By Sgt. Luisito BrooksAugust 10, 2012
Four years ago, Francis Frenette, concerned about his future, stepped off the beach into Staff Sgt. Patrick Burnish's Army recruiting office in Jacksonville, Fla. Frenette walked out with a signed service agreement that very same day.
With their business concluded, the two parted ways; Frenette to infantryman basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and Burnish to career counselor training at Fort Jackson, S.C.; neither expecting to see one other again.
But in an unexpected twist of fate, out of the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and thousands of recruiters in the Army, the two reunited here four years later and once again Burnish signed Frenette up for a term with the U.S. Army.
"Boy was I surprised, but that goes to show you that you can expect the unexpected," said Frenette, a native of Crystal River, Fla. "This is very rare, and I couldn't have planned it if I tried."
There was something really special about being a part of the unit known as official escort to the President of the United States that just intrigued Frenette, and he knew exactly why.
"It is an awesome unit, and I like being here," he said. "The Old Guard is so special because of our mission to honor fallen servicemembers and their families."
Since he arrived to The Old Guard, Frenette has participated in the 2008 presidential inauguration, performed in hundreds of memorial services as an escort platoon team leader and served as a noncommissioned officer with the Pentagon's Office of the Chief Legislative Liaison.
Frenette is also one of the few Old Guard Soldiers to have deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom where he helped train up the Iraqi Army in 2009.
Now a sergeant, Frenette trains new Old Guard recruits about the uniform, marching and weapons requirements specific to the Army's only unit solely dedicated to ceremonies and memorial affairs.
As he neared the end of his initial contract, Frenette knew that he wanted to continue his service. The next thing for him was to reenlist.
Meanwhile, Burnish's term as a recruiter had ended; and he found himself at a major crossroads in his career. Should he return to the infantry world or try something different?
Burnish decided that he would be able to help more Soldiers as a career counselor; assisting them in reenlisting and getting them the benefits and duty stations they wanted.
"I just like helping Soldiers," he said. "It just gives me a lot of joy to see that I have made a difference in someone else's life."
After the career counselor course, Burnish went on to serve in the Alaska-based 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regt., and deployed to Iraq in 2011.
"I really learned a lot about Soldiers and my job during this last deployment," said Burnish. "I knew that I gained experiences that I would take with me wherever I went next."
Next for Burnish was The Old Guard.
"One day out of the blue, I received orders of reassignment to The Old Guard," said Burnish. "I didn't know much about the unit besides what I saw and heard on the internet. I was just excited about the opportunity to help more Soldiers."
Burnish, now a sergeant first class, arrived to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. in July, just as his former recruit, Frenette, was beginning the reenlistment process.
When Frenette called his career counselor's office to discuss his reenlistment, he had a strange feeling that he recognized the voice on the other end as his old recruiter.
"I almost knew who it was, but I wasn't 100 percent sure," said Frenette. "I thought it was just a coincidence that he sounded familiar."
Burnish, in just his first week in The Old Guard, also didn't realize who he was working with initially.
"The first packet on my desk was Frenette's, but the name didn't click in my head just yet," said Burnish, the career counselor for The Old Guard's 1st Battalion.
The two Soldiers finally met face to face, and the uniqueness of the situation struck them.
"I never thought in a million years that I would be reenlisted by the same person that recruited me. I guess the stars were lined up just right," said Frenette. "I have never heard of that happening before."
Burnish said he's proud that he was able to make such a positive impact on one Soldier's life, and the Army as a whole.
"He is definitely a success story and I am proud to tell it," said Burnish. "My job now is to keep the good Soldiers in. He is one of the good ones."