By Lt. Col. John Garcia Special to the Guard
OKLAHOMA CITY -- "Thank you for your service."
As a U.S. Army soldier living in Oklahoma City I am grateful for these words, which I hear often when wearing my uniform in this community.
What many people do not understand is that I am the one who is thankful.
I am thankful for the camaraderie, the global understanding, the commitment made to me and my family, and the opportunity to dedicate every day to the people of this country.
I am thankful for the education and cost-free healthcare I receive, the worldwide experiences I have had, the technical skills I have learned, and the opportunity to be a leader in the most trusted organization in the nation.
I am thankful to be part of history. This week the Army celebrates 244 years of dedicated service. Generations of soldiers have inspired professionalism, honorable service and a commitment to the common good. For this, I am proud to call myself a soldier.
And now, I am part of the team inspiring the next great generation of soldiers to find their place in history.
That is no easy task, however, even though the majority of Americans have the highest levels of confidence in the U.S. military.
We face many challenges when searching for the right people to fill our ranks. Yes, we need infantrymen and Special Forces soldiers, like you see in the movies, but we also need logisticians, nurses, engineers, truck drivers, and IT specialists.
About 50 percent of today's young people admit they know little to nothing about their nation's military - the people who work daily to protect their freedom. They don't understand the depth of the knowledge and technical skills they can learn in 150 different career paths. They don't understand the degrees they can earn or that the benefits and perks often match or surpass those offered by civilian employers.
I have had many jobs in the 20 years I have served in the U.S. Army. I have done everything from Field Artillery and Logistics Management to now leading and directing the efforts of over 250 recruiters. It has been one of the best decisions of my life. I am a better person because of the U.S. Army and the people I have met throughout my career.
I see amazing young people in Oklahoma City and the surrounding communities desiring to serve their communities, and I believe we are doing them a disservice if we are not encouraging them to explore the military as a potential career path.
The Army invests in its people, often to the benefit of outside organizations. Veterans are more likely to vote, volunteer, and be involved in their communities. They have the maturity and self-discipline private industries are seeking. Only 29 percent of today's young people have the ability to meet our qualifications. We will work to find the right people, and we will compete to retain them for the good of our nation. But we need your help.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 and the Army's 244th birthday on June 14, the Army is activating a nationwide "Call to Service."
I challenge leaders, parents, educators and the Oklahoma City community as a whole to step forward. Inspire the young people around you to be part of something bigger, to be part of history. Inspire them to answer the call.
Lt. Col. John Garcia is the commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, Oklahoma City, which is responsible for hiring more than 3,120 new soldiers from Oklahoma, Arkansas and surrounding areas this year.