In February, 2014, I hung up my uniform after 12 years of service in the Army National Guard. The decision to separate had taken over a year to make and to this day, I still wonder if it was the right one. I look back at where I started, where I was in life, and all the changes that have transpired since then, and it still amazes me. I suppose – next to my family – those 12 years in uniform were the one constant in my life. Jobs came and went, relationships started and ended, living situations changed, but no matter what, formation always came at the same time. And regardless of the mission or the training or where I was stationed, the soldiers to my left and right upheld the oath we had all sworn.
In many ways your unit becomes a family. It is usually a dysfunctional one, but a family all the same. Every unit has father figures and motherly types and unruly children, but when a warning order comes in, all that fades away and those men beside you become the most important people in the world. Do I regret the time I spent away from home on three deployments and having to start over every time I came back, or the uncertainty of where I might be sent next or even the knowledge of what that oath might take to uphold? No. If I had it to do all over again I would in a heartbeat. The Army and this country gave me so much. In many ways my time in the Guard has made me a better person outside of the service and has helped me in innumerable ways in my current profession. I will carry those lessons with me forever.
by Levi Papai, VP of Operations