FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 15, 2012) -- Five years after he left the U.S. Army, former enlisted Soldier Don Gomez decided to re-join and become an Army officer. Now a second lieutenant after graduating from Officer Candidate School (OCS), Gomez says he wanted to come back because he missed the camaraderie and adventure of being in the Army.
"I liked being a Soldier and wanted to be around Soldiers again," said Gomez, who was finishing up a graduate school program in London when he decided he wanted to be an active duty Soldier again.
When Gomez originally joined the Army, he was 19 years old. He was taking community college courses, but he was looking for something that would put him on a better path for his future. He had always been fascinated by the Army, and looking for an adventure, he decided to enlist.
After nearly five years of service and two tours in Iraq, Gomez decided to leave the Army to pursue college and eventually graduate school. He was able to do so using the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills.
"I'm so thankful to the Army for my education," Gomez said. "I wouldn't have been able to attend graduate school without the GI Bill."
During his first tour in Iraq, Gomez became interested in learning more about the Middle East. Seeing the need for troops to effectively communicate with the Iraqi people and being immersed in their culture led him to pursue a degree in international studies with an emphasis on the Middle East, including learning Arabic.
Gomez credits the Army for his success in school. He took the skills he learned in the field - prioritizing tasks, following instructions, planning his day out and allowing adequate time to complete projects -- and applied them to his study routine. Gomez applied these Army skills to earn his undergraduate degree in New York City, travel abroad to study in Egypt and Morocco, start a veterans' advocacy group on campus and even earn a scholarship to graduate school in London.
While he was finishing graduate school, Gomez, who hadn't planned on returning to the military, couldn't ignore how much he missed the Army. It became his goal to re-join, and after considering his options, he decided he wanted to be an officer. Gomez went through the process of applying to OCS, and soon after, he packed his bags for Fort Benning, Ga.
"I was ready and prepared for OCS as a prior-service Soldier, and I was ready to take on the challenge of becoming an Army leader," Gomez said.
His hard work paid off. Gomez graduated with the distinguished honor graduate award given to him for being ranked at the top of his OCS class.
"While the roles are different between a non-commissioned officer and an Army officer, my overall Army training from both worlds has helped me see the big picture as an officer," said Gomez.
Gomez, who is currently an infantry officer and headed to Army Ranger School this summer, is happy his path in life led him back to the Army.
He said, "I decided to re-join with the intention of staying, and I have no plans of leaving the Army anytime soon."