Real Heroes Wear Dog Tags

“I fold it up and put it in my shirt, pick up my gun and get back to work. And it keeps me drivin’ on, waitin’ on, letters from home.” These song lyrics from John Michael Montogomery are the reality of those who dedicate their lives to serving our country. Including Texas A&M-Texarkana’s very own, Jon Robert Beck.

Jon Robert is a Junior Business Administration student at A&M-Texarkana. He is in the Honor’s Program, serves as a Student Ambassador for our campus, and wants to one day own his own business.

However, he is not just a regular student. He also serves as an infantryman in the Army National Guard Reserves. In February 2017, he was deployed to Africa for nine months and stationed in 5 countries; Djibouti (1 month 2 weeks), Kenya (2 months), Uganda (2 weeks), South Sudan (3 months), Somalia (2 months).

Throughout his deployment there were many different living situations. He said “Depending on what county I was in altered how good or bad the living conditions were. They ranged from Djibouti being the best, with a spacious two-man room, to Somalia with twelve guys crammed into a tent.” However, this wasn’t his primary concern. Location may have played a big part in how “comfortable” he was, but it also determined how often he was able to contact home. “In Djibouti, I had internet and could call at any time, whereas is South Sudan everyone there shared one phone, so calling home was very limited.” The limited contact was hard on both Jon Robert and his family, but they tried to stay in touch as much as possible. They sent him many care packages, but one of his favorites included some Girl Scout Samoa Cookies. He jokingly admitted that food was one of the things he missed most about America. When hard times struck, and he really missed home, he did his best to make the most of it. “There was group of me and five other guys that grew a brotherhood bond that could overcome any obstacle that was thrown at us, as long as we had each other.”

He may have been deployed to several different countries, but his job in base security remained consistent. “This job had many different tasks, but mainly consisted of searching and escorting locals on the base, as well as making sure nobody breached the outer perimeter fences. In order to do this, we had shifts operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week.” His job required long days and hard hours, but he also gained a positive experience. He was able to see and interact with different cultures all over Africa, and learn the ways of local life. He said, “I was with a great group of guys that always had a positive attitude. We would keep each other’s morals high no matter what circumstance or situation we encountered.”

What he learned from being overseas is something we should all gain from. It “taught me many valuable lessons, but the one that will stick with me forever is to never take anything for granted. Sometimes you don’t realize what all you have until you are separated from it for 11 months.” Jon Robert takes great pride and responsibility in serving our country, and it means more to him than he could ever explain.

He returned to the U.S. in November and the very first thing he did was visit with family and eat a big bacon cheeseburger. The first time his mom saw him face-to-face she was overjoyed. “I was so excited and I was told I said, “Oh my God there he is!” I couldn’t get to him quick enough for a hug and then couldn’t let go of him.” This is an important reminder that mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children also serve. They may not be fighting a battle overseas, but they are fighting the distance from home waiting on their loved ones return.

He said the first few days back were overwhelming with seeing friends and family, but after he put those days behind him he fell back into his normal routine and it was like he never left.

When asked if he was ready to start back to school he said he was looking forward to it, and that he is already signed up for classes in the upcoming Spring semester.

It is so important that we are aware of what the military is doing for us. We can become so accustomed to having a warm bed to sleep in at night, the convenience of contacting family and friends at the touch of a button, that we forget what our armed forces are missing out on. They are the reason we have these freedoms. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Jon Robert, and thank you to all the brave men and women that protect and serve our country.

Here are a few more thank you’s from students around our campus:

“As I sit here studying for finals, surrounded by friends, eager to complete the fall 2017 semester, it occurred to me how fortunate I am. My blessings are innumerable. I have a place to live, a loving family, I get to play baseball in a collegiate atmosphere, but my greatest blessing is my freedom. It is because of the men and women of our armed forces that I am able to do all of these things. While they are out defending the front lines, we are able to be surrounded by our family and friends during the holidays. To our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future, God bless you, and thank you for your service!” ~Bryce Hudson

“Freedom definitely does not come without a price. We take for granted all of the opportunities we have, but these opportunities have been earned for us because of the sacrifice paid by the members of our armed forces. Thank you to all of our branches in the military!”~Brooke Rayburn

“Thank you is not enough for the sacrifices those men and women make at and away from home.”~Matty B

I really appreciate the men and women that serve our country. It is such a brave thing to do.”~Katie McCorkle

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