By JEAN CLAVETTE GRAVESEditor’s note: This week I had the opportunity to talk to some amazing Soldiers stationed at Fort Polk to highlight the Army's greatest resource —our people. There are so many wonderful service members; I was privileged to talk to a few. I am humbled by their dedication, their motivation and their service — happy 245th birthday to the Army.FORT POLK, La. — The Army is made up of Soldiers — professional men and women who choose to serve the nation and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Gen. George Patton once said, “The Soldier is the Army. No army is better than its Soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one's country." This Sunday, the Army will celebrate 245 years.On Jun. 14, 1775 the Second Continental Congress formed the Continental Army to unite the 13 original colonies in their fight against British tyranny. This year’s theme — our people — highlights the contributions of Soldiers past and present, and inspires those who will serve in the future.The Fort Polk Guardian talked to some of our people — people who have come from around the world and across the country to serve. We talked to people from all walks of life, who represent the fabric of our nation and the ideals upon which it was founded; people who choose to be part of something bigger than themselves, who have accepted the challenge and who illustrate the heart of the Army. The people listed below are just a few of several who have come together as part of the enduring legacy of Soldiers who have served the nation for 245 years.Sgt. Roderick McGrew Jr., 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry RegimentMcGrew enlisted in 2017 to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a Soldier. McGrew is from Dallas, Texas and graduated from Stephen F. Austin University. He chose the infantry because he said it was the most prestigious option, and he needed the mental and physical challenge. He said he wanted to be part of a winning team. “The Army has a great track record,” McGrew said, “I’m conscious of all of those who’ve served before me and recognize Soldiers, past and present, and their Families who are willing to make sacrifices for our country.”Motivated to continue his journey, McGrew completed six prerequisite courses for Northwestern State University’s Nursing Department this year and has been conditionally accepted to the Shreveport campus. He is pursuing the Army Medical Department’s Enlisted Commissioning Program in hopes of continuing his service as a registered nurse and commissioned officer.He confided that helping his fellow Soldiers has been his greatest personal benefit during his enlistment. “I serve from a place of grace; the relationships I’ve developed with my fellow Soldiers and the opportunity to mentor and counsel them has been extremely rewarding.” McGrew credits his family’s encouragement and backing to his success, “I wouldn’t be able to do this without my family supporting me,” he said.Staff Sgt. Duke Nishihara, 46th Engineer BattalionNishihara enlisted in 2011 as a Bradley fighting systems vehicle maintainer. He retrained as combat medic after his first enlistment and currently serves as the battalion senior medic, charged with supporting the health and welfare of his fellow Soldiers.From Anaheim, California, Nishihara is the oldest son of Japanese immigrants. He is a first-generation American, and the only person in his family to serve in the U.S. Army.“I love the Army, I love the cohesion, I love working with a team, I love mentoring Soldiers, I love the challenge and I love being a medic,” said Nishihara.He plans to continue serving and aims to attend Ranger School, become a drill sergeant and pursue a nursing or physician’s assistant school commissioning program.“I try to honor the legacy of those who served before me. I’m fully committed and proud that I’ve had the opportunity to serve in my current capacity,” he said. “The Army has given me the confidence to lead.”He said through his service he’s learned patience and resilience. “The Army is a great place to figure out what you want out of life, gain valuable skills and earn money for college. Even if you only serve one enlistment, don’t hesitate, it will set you up for your future,” he said.Spc. Allen Khosho, 52nd Translator/Interpreter CompanyKhosho was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, and is the second eldest of seven children from a Syrian family. After the liberation of Iraq, he started working for KBR in its dry cleaning facility at a nearby military installation. As his English improved, he began working as a combat interpreter with the 18th Cavalry Regiment and the 3rd Infantry Division between 2006 and 2007. He quickly earned the trust of the American Soldiers and he felt welcomed as part of the unit. He decided to come to the United States with the goal of joining the Army.Khosho said, “The brotherhood and what the Army stands for motivated me to become a Soldier. The units I worked with did so many good things. They put a lot of bad people away, built schools and made a difference. I wanted to be part of it.”His journey took 10 years. He became a citizen, earned his General Education Diploma, started taking college courses and worked in the civilian sector. He never lost sight of his goal to become a Soldier. He wanted to be an infantryman. He was rejected six times by recruiters for a variety of reasons, but he overcame them all.In 2017, he finally met a recruiter who told him about the interpreter/translator military occupation specialty. Once he began the process of becoming a translator, he spent six months finalizing his application process, medical assessments, security clearances, completing his GED and physical requirements. Finally on Jun. 26, 2018, 10 years after his arrival in the U.S., he left for basic training at Fort Jackson.“I’m glad it took so long; I matured. I grew a deeper passion for my new country, more focused on the big picture and more appreciative of the opportunities that were afforded to me in America,” he said.As he approaches the two-year anniversary of his enlistment, he is in awe of how much the Army has accomplished in such a short amount of time.“Compared to other countries, with a millennia of history, the U.S. has become the greatest country in the world in such a short amount of time. It means a lot to me to be part of the Army’s history. I am proud to be part of it. I’m an example for others; now, my baby sister wants to be an Army pilot,” he said. “I try to always do the right thing, maintain the highest standards and honor the memory of those who served before me.”Spc. Hope Hanzlik, 317th Brigade Engineer BattalionHanzlik joined the Army as a nodal network systems maintainer in 2018 right after high school. Her job is to establish communications from battalions to the brigade to ensure the commanders have the ability to communicate with each other.From Portland, Oregon, Hanzlik was on track for college in high school and surprised her Family and friends by enlisting, despite having several veterans in her family. Her grandfather came to the U.S. from Germany after WWII. He joined the Army to earn his citizenship, and her father served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.During high school, her parents traveled a lot with her younger brother who was a rising star on the professional tennis circuit. She said she was often left to her own devices and didn’t always make the best choices. After staying out late, hanging out with older people and not focusing on the future, the Army proved to be the right choice for her.She admits she joined on a whim. It wasn’t a life-long dream, but after a customer at the Starbucks she was working at suggested she talk to a recruiter, she was hooked on the idea.“I like being in the Army. There are so many opportunities; I have continuous access to train on a wide range of topics,” she said. “I have great leadership that has been encouraging me to learn more.”She said the discipline she’s developed while serving has motivated her to start taking college courses, and she has decided she would like to become an officer.“My company commander and first sergeant have suggested I apply for the 10th Mountain Hip Pocket scholarship and to pursue the Green to Gold program,” said Hanzlik. “It’s fantastic to think about the Army turning 245. It’s a great representation of the Army’s importance. Being part of such an old institution predating our country illustrates how dedicated people are to protecting our freedom and that we can survive any manner of conflict,” she said. “Our history is all about giving people their rights and protecting those rights.”Sgt. 1st Class Barbara Wandick, 190th Medical Detachment, 32nd Hospital CenterWandick, a native of Bakersfield, California, a mother of three teenagers and a licensed practical nurse, joined the Army in 2002. She initially enlisted as a combat medic, but later became an LPN where she works primarily with inpatient care. Currently, she is the rear detachment NCO for three forward detachments from the 32nd Hospital Center.Lack of opportunities at home motivated Wandick to enlist. She needed to get away from her hometown and find herself.“I always liked helping and being a medic; now nursing allows me to be helpful and serve others,” she said regarding why she has dedicated her life to the Army. “Intrinsically, I find the traditions and values of the Army important. I want to perpetuate that as much as possible with the next generation of Soldiers,” she said.She says she tries to honor the legacy of those who served before her by honoring and supporting the traditions upon which the Army was built. Wandick said that the Army is a sub-culture of society as a whole. Society is constantly moving forward she said, but the Army is just as good, big and powerful as it is because of traditions.“Two hundred forty-five years shows and proves that traditions and values passed from one generation to the next matters,” she said. “My first identity is being a Soldier. I signed up for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — to give my life if necessary. The Army is important to me. I’m proud to belong to this organization, with such a long history rooted in tradition,” she said. “I’ve made decisions in my life. My children have had to sacrifice, but for me, my priorities are God, country and then family.”Sgt. 1st Class Adriana Fox, JRTC Operations GroupFox is a chaplain assistant, the senior religious affairs specialist, an observer/coach/trainer for Operations Group and the mother of a four-year old. Fox was born in Cali, Colombia. Her father was a biologist who worked in the U.S. Embassy. After the civil war, she and her family relocated to the U.S.Fox joined the Army in 2008 at 19. She joined the Army for a sense of service to the country. This year, she was the first person with her MOS to earn the Expert Soldier Badge.“The Army gives me a sense of fulfillment, and there is no greater camaraderie in any other organization,” she said.She wants to continue to serve and benefit the team. “My mentors invested in me and made me who I am today. Sometimes I feel like this is not my rank, but that I carry this rank for those leaders who encouraged me, I honor their service by mentoring and investing in the younger Soldiers coming after me” she said.The Army has reached 245 years because the organization is continuously training others. “The way I view it is the Army is a time-honored organization; the leaders who came before us invested in the Soldiers who replaced them. It’s an organization that will keep on growing because of the leaders’ investments into Soldiers.”She said she never wants to disappoint those who have believed in her. Every day she does her job because of those who served before her. Not only does she want to honor the legacy of those before her but also perpetuate it for the future, she said.“In a time like this, the Army represents hope and safety. We are here to protect our people. Nobody is out; we are inclusive.”She said her greatest moment in the Army was transforming civilians into Soldiers during her time as a drill sergeant. “Watching them march with pride across the stage, while the Army song played during graduation, made it all worth it,” she said.Staff Sgt. Kurt Oxendine Jr., 46th Eng BnOxendine was born in Utica, New York but grew up traveling the world as the son of an Army Soldier. He had no intention of joining the Army. He was pursuing a degree in information technology and working at Fort Campbell’s Child and Youth Services when he met his wife and daughter. In 2012 he was motivated to join to provide for his family, just as his father and uncle had for their Families.Oxendine began his career as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and eventually retrained as a generator mechanic. He never lost sight of his goal to earn a degree and work in IT.In 2019 after finishing his degree, with the encouragement of his mentor, he applied to become a cyber network defender.I joined the Army to create a positive foundation for my wife and daughter. That reason strengthened over time and evolved because of the relationships I’ve made with my fellow Soldiers and the opportunities I’ve been given,” he said.Oxendine comes from a long line of military service.Both his father and uncle recently retired. “I am proud to continue the Family legacy of service and perform honorably. I want those who came before me to know they left the Army in good hands when they passed the torch to me,” he said. “I’m honored to be a part of the Army’s history. Each day, I make it a point to improve upon myself as a Soldier and as a leader, ensuring that I’m upholding the standards of the leaders who taught me,” said Oxendine.Spc. Jesus Gil, Bayne-Jones Army Community HospitalGil joined the Army in 2017 as a behavioral health specialist. Originally from El Grullo, Mexico, Gil decided to enroll in high school in Kansas after a visit with his sister. He said he liked it so much he decided to become a citizen and serve the country.Gil’s career goals are in law enforcement. At the time of his enlistment there were no military police positions available, but he is currently working on retraining for a position with the Criminal Investigation Division. He feels his background as a behavioral health specialist will benefit him in his new MOS.“I don’t see this as a job. I like coming to work everyday. I like the challenges I face daily,” said Gil. “I have had the opportunity to work for the current and previous command teams as their driver, and they have taught me a lot,” he said.He attributes his broadening understanding and respect for the Army to studying for boards.“Over the past 245 years, the Army has gotten better and continues to improve,” he said.According to him, coming to work each day with a positive attitude and always trying to help and taking advantage of opportunities is his way of honoring the legacy of those who have come before him.“Everything we do has an impact on other people, especially at the hospital. We are serving other Soldiers and enabling them to get back to their training. We are doing our part to build readiness for the Army,” he said.The U.S. has multiple races, languages and cultures.“In the Army, I am able to work with people from different backgrounds and mindsets. The diversity of the people in the Army is what makes it special,” Gil said.