People lead different lives. Never has there been a truer statement. It’s been a decade since I graduated high school and I have accomplished a lot. My life has been moving at a pace that I would say is almost on fast forward. I test drove college at the University of Kansas back in 2008 on a full ride ROTC scholarship. That didn’t work out as far as completing undergrad but it taught me a few things. It taught me that college is not always a good thing to do right away after high school. It taught me that, yes, even a decade ago liberalism was sweeping our scholastic halls. It also taught how to be a better man from the many mistakes I made as an 18 year-old-punk.
I left college and enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 to the dismay of my parental units. I joined the Infantry which is just about the most taxing and rigorous job one can do in the military. After 14 weeks of basic training I went down the street and learned how to jump out of airplanes, both in the day and the nigh. You aren’t afraid of much after that. Once that training was completed in the Spring of 2010 I went and joined the historic 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, KY. Over the next 4 years I went to war twice became a Sergeant in record timing, and became both a leader and “real” man. You learn a lot in the Infantry, the basis of which is how to survive. You make friends for life, and you lose them too.
Deploying to Afghanistan both in 2010 and 2013 made me take nothing for granted (and that includes eating.) During my second trip to the land that can’t be conquered I happened to be married to my soulmate, which made things easier and harder at the same time. She helped motivate me to both come home and be a better person, she was and is my rock.
As is true with combat you lose people, and you see death. Tragic death is the worst kind of loss and the majority of people go through life never having to experience it. I’ve seen some horrifying things, children killed by bombs and wounded from shrapnel, civilians burned alive in vehicles, and worst of all the loss of brothers on the field of battle.
Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood. -General George Patton
The Army did a lot of good for me it also did some bad, or better said, some things that were unexpected. There are some things I will never get back, I smile less, I’m cynical, (almost as bad as Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino minus the racism) I have the body of a senior citizen and it isn’t getting better, but more clearly as a combat veteran I’m misunderstood. Don’t feel bad for me, it was my choice but in this story I am painting a picture and all brush strokes are necessary for the full development of my thoughts.
After leaving the Army in the late Spring of 2014 I moved back to St. Louis and bought a house with my wife and dog. I then had an opportunity to take a different path, and I took it. I joined a company that manages defaulted and real estate owned properties for Banks on a nationwide level. It was a company whose owner had a spirited drive that I was unaccustomed to, and I liked it. In the last 4 years we have grown and I have changed roles to be in charge of Business Development. I also happened to have 3 kids in the meantime and go back to college, on the Army’s dime. You want free college? Join the military.
Success comes in different shapes and sizes and I have experienced a lot of it. I don’t know what the next decade will lead to but I know it will be big, my only hope is that now with a family it isn’t on the same fast forward button the last 10 years have been. Take risks and go out and do great things, don’t stick to the same melodramatic approach that you have been swimming in for the last little while because the greatest revenge, is massive success. -Frank Sinatra
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences of the decade. You have been blessed by God in so many ways especially by your loving wife and family. We LOVE you and so PROUD of you..See you on Saturday to give you a big hug. your grandparents, the Werkmeisters
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Mike, great that you are capable of sharing your current life with your combat experience. Don’t let the experience of combat rule your life. I first saw it in 1982 Beirut. And keep it contained for many years. I’m proud of you for sharing your experience and your outlook. God bless you and Bre. Mitch
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