In August of this year, I will have served in the Army for almost 30 years. I’ve deployed several times, commanded a battalion in combat, and traveled from Haiti to Iraq and everywhere in between.
This was not my plan.
As a young Specialist in the Old Guard, I wanted to serve my country. I wanted to learn a lot. I wanted adventure. As we worked together to shed light on the Army, giving the public a sense of what soldiering looks like and means, my plan began to change.
A few years later, the Army called me to Korea. As a platoon leader, I worked closely with my noncommissioned officers to make sure my 42 Soldiers were taken care of. There, I learned that it’s not about me. It’s about the team. It’s about the Army. And my plan changed again.
For me, the Army became a career. Almost 30 years have gone by and I am still a Soldier. But length of time served doesn’t really matter. What’s important is what we take away from our time in the Army. Whether you are in for two years or 20, you learn everything - from the importance of timeliness to what true adversity looks and feels like. You learn how to never give up, no matter what comes your way. You learn to look out for each other, to trust and to be trusted. These are the values, qualities and characteristics that make you a Soldier.
They will serve you while you are in the Army, helping you to be the best Soldier you can be and making our Army the world’s premier force. They will remain with you when you transition, too. They are what helps you prioritize and lead, what allows you to continue to serve even after you’ve taken off your uniform. They are your enduring connection to the Army. These are the values, qualities and characteristics that make you a Soldier for Life.
One day I will transition out of the Army. I will take off my uniform for the last time. But I am a Soldier for Life. I understand the value and the power of service. I will take all of the intangible skills the Army has taught me and I will apply them as a civilian. I will never quit. Will you?
Author Col. Adam Rocke: Director, U.S. Army Soldier for Life, Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army
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