Anew at 42: Army Provides Soldier with Fulfilling Life Opportunity
July 9, 2008
Fort Lee, Va. (July 9, 2008) -- Pvt. Felecia Letzeisen has been known to carry around a photo album with pictures of her property back home in Indiana.
It shows the land before cultivation - barren and bare - and after - lush and green.
She is proud of what she has accomplished with it.
"I like sharing beauty with the world, and during a time of war, beauty will bring a smile to anyone's heart," said the Company A, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade Soldier.
Letzeisen's personal story is also a thing of beauty, somewhat a tale of cultivation and one that certainly has a few unwritten chapters.
This story of self-fulfillment began when she was a teenager growing up in southern Indiana.
"I was raised in a lazy household," the mother of three said. "We were people who never really accomplished anything, never had any ambition, and never had any goals in life. My background was really dysfunctional."
That all changed when she met Gregory, now her husband.
"Until I met my husband, I didn't know what 'more' was," she said. "I didn't have any ambitions of my own, and he taught me the finer things in life - to work for what you wanted in life, to accomplish something, to achieve something."
Gregory's impact on his wife was potent. Her outlook was different and her frame of mind was transformed. She patiently waited for the day when she could pursue a career, and being a Soldier was at the top of her list.
"I believed the Army had the best discipline and training in the world," she said, "and I always admired everything about Soldiers."
An opportunity to join the Army surfaced when she was 32. She tried to enlist but was told she was too old. It seemed that chapter of her life's story was all but finished.
"I didn't think the possibility was there," she said, "so I'd given up on that dream."
So she thought.
When Letzeisen's youngest graduated from high school, she was in a state of uncertainty about how to pursue the next stage of her life. She was now 42 years old and didn't have a stellar resumAfA. She did, however, have the determination to reach for the stars.
"In a conversation my daughter's friend was having with her, I heard that they had raised the enlistment age to 42," she recalled. "I didn't hesitate, picked up the phone and called the recruiter that day."
That was earlier this year. Letzeisen was one of hundreds of the over-40 set who benefited from the Army's new age limits. She was determined to make the most of it.
She got the skinny about the entrance requirements, lost weight and took care of other health problems. She also talked to several Soldiers in training to get a sense of what would be required of her. She held firm to her decision to sign up.
"Nothing changed my mind," said Letzeisen.
Not the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the difficulty of basic training, not even her less-than-youthful body would sway her decision.
"It was like this is the path I was supposed to walk," she said.
She walked, ran and now four months later, she is an advanced individual training Soldier and a few weeks away from graduating as an automated supply specialist.
Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Martin, Letzeisen's platoon sergeant, said she is a standout, not because of her age, but because of her positive attitude toward the many menial tasks inherent in initial entry training.
"She shows a lot of initiative, courage and strength," he said. "She even motivates me."
"I feel pretty good," she said. "I don't think your life ends at 40. The kids call me grandma and they joke about my age but I'm still healthy. It's almost like I'm doing things in reverse. I'm getting younger as I get older."
Letzeisen is clearly motivated by opportunity. She said she savors what the Army has to offer in terms of training, education and self-realization.
"The Army has helped me discover parts of me I never knew I had," she said, "the strength I have, the courage I have.
"It has taught me to just get out there and to accomplish the mission ...to keep going, no matter how bad you feel or how bad you want to quit."
When Letzeisen completes AIT, she will return to her National Guard unit in Indiana, then move forward in her plans to go Active Duty, starting another chapter in her life.
"I want to make it a career," she said. "I'll be 62 when I retire. I think I can do that ... if I keep myself healthy and fit, I can do it."