A thunderous sound erupts from the basement of Fort Jackson's 120th Reception Battalion as 10 pairs of wheat colored combat boots stomp loudly in sync."Make sure they're comfortable. You want them to be comfortable," Linda Young suggests as she watches intensely as the group of fresh-faced Soldiers step up and down in their newly issued boots.As a clothes fitter at the Army's largest basic combat training installation, she sees hundreds of Soldiers each week. Just like the rest of the people at reception, Young is part of many of the new initial entry Soldiers first impressions of what the military is like."There were a lot of things I was not told when I was in that I can tell them now," she said. "I try to be like a mentor or a motherly figure to them. I love it. I love my Soldiers."After the stomping Soldiers take a seat, Young goes up to each of them and softly presses on their shoes to make sure the fit is perfect.In a soothing, nurturing voice, she calmly asks, "How does that feel? Is it too tight?"Being a mothering figure is important to Young because she's been there before. She too had to go through reception, overcome challenges during Basic Combat Training and make a promise as a
warrior to never leave a fallen comrade.Just like many of the other veterans that work on Fort Jackson, Young can relate to the Soldiers. They all have been in their shoes before.Friday is Veterans Day, a day honoring people who have once taken the oath to protect our country .
South Carolina has about 418,000 veterans, according to a survey in 2014. Of those veterans there are 45,974 women and 371,580 men."There is a saying that if you run with the Soldiers, you'll never fade away," said retired Sgt. Maj. Marvin Dunner, who works in the Personal Affairs Branch in reception setting up Soldiers personal accounts."I feel like I've never retired. I'm still working and in contact with the Army everyday. "Although technically they are no longer enlisted, many veterans who work at Fort Jackson share the same feeling as Dunner; they feel like they've never left the military."I still see things kind of green," said retired Col. Ralph Allison, who currently works as Chief of Staff
of the Soldier Support Institute. "I'm still serving my country and working around the same people, just not in uniform," he said.But veterans like retired Sgt. 1st Class Gary Francisco wouldn't have it any other way."It's a lot better working back with the military," said Francisco. "I tried the civilian world and it wasn't for me. Working with the military is therapeutic."Retired Sgt. Rickey Johnson Sr., who works along with Dunner in the Personal Affairs Branch, said he
struggled with being in the civilian world."I felt like civilian jobs lacked the kind of discipline I was use to and they didn't understand me" he said. "I feel like here I'm back with my people!"Retired Sgt. 1st Class Carol Simms who works in human resources in the Strom Thurmond Building uses her military experience to relate to the Soldiers she helps, just like Young does when mothering her new Soldiers coming in to get their first pair of boots."Sometimes when a Soldier comes in and depending on how they are acting I try to figure out whether or not I need to be a drill sergeant with them. Because I've been in their situation, I can figure out what's needed," she said.