my molars flat, I decided it was time for the younger guys to take over.

    3000 hrs flying, 175 jumps, on every continent minus Antarctica, and a little bit of war makes for innumerable memories. Still love it: still look up when I hear aircraft or helos. I salute the flag and insist everyone around remember “our boys and girls forward” (even in church). I’m known to insist a large company’s faded/tattered flag be taken down and replaced. (You’d be surprised how well it works!)

    Well, you got me going and I need to stop rambling. Suffice it to say my warrior life has given me the wherewithal to take it to the end, knowing I made a small contribution. And I am proud to have served.

    HOO-AH!

  10. Ed Wright aka ofrmgfo aka former sgt 3rd class

    September 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    A drill Sgt(SFC Christian. Ft Bragg, Apr – May 68) in basic taught me respect and that there were things bigger than I was. That included doing what I was told….. the first time. I have wished many times that I could thank him personally.
    The active Army taught me that there were situations I could not by pass. I learned life isn’t fair, and the most you can hope for is just., You don’t always get just. I learned the meaning of true friendship. I learned there are no atheists in a messhall. I learned that back sink on kp was far better than DRO. I learned about Honor and Patriotism. In short, my military service, 3 yrs RA and 10yrs NG taught me to be a man.
    edw

  11. Juan Ramirez

    September 27, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I served in the Army from 1984 to 1991 and am proud to have done what I did especially being in the 82nd Airborne. The military made a man out of a gangbanger wonna be. I learned to be a part of a greater good and what real brotherhood is about. I am a first generation soldier but am proud to say that my son is on his way to Annapolis, I’d like to think I influenced that.

  12. [email protected]

    September 27, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    The quesation How did the military shape my life? it started on the very first day of my life as I was born on military instalation. and the following 12 years I was able to go places with my Father that only Military dependants could experience. My Father was a CSGM so we were assigned to some of the greatest post’s in the world, also i was the youngest of six boys. all of whom entered the Military on or near their 17th birthday. During my active duty i had the privledge to serv in Viet Nam, and other various post,s all over Southeast Asia an the Pacific Area.and i learned about many differemt culters and ways of life that you could not get from college. although I did attend college while on active duty and earned a degree, but it was the military that taught me about life and personel responsabilty. But most of all how to be a good FATHER,HUSBAND and MAN. Thanks for the chance to answer this question.

  13. Jake

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    For me, it was the Air Force, starting during the hostage situation in Tehran. It was still essentially peacetime service and, not to belittle the airmen of that time, compared to today’s military it was a joke. A job with a uniform and very little more. But it was still a valuable life experience nonetheless. I could write an essay almost as long as yours about what it did for me, though it surely wouldn’t be as relevant to today’s GIs. But I can honestly say that it did more than my family did to shape me into the person I am today.

  14. Pete Dittoe

    October 1, 2011 at 5:01 am

    Yep, looking back at some of the young kids coming in to the Army today, I wonder where my time has gone as well. I realized that I thought I was all grown up after graduating High School, but I did not know anything about the WORLD until I had joined the Army. It has been a real eye opening experience around the world. Talked with some high school friends, and realized most of them have never left the Tri-state area that I grew up near, and when I start telling them the countries that I have been to, or the foods that I have eaten. I am then thankful for the decision all those years back. Its also been one of the greatest honors being able to represent our wonderful Country.

  15. Matt Rutledge

    October 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    “Our battalion motto was “Play the Game” and I learned to play it well.”

    I was a 1/50th ITB graduate too. They helped me learn along the way, and I enjoyed my time there as well. Good write up. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Stillie

      July 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Me too Matt/Robb. A Co 1/50th to be exact.

      Thanks for the story Rob!

  16. Mr. Twisted

    July 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Excellent post.

    I admit that, prior to joining the Army, even though I was 28 years old when I did (in 2001), I was a lost soul. Sort of wandering the earth looking for a purpose. And, despite leaving for medical reasons after a tour in 2008/2009, it definitely gave me that purpose.

    It put me where I am now and gave me a purpose in life that goes way beyond any I could have imagined. Being an infantryman, a paratrooper and part of the Ranger community (even if only at RTB — I still consider it an honor just to have been part of the community) has been a huge honor and one that I will carry with me the rest of my days on this earth.

    A far better education than “education” has provided, to be certain. There can never be a price tag put on lessons learned in military service. My only regret is that I don’t have a body that enables me to do more.

    Thanks for the post, Rob.

  17. James Burlas

    July 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Ahh yes! I was in 1/50 as well “Play the Game.” The Army has made me successful in life because of two things: attention to detail and embracing “the suck.”

  18. StuPedaso

    July 3, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Having grown up with hippie parents I knew nothing but my easy So Cal life. But after joining the Navy and seeing the world I realized there is a lot of world out there. For this experience I want to be a citizen of no other country on this planet. For this the military gave me a lot. A deep appreciation for what I have.

  19. Susan VH

    July 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I too agree. All of my siblings and myself have been on active duty. It has made us the people we are. And I don’t regret a minute of that time….. I have pushed my way through 1 Masters and am working on the second. Education is for some, but not all. I do think our education system has a lot to be desired. We have lowered the bar so far its a joke.

    I met one of the Doolittle machanics a few years back. Talk about an education!!! It was my priviledge that he gave me a few minutes to be in his company.

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