KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Army Maj. Chad Agustin is a man of many talents. So, it was no surprise to see him make contact when he shared his story with employees of a local Kansas City sports equipment business.
Agustin, a former baseball standout at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hawaii or UH Hilo, and current officer in charge of the Army Medical Recruiting Station Kansas City here, was first at bat in a series of guests invited by Pro Athlete, Inc., an online retailer of baseball bats and gloves, to speak with a small group of its employees, said Austin Hall, human resources manager at Pro Athlete, Inc.
The engagement is along the lines of the Army's "Meet Your Army" initiative to increase the public's awareness of what it means to serve in uniform.
According to U.S. Army Recruiting Command reports, an estimated 50 percent of America's youth know little or nothing about military service, while only 1 percent of the U.S. population currently serves in the Armed Forces. Army leaders are confident those numbers can change for the better as communities meet and learn more about the people behind the uniform.
After listening to Agustin speak about principles that have guided his military career and personal life, Armando Sanchez, an 18-year Pro Athlete Inc. employee, agreed that it's impactful for people to hear the individual stories of the service men and women who live and work in their communities. "You know there are people out there who have no idea about what (military service) entails …," explained Sanchez, whose father is a Vietnam veteran who served with the Navy. "So, maybe that might inspire them to maybe go into the (military) service or maybe … be more open-minded. This may be something they need to hear. It's a very inspiring story."
A native of Aiea, Hawaii, Agustin spoke about his journey and how he has gone on to wear numerous hats -- enlisted U.S. Army Reserve combat medic, school teacher, Medical Service Corps officer, and hometown policeman. In fact, the Active Guard Reserve officer still wears the badge of the Honolulu Police Department when not activated or mobilized for full-time military duty.
However, it's through his connection to sports, or more specifically any cause to hit a ball with a bat, that Agustin truly communicates. He played on scholarship at UH Hilo and graduated with a bachelor's degree in health and education. Now a frequent participant in the Armed Forces Sports program, he's an All-Army Softball gold medalist, member of a U.S. Slow Pitch Softball Association World Championship team, and an all-star and world champion in various police leagues.
Because of baseball, Agustin said he's been somewhat of an ambassador in both military and police competitive softball communities long before his recruiting days. Still, the 15-year military veteran, said he relishes opportunities to tell the Army story and be the "face of the Army" in his community.
It is a role he's grown accustomed to filling and one the Army considers key to bridging the gap with a civilian community that it says is growing more out of touch with military service.
That was evident when Agustin asked who among the 30 or so employees gathered in Pro Athlete Inc.'s posh, pub-like "meeting" room had served in the military. No hands went up, and only a few did so when asked if anyone had a family member or someone they knew who had served.
Sanchez was one of the few with a direct connection to a military veteran. He said he has a lifetime of respect for anyone who volunteers to serve their country as did his father.
Hall, who initially coordinated through the Fort Leavenworth Public Affairs Office, said it made sense to reach out to the military to kick off the speaker series, because his company shares similar ethics and values, particularly in terms of the importance of its greatest asset -- its people. With amenities in their baseball-themed facilities, such as an onsite chef who prepares healthy meals for employees, an indoor lap pool, spa, weight room, basketball court and batting cage, the company has been featured in Fortune Magazine among the top places to work in retail.
"We love our military and so do our employees," wrote Hall in his request for military participation. "We like to invite external organizations to our facility to speak, motivate, and inspire others. We are interested in hearing your story."