On November 12 of 2015 I and some of my Army buddies celebrated our 30th anniversary of joining the US Army. It truly seems like somebody pressed the fast forward button and here we are today. So much has happened in the past 30 years, but my life was changed drastically starting on that November day in 1995.
On the first van ride we had while leaving Knoxville I sat by myself in a seat. Some exuberant smart mouth behind me yelled at me and said “Gibbs, ain’t nothing good come out of Gibbs”. Gibbs was the high school which I graduated, and was on the back of the jacket I was wearing. The keen observation was made by someone by who I would soon know as Wes Tankersley. Wes became my best friend in and out of the Army starting that first November day.
I remember laying in a bunk bed the first night in Ft Benning, Georgia with two burning questions on my mind – why was I here, and what in the world was I going to be doing? Neither of which were anywhere clear that first lonely night.
The next day was the beginning of processing and basic training. Those two questions would soon be a distant memory and I was told everything I needed to know moment by moment and exactly how to do it. So the routine continued through basic training and Army life in general.
But I gained so much from my years in the 10th Mountain Div. I thank God that we were not at war nor were facing war during my time in the service, because we were absolutely ready for battle and they would have sent us first. Looking back I see that I learned so much more than I asked for by joining the Army.
There are a few lessons I learned from my time in the Army that I could not buy or get from college, and they have shaped me into the man I am today. Here are some of the bigger lessons I learned while in the Army.
- Family is important: I remember that first Thanksgiving during basic training we could not go home, but they would let us call home for just a few minutes (on a pay phone). I was overwhelmed with how much I missed my family. I really didn’t realize it until I was gone. I do love my family! With a son of my own now I sort of know the pain of separation my parents must have felt.
- With the Lord’s help I can do almost anything: I am not overly talented in anything. I can play sports, play a couple musical instruments, and sing, but I am not really good an any of them. When it came to military training I found that I was pretty good at those tasks, but it was because the Lord guided me and I drove myself to be the best I could be. In Philippians 4:13 the Bible says I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me. And that is how I made it through my time in the Army.
- I really like to be organized and lead: I did not have these two talents before I joined, but God developed them in me while I was in the Army. Now it is just part of who I am to organize what I do, and I feel so comfortable when leading a group, team or organization.
- Jesus was always there: I carried a small Gideon’s Bible in my cargo pocket whenever in my BDU uniform. That didn’t make Jesus be with me – Jesus was always with me because He was in my heart!
- True friends last a lifetime: There were a few of us who were friends through basic training and permanent duty station of the 10th Mountain Division. We went through a lot together, and we stuck together for support. Some of those guys I am starting to find today on Facebook, and feel today that we still have a tie to each other that time, distance or circumstance can erase.
Yes there has been a lot happen in my life over the past 30 years, and all of it to mold me into who I am today. The Army was a good starting point for me in 1985. But it sure seems like somebody pressed fast forward, and here we are 30 years later.