Why I Serve: Sgt. Brian West
July 22, 2011
What motivates a former Walmart employee to leave the comforts of the civilian workforce and join the ranks of thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line every day?
“I wanted to do something bigger than myself. The Army is more than just helping an old lady across the street but helping to free other countries. It has a bigger benefactor. I wanted to be a part of that,” said Sgt. Brian West, an infantryman from Bravo Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
West, a native of Morehead City, N.C., said his decision to join the Army three years ago wasn’t only based on his dedication to selfless service, but also an important influence within his family. West said watching his father’s military career greatly inspired him.
“I tried to follow in his footsteps,” said West, whose father served in the Army and later retired from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Despite West’s mild mannerisms and easygoing personality, he said he knew he was destined to become an infantryman, the Army’s main combat job.
“11 Bravos [infantryman] have a pride about how they do their thing. That pride is to exceed standards and overcome anything. That’s how we train, that’s how we fight,” said West.
Although West has yet to experience combat, his mission in The Old Guard is equally important. The Old Guard, the Army’s premier ceremonial unit, performs the most solemn of ceremonies; laying fallen Soldiers to rest. This is a task West said he doesn’t take lightly.
“There’s always that responsibility, and level of respect and honor we have to give to anyone that’s buried out here [Arlington National Cemetery],” he said. “It’s not only because we have to, but because we genuinely want to.”
West recalled his most memorable moment, a specific funeral where only one person attended.
“We didn’t know anything about the person who died or the family situation, but we were there to show support and be the family,” he said.
West’s inspiration comes from the camaraderie he finds in his Soldiers and fellow brothers.
“Without them I’m nothing. People are truly motivated when they are trying to achieve a goal together,” he said.
Although he plans to leave the military in two years to pursue the total college experience, his journey through the Army will leave a lasting impression.
“I’ve learned to treat people with respect and understanding. Everybody I have met had a role to play in building me into a leader,” he said.