I was a senior in high school in 1979 when I decided to join the U.S. Army. Well in advance of graduation, I had seriously considered attending college and had actually applied for admission to Ferrum College, located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains not too far from my home town of Vienna – but far enough away to be out on my own. But when the acceptance letter arrived, I quickly came to the realization that I was tired of attending school and felt I needed to take a different path.

Since my father and grandfather had served in the military, along with a handful of uncles and cousins, I decided to join the U.S. Army. From what U.S. Army recruiters told me, I could travel the world and continue my civilian education in addition to the basic combat training and occupational training that I would receive. All in all, the opportunity to join the military seemed to appeal to me more than a college campus.

Looking back over my Army career, it is apparent that my recruiter did not steer me wrong. (He may have over exaggerated some areas and overlooked others). Nevertheless, in additional to receiving excellent military training and education (Basic Training; Primary Leadership Development; Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course/NCO Academy; and 3 Military Occupational Specialties (71M; 71L; and 71C)), I was afforded the opportunity to complete an associate degree and a bachelor degree. 

I was also afforded the opportunity to travel. I served in overseas tours to Turkey with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States Embassy in Amman, Jordan. State side assignments included Fort Belvoir, VA and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley Kansas. Two exceptionally challenging assignments included the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Legislative Affairs, and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Pentagon.

After retiring from the U.S. Army in 1994, I worked in the Construction and Real Estate Industry (Property Management).  In 2009 I went to work for the U.S. Marine Corps as Facility Manger for the Wounded Warrior Battalion, Camp Lejeune, NC. I completed my master’s degree during that tenure. In 2012 I took a position with the Veterans Administration as a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Agent. I have worked as a VA SAH Agent for nearly six years and I have no desire to change careers at this time. 

All in all, I believe joining the military was the best thing I ever did.  Although the duty was predominantly challenging, the experience has proven to be invaluable. Truth be told, it was indeed an honor and a privilege to serve and I would, without hesitation, recommend military service to anyone – especially high school graduates that want to pursue a challenging profession and complete their college education.

Michael Gutschenritter

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Retired