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Why I Serve: For All the Right Reasons

By Sgt. Mark Albright, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT HOOD, Texas, March 2, 2005 – "When I came home one day in my last year of high school and my dad had lost his job at the textile mill, I wanted to join (the Army) right then," said Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Melson, 4003rd Garrison Support Unit.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Melson said he joined the Army because he liked the pride and image of the Army, and has stayed in for the exact same reasons. Photo by Sgt. Mark Albright, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But Melson did not join then. First, he needed to help his family out.

Later when he mentioned again about joining, his mother objected. She wanted him to go to college. Melson had planned on getting his bachelor's degree, going to law school and returning to his hometown of Manchester, Ga., to start a practice. The mill changed that. Melson's mother made him promise on her deathbed he would go to college, so he did. After graduating, he worked in the insurance business, still often thinking about being a soldier. One day in 1993 he had decided he did not want to stay in the insurance business. "I had decided that the insurance business just wasn't for me," he said, and walked into an Army recruiting office and signed up.

Melson signed up as an information technology specialist and was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, at 5th Corps' headquarters.

"It was great I was finally in the Army and I was in Germany. I got to Italy and France too," said Melson. But he did not expect what would happen next. The Army was drawing down, so Melson decided to go into the reserves. "I was disappointed, but I thought that I could still serve in the reserves," Melson said.

He was first stationed with the 952nd Engineer Company, Paris, Texas, as a heavy construction equipment operator, he explained, for three years. "I just had not gotten the love of the military out of my system. It just wasn't enough to drill on the weekends," said Melson, "so I decided to join the Active Guard and Reserve program. I knew that when I went into the AGR program I was shooting for a career." As luck would have it, Melson was given his old job as an information technology specialist back and was transferred to the 344th Data Processing Unit, Fort Belvoir, Va., where he was a "cyber cop" working to help catch hackers. He moved a couple of more times while in the AGR, first, to the 145th Medical Logistics Battalion in Segoville, Texas, then to the 4003rd.

The Army was something Melson had always enjoyed, whether on active duty, reserves or as an active duty reservist.

"I would say that I joined because I like the pride and image of the Army, and stayed in for the exact same reasons," said Melson.

(Army Sgt. Mark Albright is assigned to the 4003rd Garrison Support Unit.)

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