Why I Serve

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023

By Lt. Col Adam Marsh, Commander, United States Army Recruiting Battalion Baton Rouge.

I am an American Soldier.  In honor of the U.S. Army’s upcoming birthday, June 14th, 1775, I wanted to share my Army Story.

I was born in New Orleans, La, but I was raised in Ocean Springs, Ms along the Gulf of Mexico. I grew up fishing, riding dirt bikes, playing sports, and spending time with my friends. This was the beginning of the video game age, so I didn’t spend a lot of time on the computer, but I do know the Contra “cheat code”.  I was a decent student in high school (As and Bs), so I applied for several colleges and was accepted. Although I didn’t get any “big” scholarships, I did have several options available to me. They were, in no order: I could go to junior college close to home, get a part-time job, and stay at home and live with my parents.  That was pretty much what I was already doing, and it didn’t sound like much of an adventure.  Or as a second option, I could go to a four-year university, but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it, and I really wasn’t even sure what I wanted to study.  My third choice, I could forgo college and get a job in the shipyard, the refineries, and even offshore. There were plenty of businesses that were always hiring, but those jobs didn’t appeal to me.

I had another choice available to me; I could join the Army. Despite what some people think, the Army is a valid option for young Americans to consider, it should not be thought of as a “last resort” option. To tell the truth, the Army was my first option because it offered the things I wanted: travel and adventure, a way to pay for college, facing new and exciting challenges, and being part of something bigger than myself. Unlike my first three option listed above, everything the Army had to offer did appeal to me. So, I spoke to an Army Recruiter, I went to the Military Enlistment Processing Station, got a physical, swore the oath, and enlisted. I was 17 years old when I signed up which meant I needed my parents’ consent to enlist.  They were apprehensive, but they understood and ultimately agreed. I left for Basic Training just after high school graduation and just before my eighteenth birthday. There were some rough days and I missed home, but I made the right choice, because it was the beginning of a great adventure.  I joined the Army not knowing how long I would stay. I knew I could get out and go to college after my initial enlistment and many of the friends I made throughout the years did just that; they moved on, went to college, started businesses, had careers and families. They look back on their time in the Army with great memories, and they are better for having served. I decided to stay in. I liked my job; it gave me everything I was looking for.

The first thing that appealed to me was the ability to travel and have adventures. I have traveled to twenty-five countries. I have lived on five of the seven continents on Earth. I have seen the northern lights, the great pyramids of Egypt, I have walked among ancient Macedonian ruins, the ruins of Stonehenge, the Tower of London, and the Castle at Edinburgh. I swam in the Indian Ocean, the Panama Canal, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. I have visited Prague, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Luxembourg, and Japan, just to name a few. I even had a vacation in Hawaii. When I married and had children, I learned about even more benefits of service, medical benefits. Having a baby is an expensive proposition but I had no hospital bills, I never had to pay for check-ups or the ER visit when my two-year-old fell down the stairs.  I was able to raise a family and bring them along on this adventure with me.

The other appeal was money for college. I got that covered with the Army’s tuition assistance program, I found I could go to school for free while serving. I did not have to come out of pocket at all for any of the college classes I took. I was able to attend Officer Candidate School and earn my commission. The Army paid for my bachelor’s and my master’s degrees. The G.I. Bill that I enlisted for; well, I ended up transferring that money to my daughter so she could go to college.

The ability to face new and exciting challenges was another benefit for me. There are over 150 different jobs in the Army, from supply clerks, truck drivers, mechanics, culinary arts, telecommunications, electricians, pilots, firefighters, police, to veterinarians. All these skills and certifications directly transfer to civilian jobs. Many jobs in the Army are not directly combat related, and when you join the Army, you can choose the job you want from whatever job you are qualified. The job I selected was combat related, it was Infantry, and not just any Infantry because I volunteered to be an Airborne Ranger. The training I received was like nothing I could have imagined. Airborne School, Ranger School, Military Freefall, hand-to -hand combat, shooting, demolitions, fieldcraft, navigation, survival. To say that I was challenged is an understatement. I was tested to my very core. I stumbled and I fell a few times, but I got back up and continued moving forward. “Surrender is not a Ranger word… Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude require to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.” (The Ranger Creed)

And finally, and maybe the most important, was being part of something bigger than myself. The most common question I am asked is about going to war. Yes, I deployed to combat in Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I have been part of history; I have watched it unfold. I watched news reports on the television, and I knew what really happened because I was there. When I was in high school, we were given an assignment to interview a WWII vet. Now I have students coming to talk to me about my service in the Global War on Terror.  I wanted to go, and I was upset about the times when they went without me.  Not because I like war, but because my “Army family” was going into harm’s way and I wanted to be there to help in any way I could. I didn’t fully understand the reasons for the deployments when they occurred, and now that I am older and had time to study and think about it, I understand it even less. Despite failed policies or flawed strategies, I was part of something bigger than myself. I can honestly say “I was there, I made a difference, I saved lives.” Don’t forget that civilian control of the military is at the core of our nation’s constitution and every deployment was on orders from the political leaders who we elected.

I enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1992. That was thirty-one years ago. I am still proudly serving, still going strong. I am in excellent shape for someone my age, thanks to a scheduled workout program, regular doctor’s visits, nutritionists, strength coaches, trainers, all from the Army. The Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness program does wonders. I must admit it is getting tougher trying to outdo these younger Soldiers. I will be retiring soon. I will be able to fully retire in my 50’s and not have to work again. I haven’t decided yet where in this great land I am going to settle down. When I do, the first thing on the list is to buy a house.  With a VA home loan, I won’t have to pay mortgage insurance and won’t have to make a down payment. With the Federal and State benefits for Veterans, I will not pay property taxes on my new house. My younger kids can go to state college for free. As I look back on my career, I am glad that I chose to serve. I received everything I wanted back then and even things I didn’t know I needed.  I am constantly amazed at the benefits of service. The greatest benefit of all was the honor and dignity in being an American Soldier. It has been my honor to be able to serve my family, my community, and my country. Before I retire, I have one last mission from the Army. To find the next generation of Soldiers. To seek out tomorrow’s Army leaders.

This year is also the 50th Anniversary of the “All-Volunteer Army”. The draft ended in 1973, so while military service is no longer an obligation, it is still the duty of young Americans to serve their nation in some form or another. So, for all the young men and women who are reading this… What are you doing for yourself, your family, your community, and your country? Do you believe America needs an Army? If you do, then you must know that the Army needs Soldiers. Who will those Soldiers be? Don’t look over your shoulder for another to carry that burden/weight, why shouldn’t it be you? You have the education, the ambition, and the commitment. You will get the skills, training, and discipline. You have a personal stake in the future of this country.  You also have a personal duty to serve. Whether you serve for two years or for twenty, I can guarantee you will be better for it, and you will be proud of your service.  At least you won’t have to explain to your grandchildren, “I almost joined.”  Even with the pay, the bonuses, the benefits, the education, the experience, the travel, and the excitement (the list goes on), fulfilling your duty and serving a greater purpose is the most rewarding of all.

About us: U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, Baton Rouge is responsible for all Army recruiting in Louisiana, Mississippi and western Tennessee. Our more than 330 member field recruiting force is organized into eight recruiting companies with 45 recruiting stations, and we cover approximately 103,874 square miles of territory while searching for America’s best volunteers who will enable the Army to win in a complex world.

For more information visit https://recruiting.army.mil/2ndbde/3tbn/