Why I serve
I serve as a major, a commissioned officer, in the United States Army. I am a "Regular Army" officer, which means I am a full-timer, devoted to serving until I retire or die, whichever comes first.
A few years ago, the Army leadership came out with the "Army Values" for all soldiers to follow. I use the Army Values as a guide in how to live my life, both professionally and personally. The Values follow the acronym "LDRSHIP," which stands for Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-service, Honor, Integrity and Personal courage. Three of these values highlight why I serve: loyalty, duty, and selfless service.
The Army's definition of loyalty is to "Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other soldiers." These are more than just words; one must truly understand their meaning and feel them in their heart, as I do. The U.S Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is key and critical to what I believe must be protected in America. There are those enemies, both foreign and domestic, who would strip us of these rights if it weren't for those of us in uniform ready to fight and die to protect them.
The Army defines duty as "Fulfill your obligations." This takes loyalty to a higher level: Loyalty is projected outwardly, whereas duty is internalized. One must see their place in the grand scheme of things, and act accordingly. Each soldier is an individual, not a mindless automaton blindly following orders like a robot. Only through careful introspection, knowing oneself, one's abilities, one's focus, one's environment, can we fully understand our sense of duty. Duty is taking what is required of us and turning it into action. A truly duty-bound soldier does what needs to be done to the fullest of their ability, even when it is hard, even when it is unpopular or when no one is looking.
The combination of loyalty and duty create the sense of selfless service, which is the third Army Value I find indispensable. Selfless service is to "Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own." I learned my sense of service from my father and stepfather, who both served in the Army, and three uncles and grandfather who all served in the Navy.
My dad especially talked highly about "the Service" as I was growing up. To him, and later me, serving in the Army was the only way to truly be a man, to be a red-blooded American. Dad said to serve first, and afterwards go off and do whatever else I wanted to do with my life. He explained we owed it to our country to repay all the benefits we enjoy as Americans, the rights we claim as sacred, the way of life that we prosper from. By paying for it up front, we earn the right to carry our head high throughout the rest of our life, knowing we had done the service which allows all Americans to live free from the tyranny that so plagues much of the rest of the world.
When the Army Values first came out, some in our ranks bemoaned them as a trick to inspire the unmotivated into higher performance. This was not the case with me, as I found them to be just what we needed to guide us in our daily lives as soldiers. I feel that I am doing my part as a soldier, fighting for what is right and ensuring America retains its place in the world as the shining beacon of freedom and democracy.
Richard Berry lived on Asbury Way in Mountain View from 1989 to 1994. He is currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and is a student at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.