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In the heat of battle, lofty ideals and political posturing are not the reasons soldiers fight. They fight and die, or live, for one another, for the man or woman next to them, for a photo in their wallet or a tattoo on their arm. It’s personal, in a way that only a soldier can understand.

In that moment, when a soldier realizes that his brother also bleeds red and wears the same uniform, that allegiance to each other is born and it supersedes all the divisiveness and all the differences that complicate life outside the service. 

That loyalty, sense of duty can be a powerful incentive when it is handed down from one generation to the next, soldier to soldier. 

Nicole (who asked that her last name not be used) grew up in New Richmond Her father served in Vietnam and grandfather was a prisoner of war during World War II. A corporal, Nicole enlisted in 1995 and served with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division of the Minnesota Army National Guard. From 1995 to 2003 she worked at headquarters company as the section sergeant assisting the generals in battle planning, personnel and troop movement, JAG matters and trained with the provost marshal and MPs.

Why did you become a soldier? “I became a soldier for a few reasons. The first reason was to be of service to my country. I was grateful to all of the soldiers who came before me to make my life better. I also wanted to honor those men and women, including my father, who served during Vietnam as well as my grandfather, a POW of World War II. The second reason was to show myself and other females that you can do anything you put your mind to, including serving in the military. Unlike today, in 1995 few females joined the military. Lastly, I planned to attend college, and I needed to pay for it. The military helped me achieve all my goals.”

Please describe a moment or specific experience that made you proud to serve? “I had many moments that made me proud to serve. You would probably expect me to say something big, in which there were many of these moments. However, I believe that in the military and in life, it is the small moments that impact us the most. The little things that people do when no one is watching just because it is the right thing to do. I saw countless acts of selflessness and kindness throughout my military career. I try to honor those memories by thanking soldiers for their service when I run into them at the airport, coffee shop, grocery store, etc.”

If I had a daughter, what would you tell her, how would you advise her if she were considering serving her country in the military? 

“I would give the same advice to a daughter or a son. It would be to search your heart in order to make sure it is something you truly want to do for yourself and not because other people want it for you. Be willing to work hard, then be willing to work harder. You will be pushed to your limits, but maybe the limits you set for yourself are not high enough.” 

If there were one lesson you learned from your service what would that be?

“I learned many great lessons from my time in the service, like teamwork, setting a high standard of integrity for myself and others, hard work, discipline and to lead by example. However, one of the best lessons I learned was from a general I served under on a joint Army and Air Force task force. He told me to never come to him with a problem if I did not already have three solutions. Although he may not pick one of the solutions I proposed, he wanted to know that I was a person who found solutions because anyone can find problems. It is the solution that matters. 

Wow, right! A great life lesson. 

He also went on to say that if he did not pick one of my solutions, but selected his own, I needed to get behind his solution as though I thought of it myself. Another great life lesson! These lessons and principles guided me throughout my life and my career.”

Tom Lindfors is a western Wisconsin freelance journalist and former Star-Observer reporter. Contact him at

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