Commentary: The Army Turns 244 Today. What ‘Serving’ Means to Me

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“Thank you for your service.” As a U.S. Army Soldier living in Richmond, I am grateful for these words, which I hear often when wearing my uniform in this community.

What many people do not understand is that I am the one who is thankful.

I am thankful for the camaraderie, the global understanding, the commitment made to me and my family, and the opportunity to dedicate every day to the people of this country.

I am thankful for the education and cost-free healthcare I receive, the worldwide experiences I have had, the technical skills I have learned, and the opportunity to be a leader in the most trusted organization in the nation.

I am thankful to be part of history. This week the Army celebrates 244 years of dedicated service. Generations of Soldiers have inspired professionalism, honorable service and a commitment to the common good. For this, I am proud to call myself a Soldier, and proud to be part of the team inspiring the next great generation of Soldiers to find their place in history.

Americans have the highest level of confidence in the U.S. military, yet 50 percent of today’s youth admit they only know a little about their nation’s military – the people who work daily to protect their freedom. They don’t understand the depth of the knowledge and technical skills they can learn in 150 different career paths such as special operations, engineering, aviation, logistics, nursing, intelligence, auto mechanics, and cyber. They don’t understand the degrees they can earn or that the benefits and perks often match or surpass those offered by civilian employers.

My Army story began after graduating from James Madison University in 2000. I joined as an infantryman, completed Airborne and Ranger training, earned my master’s degree and eventually joined the Special Forces as a Green Beret. It’s been a wonderful 19 years. My experiences have taken me across the globe and even to the U.S. Capitol, where I served as a congressional liaison. Next to my beautiful wife and three children, it is certainly the best decision of my life. I am a better person because of the U.S. Army and the people I have met throughout my career.

My Army story is not unique. In the Richmond area alone, we have dozens of highly-accomplished Soldiers, each with best-of industry training in their jobs, many layers of advanced education, and a portfolio of experiences traveling and working across the world. Here are some of the incredible Soldiers who make up our team:

  • Cpt. Brooks Demmer: six years as a platoon leader, battle captain, operation officer and commander for a recruiting company; bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in military studies, a graduate degree in business and organizational security management and master’s in business administration in finance. While in the Army he has resided in Hawaii, Arizona, and Washington.

  • Staff Sgt. Sass: six years as a watercraft operator, Army recruiter, and Army station commander. He is certified and licensed in class A vessel freight and towing, combined radar certified, bridge resource management certified, watercraft firefighting certified, air assault certified, and personal training certified.
  • Staff Sgt. Casey Carr: 14 years of service serving in many positions ranging from M120 millimeter gunner, team leader, squad leader, section sergeant, platoon sergeant, and Army recruiter; has worked in Texas, Kentucky, and Wytheville.

  • Sgt. 1st Class Myrtis Richards: 18 years as a combat medic, Army administrative specialist, cable systems installer-maintainer and Army recruiter; holds two associate degrees in health care management and health care science.
  • Staff Sgt. Dyer: eight years as a radio operator/ maintainer, paratrooper, Army recruiter, and a certified network engineer. He holds an associate degree in culinary arts. His time in the Army has taken him to 9 different countries.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Hodge: 19 years as a petroleum supply specialist, career counselor, equal opportunity leader, family readiness liaison, and an Army recruiter. She holds a bachelor’s in social work and an associate degree in business administration. She has worked in Egypt and Baghdad.

I see amazing young people in our area desiring to serve their communities, and I believe we are doing them a disservice if we are not encouraging them to explore the military as a potential career path.

The Army invests in its people, often to the benefit of outside organizations. Veterans are more likely to vote, volunteer, and be involved in their communities. They have the maturity and self-discipline private industries are seeking, and we need your help finding the right people to serve.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th, and the Army’s 244th birthday on June 14, the Army is activating a nationwide “Call to Service.”  We encourage parents, educators and leaders throughout the community to inspire our talented youth to be part of something bigger and engrave their name in our history. 

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Lt. Col. Andrew Burgess is the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Richmond, which is responsible for hiring new Soldiers in Virginia and West Virginia. To learn more about the local recruiting team, follow GoArmyVirginia on social media.