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  • melyssabigelow

A Career in the Military Opened Doors

When I was 18, I had no clue what I wanted to do for a living. I worked some entry-level jobs (janitor and busboy) and didn’t want to stay in those fields. I knew college could open some doors for me, but I didn’t feel ready or focused on more education. The Army offered me three meals a day, free room, health insurance, and the potential to live overseas. It was the time of the Cold War, so some degree of adventure seemed likely and that appealed to me. Thus, I signed up and chose to be an Infantryman.

In the first four years, I lived in Ft Benning, GA, Ft Campbell, KY, and Germany. I was in Germany when the wall fell, and the Cold War ended. I flew around in Helicopters, drove around in armored personnel carriers (known as APCs), and went to Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invaders. By the end, I was no longer an unsure young man with no focus or goals. I was a self-disciplined and ambitious 22-year-old man with the GI Bill to pay for whatever my educational goals I desired. I had also saved over $4,000 to help me when I left the army, an industry term known as separating. When I went to college I was focused and determined to succeed, and it made the education extremely useful.

I decided to go back into the Army and this time as an officer. This gave me more responsibilities and more influence. Along the next 16 years, I led over 350 soldiers as a Company Commander, negotiated contracts worth over $2 Billion, was trusted with a Top-Secret Security Clearance, and served again in two more wars. I lived in Italy (where I jumped out of planes), Ft Sam Houston, TX., Ft Jackson, SC, and Denver. The Army paid for my bachelor’s degree with the GI Bill combined with an ROTC scholarship and later paid for a master’s in business administration. I am now pursuing a Doctorate in Business and used the last few months of my GI Bill to help.

Life in the military is not easy. You give up some freedoms and must learn to be a part of a team. Video games and movies do little to show the realities of military life. When it rains in a game the screen gets cloudy. When it rains on maneuvers you get soaked and cold. There is a multitude of jobs far beyond the difficult one I chose. If you are interested in researching more here is a website that can lay out the details but is not directly related to recruiters. Everyone’s journey is different and there is a huge variety of options. Don’t trust me, do your research so you can make an informed decision.

My background in leadership and government contracting combined with the Top-Secret Clearance landed my current job at Ball Aerospace. Military service is not for everyone and most only stay for a 3–5 year tour. That's all it takes to earn the benefits of college funding, job training skills, and personal growth. I have led an interesting and adventurous life to date and those skills & experiences now open doors for my future in ways few other paths can. Whatever path you choose to take, I wish you the best of luck!

MAJ(R) David Bigelow

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