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Why I Serve: Giving Something Back

By Tam Cummings
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT HOOD, Texas, Nov. 23, 2004 – "I think everybody owes something back to this nation, in some sort of service. I found my niche by joining the Army," garrison commander Col. Tori Bruzese said, explaining why she joined the service 23 years ago.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Col. Tori Bruzese accepts the installation guidon from Hugh M. Exton during the change of command ceremony at Fort Hood this past summer. Photo by Staff Sgt. Brent A. Hunt, USA

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

That belief, about service to her country, is easy for Bruzese to trace.

"My paternal grandfather was a deep patriot and he loved this country for all the opportunities it afforded him and his family," Bruzese said. The grandfather she described was an Italian immigrant who joined the Army as a young man to fight for freedom during World War I.

"He had a deep sense of gratitude for America. He always had a flag flying and a deep respect and reverence for what this country represents," she said.

Bruzese' grandfather believed so strongly in the freedoms and ideals of America, he wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt when the United States entered World War II to plead his case to be re-enlisted. He had been turned down because of his age. The colonel's family treasures the framed response from the first lady, admiring a true patriot and his love for his adopted homeland.

In spite of his efforts, the elder Bruzese was denied active duty. Not a man to be put off, her grandfather joined the New York National Guard. And her father left for the European campaign while her uncle enlisted in the Navy.

Now the third generation of the Bruzese family to serve, the colonel said her pride in her work comes from the troops.

"The premier reason I put on my uniform every day is being able to serve with these soldiers and their families," she explained. "I will continue to do that until the Army tells me I can't anymore."

The daughter of a transit city cop and a medical technician mother, Bruzese said she "toyed with the idea of joining the Army at the end of high school." But then she learned two years of college first would boost her position during enlistment, so she signed up for junior college.

But one day, someone mentioned ROTC and the New York native found herself majoring in geography and geology at the University of South Florida. Four years later, her parents watched as their only child was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers.

(Tam Cummings is news editor for the Ft. Hood Sentinel newspaper.)

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