ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. --While it’s not the norm to enlist in the military at age 30, that’s exactly what one U.S. Army Sustainment Command Soldier did.
Specialist Philip Charles VanDerHeyden IV is a human resources specialist working at ASC’s headquarters in G1 (Human Resources). He works in the Human Resource Management section, Essential Personnel Services. His duties are comprehensive and very important to keep his fellow Soldiers administratively squared away.
His duties encompass reporting the Personnel Status Report, In-Out processing of all ASC headquarters Soldiers, facilitating military awards and assisting Soldiers with any career-related inquiries on matters that affect their career.
VanDerHeyden arrived at the G1 in October 2021. Prior to this, his first assignment was at Fort Irwin, California. He took Basic Training and Advance Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
To date his service has been recognized with VanDerHeyden being awarded five Army Achievement Medals.
“I enlisted to change the direction of my life. Things didn’t pan out with college as planned; I wandered through multiple majors but never found my passion, leading to 72 credits but no degree,” VanDerHeyden explained. “I was working in food/customer service afterward and was completely down on my life. Unfortunately, I hit rock bottom more than once in my 20s, but I knew I had so much potential and that I couldn’t give up on finding my path to success and happiness.”
As he approached 30, VanDerHeyden said he finally considered the military as a “valid option” and one that made total sense. “The security and benefits that the Army provided me completely saved my life in multiple ways,” he said.
He also credits his family for supporting him throughout his life.
“My mom, dad, stepmom, and three sisters have stuck by my side through all of my ups and downs. When it felt like I was drowning, they were there to pull me to the surface and let me know that I was going to be okay,” he explained. “I changed my life for myself first, but my family being truly proud of what I do for a living is more beneficial to my mental health than I could ever describe.”
As of now, VanDerHeyden said he’s not sure if he’s going to extend or reenlist, but definitely will do one of them. When he joined the Army, VanDerHeyden said he had two goals – to finish his bachelor’s degree, and build up capital and credit, which he hopes will allow him one day to have a Civilian career.
“Choosing between extending or reenlisting will come down to how much more time I need after my current contract to graduate with my bachelor’s degree. If I would’ve joined right out of high school, I would’ve done 20 years and retired without question, but since I joined at 30 years old and my main goal is to be chasing my passions in my 40s, I have to be realistic even though I love the Army, and everything it has done for my life.”
Aware that the Army missed its recruiting goals this fiscal year, VanDerHeyden said today’s youth really should consider what the Army has to offer.
“If you’re willing to be open-minded, get a list of all the benefits that the Army provides its Soldiers and sit down with a mentor or respected adult to discuss just how important each benefit is and what the actual money value of some of the benefits is,” VanDerHeyden said. “It is so easy when you’re young to disregard benefits while solely paying attention to how much is on the check you’re cashing. There is not another job in our country that can provide the same unique combination of job security, job advancement, a sense of purpose and employee benefits.”
Despite all this, VanDerHeyden sees the Army as an opportunity to give back as well.
Some examples include volunteering twice to be part of a Salute Battery for ASC and another command at Rock Island Arsenal; being on the Army’s football team for Battle of the Rock Army-Navy Flag football game last year and this year; volunteering to be a part of 2022 Meet Your Army Public Affairs Office campaign; and volunteering to represent the Army in a live interview with local media regarding the RIA 9/11 memorial ceremony.
Additionally, with a blood type of O-negative, VanDerHeyden is a universal donor and has been donating blood on and off post since he joined the Army.
For now, the Army is the only place to be for VanDerHeyden.
The Army is has allowed him to reach his goals which include passing the promotion board for the rank of sergeant; getting a seat at the Basic Leaders Course; earning promotion points via correspondence courses; furthering his civilian education; building wealth and credit; and researching on how to start and succeed in a business.
“Life is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are unsatisfied with the way things are going in your life, you have the power to change it as long as you’re willing to do whatever it takes. While enlisting is a big decision, the butterfly effect it has on your life outlook is undeniable,” he said.
“Everyone knows that the military offers a good head start in life to high school graduates, but I feel like not many people truly understand how powerful the military can be as a tool of redemption for any adult who isn’t afraid of working hard to reach their potential.”