When I returned from Germany in the late 90’s, I had no concept that I would someday retire to Lawton-Fort Sill as my permanent home. I had moved my family five years in a row. I was looking for someplace that I could change jobs in the Army without uprooting my kids. They needed a chance to establish some lasting relationships.
As far as the military was concerned, Fort Sill was great. I was able to get a brigade XO assignment in preparation for battalion command. It was during battalion command that I began to see how unique the community was. I commanded 3-18 FA, the Steel Professionals. Our co-op partner was AMBUCS. We did a lot of great things together. We had many good times. But, what I remember most is that they were always there for our soldiers. They genuinely enjoyed doing nice things for soldiers and their families. They made being stationed at Lawton-Fort Sill special.
Having moved my oldest daughter her junior year of high school, I was very pleased to get reassigned to Lawton. She would be able to graduate with her Oklahoma friends. I served as the deputy commander of III Corps Artillery. It was another opportunity to get reacquainted with the community. As always, it was all good.
But, it was my next assignment that sealed the deal. Not long after I took command of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, we deployed to Iraq during OIF I. There are many things to consider when deploying to war. Getting the unit ready is paramount, but taking care of the families is especially important. Soldiers who are distracted by problems back home are more likely to lose focus, and losing focus can be a very dangerous thing.
This is where the community was amazing. Time after time, during the deployment, when someone was having difficulty back home in Oklahoma, the community came to their assistance. On many occasions, I would receive word from someone in Lawton that they were going to assist the family in need, and that we should not worry about it. They had the home front covered. We could focus completely on the tasks at hand. I cannot begin to describe how encouraging this was to me, or how much I appreciated it.
When we returned from Iraq, I could not have imagined what would follow. Riding the bus to Henry Post Airfield for the welcome ceremony, the roads were lined with citizens waving signs and welcoming us home. At the airfield, there was a huge crowd, all so very happy to see us. It was almost overwhelming. I could not have expected such an act of patriotic kindness. I felt so very fortunate to have deployed from this wonderful little city in the heartland of America.
A few years later, after having served on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, it was time to retire. I am originally from Virginia, so many thought I would retire to the southern part of the state where I grew up. However, much time had passed. In my heart, only one place felt like home. Lisa, my wife, and I missed Lawton-Fort Sill. We missed our many friends, and we missed the patriotic caring community.
Lawton-Fort Sill is a great place to call home. It is a wonderful place to live and to serve. I appreciate the warm-hearted, giving people of Southwest Oklahoma. I am pleased when I am counted among them.