By Sgt. 1st Class Joel Quebec
367th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
It is not uncommon for a Soldier to join the Army, do some time, get out to pursue other ventures and come back in. What is unusual is when that Soldier comes back after 12 years, college and a family, having risen to the position of Secretary of State (of Ohio).
Frank LaRose never second guesses his past decisions nor does he look back at the past, with one exception – leaving the Army.
Inspired by his Scout leader, a World War II veteran, LaRose decided around the age of 13 that he wanted to be like that man and be a Soldier. He joined the Army right out of high school at 18 years old. He served with the 101st Airborne Division and the U.S. Army Special Forces. After 10 years, he decided to get out of the Army and go to college at the Ohio State University. Then he entered the political arena and was sworn in as the Ohio Secretary of State in January 2019.
“Before I knew it 12 years had passed,” he said. “So here I am today, excited to be becoming a Soldier again. I’m looking forward to being Sgt. 1st Class LaRose again.”
LaRose stated that he had loved serving but that an economy of time issue had kept him busy with work and family, but he always missed it. The one day while in Washington, D.C., he ran into a Soldier with whom he had served and that friend, now a command sergeant major, encouraged him to return to the military and join his Army Reserve unit. The timing was right, so he decided to do it.
Due to the length of time he was out of the service, there were a few hoops to jump through in order to return to duty.
“It’s not as easy as I recall from when I was 18, that’s for sure,” he said. Despite the difficulties and unusual circumstances, he and his recruiter never gave up even though there were plenty of opportunities to do so.
"Mr. LaRose has chosen to serve his country in several ways,” said Army Recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Jason Connor. “I think that his getting in the Army and then going to serve his country in a more political way and then deciding to get back in is a display of true love for the country.”
Connor explained that this was longest he had seen anyone out of the military and then return to duty. The ensuing process was a difficult one, and since many aspects had not been tackled before, it took about five months. The average Soldier, either new or prior service, can be processed in less than one.
Connor also remarked that LaRose wasn’t doing it for money or recognition, but because he loves his country and that the effort to get him back in the military was worth the effort.
“The first time you look in the mirror and see a Soldier looking back at you, it’s something you’ll never forget.” LaRose said, having first had that experience at 18 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
“Today when I take the oath of enlistment it’s going to be one of those great days of my life.”
LaRose believes that even though he took that oath over 23 years ago, it was a lifelong commitment. It didn’t end when he took off his uniform 12 years ago, but has continued unbroken, and now he can keep his oath once again wearing the Soldier’s uniform.
“Being a Soldier is part of who I am,” LaRose said. “It’s not just a thing I did for 10 years. It’s part of me at my core.”
The ceremony took place on March 1, at the Columbus Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and LaRose was sworn in by his friend Capt. Nicholas Dixon, with whom he had previously served. Coincidentally, March 1 is the 218th anniversary of Ohio statehood, a fitting date for the Ohio Secretary of State to be sworn in to the Army Reserve.
After the hand was raised and the oath taken, a few more documents needed to be signed and LaRose would make a call to the man who was the inspiration for his joining the Army in the first place, the World War II veteran of D-Day, Bill Miller, a recipient of the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with a “V” device denoting valor and a Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.
“He will be one of the first calls I make when I get out here,” he said.