United States Army Veteran Zarrod Beck
Military Branch: United States Army
Units Served: A Company 3rd Battalion, 69 Armor Battalion
Role in the Unit: 6 different military occupational specialties.
Years of Military Service: 1988-1991 Active Duty, 1991-2013 Army National Guard
Highest Military Ranking: Command Sergeant Major
Honors Received: Bronze Star Medal for Service, Army Commendation Medal (3 OLC), Army Achievement Medal (4 OLC), National Defense Service Medal (1 Bronze Star), Army Good Conduct Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal (2 Bronze Stars), NCOES (4 device), Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Saudi Arabian Medal for the Liberation of Kuwait (w/Gold palm tree device), the Kuwaiti Medal for the Liberation of Kuwait, and the Combat Action Badge.
Overseas Service: Desert Storm desert shield, Afghanistan, Botswana, Africa, Ukraine, South Korea
What motivated you to join the military? I really wanted to serve my country and help people. I wanted to be part of the bigger picture and help on a global capacity, I guess. I wanted to serve my community and serve the United States.
What is an achievement that you are most proud of in your military service? I was a First Sergeant in Afghanistan. I was tasked with ensuring the soldiers I served were properly trained and prepared for the mission. To be deployed with a full unit and return with zero casualties in a company was my most proud achievement by far. The military and families have put their trust in me to take care of the soldiers in my command. I’m very honored to have been part of that special team.
Which medals and/or citations are you most honored to have received, and why? The highest award I received was the Bronze Star Medal in Afghanistan. That award was special to me because of the hard work and the sacrifices the soldiers made. I could not have received this award if it was not for the soldiers carrying out their duties in extreme circumstances and high level of professionalism. The soldiers earned this award.
How did you stay connected to home and to loved ones while deployed? I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 to 2005. I was one of the fortunate ones to have a satellite phone, to share with others because I was assigned to a FOB, forward operation base. However, those devices did not work often and battery time was limited so email was needed, and that’s when the service was working. If not, a few hours waiting for a 15-minute phone call was available. During Desert Storm, UPS mail was the best method and sending home a VHS cassette once was nice. Maybe a phone call every other month was possible.
Who is someone you looked up to or someone who meant a lot to you while serving in the military? So many people who really motivated and mentored me. But, hands down my parents were very inspirational. Just the love and support they gave me when times were both easy and difficult, they kept me motivated throughout my whole career.
How did/does your military experience impact your life today? I still find myself with a need to serve people, to help, even with simple issues or challenging issues. I always look for ways to be helpful. I also pay a little more attention to detail. In addition, I am more disciplined.
What was it like on your last day of service? It was a great satisfaction. I had achieved the highest enlisted rank that I could. I felt honored to be passing the torch to the younger generation. I hoped that my mentorship would allow upcoming and incoming leadership to continue to be successful. My oldest child continues to serve this great nation and I’m proud of that also.
After returning to civilian life, how were you initially received by veterans/family/community? Adjustment from the active duty lifestyle is really different. The love and support of my fellow soldiers and my family was really positive. I was a tank driver in Desert Storm, people were calling me a war hero and I was only 21, that was really heartwarming. It was nice to serve and then return home to a warm reception. I never felt like a war hero, just some young kid living his dream.
Following your service, did you pursue secondary education or enter the workforce? I earned my Associate’s in Arts, Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts, and a Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice with Suma Cum Laude Honors. I did pursue a PhD in Organizational Leadership and needed to complete my dissertation and 4-6 additional courses, but decided on spending time with family and starting my own business would be best at that time. Pursuing my PhD required more time and energy than I had. In the unlikely event I desire to continue my education, it will be a Doctorate in a counseling or social services field.
Did you, and how do you, stay in touch with people you served with? When I went into the military I was 17 or 18 years old. I was part of a cohort with this group of other kids. We trained together, ate together, worked out together, lived together, went to war together. To this day I am still very close to many of them. In fact, I just visited one of my buddies in Florida last week. I also went back to Ft. Steward Georgia and was amazed. We mainly use social media to stay in touch but we also call and text.
What would you like people to know about your military experience? A lot of soldiers make sacrifices that many people could never imagine. There is a lot of sacrifice that goes into serving this great nation, some that many will never experience or understand. But know this, I will make the ultimate sacrifice for this Nation and put myself in harm’s way so that others do not have to.
What questions do you wish people would ask you? What was one of the most challenging obstacles that service members have to overcome? Because, many service members will have a different answer as everyone has strengths and weaknesses that vary. I believe people can learn from these different answers.