A new place to serve|
Editor’s Note: This is a personal story from one of the veterans in our diverse workforce.
A person doesn’t have to look very hard in my family to come across a military veteran. I was raised by a retired Air Force Vietnam veteran and my older brother is a combat veteran many times over who is currently serving as a Command Sergeant Major in the Army. Growing up we proudly flew the American flag on our front porch and as a military “brat” I was always surrounded by people who had a parent away for training or some sort of deployment. These were my kind of people; people I could relate to, which is why it made perfect sense that I too would join the military and would eventually make the military my life, or at least I thought so.
I spent 12 years as a Morse code interceptor and communications specialist in the Air Force before I was accepted to the U.S. Army Officer’s Candidate School. Upon my graduation I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps and eventually trained as a Public Affairs Officer. My 10 years in the Army were both exhilarating and challenging. Deployments came again and again and I can recall more times that I was away from my family for holidays and special occasions than when I was home. But nothing can replace the job skills I gained, the memories I made, the life-long friendships I still have or the sense of pride I feel for serving my country.
After 22 years in the military I made the decision to retire from the Army and began my transition to civilian life. With this decision came a flood of anxiety. I began to worry about whether or not I’d find a position and if the skills I’d learned in the military would be transferrable. I was afraid that the pride I felt when I laced up my boots everyday would disappear. I wondered if anyone would understand why I tear up each and every time I stand as the National Anthem is played or if they would find me odd.
I was sure that it would be difficult for me to find the type of work environment where I felt I belonged and where my leadership cared about my success. I was just as sure that it would be impossible for me to feel a sense of comradery with my fellow employees, like I did in the military. With all of those fears come thoughts that I might be making a mistake and that I would deeply regret my decision to retire; until I learned about the U.S. General Services Administration.
I officially retired from the U.S. Army this April and quickly began looking for a position that would be a good fit with my military experience. Even though I had decided to take off my uniform, as with so many veterans, I still felt a strong desire to continue to serve my country and looked toward federal service as a way to do that.
I looked into many federal agencies before I found myself very drawn to GSA’s mission statement. “To deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people.”
Few agencies work with their federal partners as much as GSA does, and that kind of collaboration sounded right up my ally. The scope of the work GSA does is vast and varied for sure, but the mission is simple and to the point. They serve the government and the American people and that is exactly the type team that I longed to once again be a part of.
I started my position as a regional public affairs officer in August of this year and am in awe of the work GSA employees do on a daily basis. The worries I experienced in anticipation of my military retirement have since been replaced with excitement for my the new federal family. I’m proud to work for an agency that is the backbone of the federal government and who does so much to support economic development and planning in local communities. Instead of mourning the career I once had, I am proud to serve my country as part of an organization that continues to provide the best value for the American taxpayer. I’ve found new “battle buddies” in the strong team of veterans, reservists, guardsmen, military spouses and federal employees that I work with everyday.
I’ve realized that while I’m very proud of the military being such a large part of my life, it isn’t my entire life. With GSA I’ve found a new home and a new place to continue to serve the country that I love and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.