5 minutes with … An Operation Vacation soldier | PostIndependent.com

5 minutes with … An Operation Vacation soldier

Timekeeper: John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo courtesy of Scott King A Funky Little MountaRodney, 9, Rick, 13, Angie and Neale Smith

Name: Neale Smith

Age: 34

Place of birth: born in Missouri but grew up in Illinois

Branch of the military: Army, First Cavalry Division

Family: Wife Angie, sons Rick (13) and Rodney (9)

When and why did you join the Army?

I joined on July 1, 1992. I was living in Illinois where you end up working at the steel mill or farming. Neither was my cup of tea. I was always interested in the military and it looked more prosperous than staying there. But now I’m in it to make a difference.

Where have you been deployed?

Did a tour in Somalia in 1993, ’94-’95 was in Haiti, and was in Iraq for part of ’06-’07.

What was your favorite place you’ve been stationed?

Fort Drum, upstate New York. The winters are miserable, but I’ve always had a good

time there. It’s a lot like Colorado.

What experience in your travels overseas most surprised you?

I would say the resilience of the people where I’ve been like Korea and Germany. The people are resilient, they hold to their faiths and beliefs. We look at other cultures and the turmoil they’re having and they are proud people trying to maintain their heritage.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I try to spend as much time with the family as I can. My two boys are a handful. I try to get as much time as I can with them. I tinker with old cars, computers, anything with nuts and bolts I’ll tinker with.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had no idea. Everyone wants to be a doctor, lawyer, astronaut, things like that. But

honestly, when it came down to it, I didn’t have the money for college and I didn’t

want to go into debt for college. So I thought, ‘what could I do in the military that I can

do as a civilian?’ I’ve been working on helicopters for 15 years.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:

Regardless of what you do, be proud of what you do.

If you could invite any three individuals in history to dinner, who would you invite,

what would you serve, and what would you talk about?

I don’t talk politics. But I would invite John F. Kennedy because I think he was ahead

of his time. Martin Luther King Jr. because he was someone ahead of his time, too.

They both stood for change. And I guess I would have to invite Abraham Lincoln, not

only because I was born and raised in Illinois, but everything he stood for. I’m not a

political talker, but the discussion would be on how they see their own impact on the

country. They all went through some turmoil. But like for JFK, what if he’d had a

couple of years in office? What would be different today?

What’s your most memorable military experience?

I would have to say, I can’t narrow it down to one, but the people I’ve interacted with

and had a positive impact on their lives. When they come back and say thanks. It kind

of keeps me going. Every soldier that I’ve touched through my career, maybe he’ll

touch one or two more and have a greater impact.

What are you looking forward to doing while in Glenwood Springs?

The scenery. I don’t even want to drive, I’m trying to get my wife to drive but she’s too

busy looking around. This is really comparable to upstate New York. We love it. It’s

almost like we’re home, 3,000 miles from home.

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