By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellDecember 16, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As basic training drill sergeants get a much needed holiday break from the rigors of shaping young men and women into warriors, two reserve-component Soldiers headed home to share a little more than gifts and festive foods with family.
Just hours before leaving South Carolina, Pfc. Joshua Garner and Pvt. Francisco Moreno were helping separate donated toys for Army families in the Columbia area.
Decatur, Ga., native Garner, who is assigned to the Army Reserve's C Company, 324th Signal Battalion, said he has learned a tremendous amount about himself after only spending a few weeks with drill sergeants.
"They taught me so much about who I was not -- but more importantly who I could be," he said. "The lessons I have learned here are things I can carry with me for the rest of my life."
Those life lessons include the Army values such as loyalty, integrity and honor, which drill sergeants use to shape America's future leaders the day they step foot off the bus here.
Moreno, an Army National Guard Soldier from Fresno, Calif., and the oldest of four children, said holidays are about family and being thankful for the little things in life.
Moreno is heading home before reporting to his advanced individual training, and said he's bringing home a new attitude and way of life.
"My sisters and I grew up disrespecting my mother," the 21-year-old said. "We definitely took her for granted, and I now realize that she was the one person who loved all four of us unconditionally."
Reflecting on his past, Moreno said that he doesn't understand why he caused all the pain and anger to his mother, but with a new direction in life and goals to obtain, he hopes the short trip home will open his sisters' eyes and make a difference in his family.
"My mother is now disabled, and she needs us more than ever," he said. "I am definitely going to make sure she knows I appreciate everything she has done for my sisters and me."
After spending several months learning about their inner selves, and what they can accomplish alone and as a team, both Soldiers said the Army has taught them a great deal about life and to appreciate the little things that come at them in life.
"It's tough, but choosing those hard rights is the first step to being a better person and a Soldier," Moreno said. "I will take away what I have learned here and apply those lessons to life back home. Hopefully, my sisters will learn from me what the drill sergeants taught me here."
For Garner, something will be missing from this year's family gathering. His 20-year-old cousin was murdered only four weeks into his training here.
"It's tough, and I wish she could have had the same chances I did to come into the Army," he said. "Our holidays are about being around family, and this year she won't be there with us. It's tough, and I will always remember that the choices we make in life reflect the paths we choose to live."
Garner said he has seen a self-improvement inside and out, and hopes his family recognizes the simple Army values and maybe, just maybe, he said, they might rub off on other family members.
"Respect is such an easy thing," he said. "It's also an easy thing to throw away. I realize growing up that Army values really were not in my life. Today, I am proud to say because of the Army, I am a changed person, and I know my parents and family will be proud of me."
With the toys separated, the new friends prepared to go their own ways as a drill sergeant opened the door to check the progress of the impromptu task.
With their cold-weather jackets on and black berets in hand, both Moreno and Garner left the post reserve-component liaison office in separate directions -- one to the Guard and the other to the Reserve.
Two simple and uplifting stories but with similar endings; each hoping to influence their families during the holidays to live and breathe something as simple and direct as the Army values.