ATHENS, Ala. –
For two Army Reserve officers who have served during some of the nation’s most challenging military actions around the world, the Army has provided a sense of purpose and direction in their professional careers while also becoming a personal source of pride and patriotism.
That military combination – professional direction and personal pride – was shared by Lt. Col. Terrance Wilson and Lt. Col. Derek Bergman with Athens High School students during a Veterans Day program on Nov. 9. The event included patriotic music and readings, the playing of the “Armed Forces Salute” and “Taps,” and a video featuring veterans connected to Athens High School. Special guests included veterans from the community.
“For us, military service is about standing up when others may not. It’s about wanting to stand up and answer the call to serve in the military in support of this nation,” Bergman told the students.
Bergman, a full-time Army Reserve officer serving as the Operations Officer for the Intelligence and Security Directorate at the Army Materiel Command, and Wilson, who commands the Army Reserve's 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion as a part-time Citizen-Soldier while working full-time as a civilian program manager in AMC’s Analyst Group, shared their military experiences with the high school students.
Wilson, a Long Island, New York, native, told the students that as a young college graduate, he had no interest in joining the military, and instead became a school teacher in Georgia.
“But nothing seemed to feel right. There always was this yearning to serve,” Wilson said. “I met a private first class who was proud of what he was doing, who had learned about appreciating all of his friends and who had money in the bank to buy a new car. But what I really liked about him was the way he handled himself.”
Fast forward to today and Wilson, as commander of the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, is a key leader and mentor for the Soldiers assigned part-time in his unit in upstate New York. He commissioned in 2005 with the Adjutant General Corps, has commanded at both the company and battalion levels, and has served in a variety of positions including as the Command Inspector General for the Deployment Support Command. His career has included a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Veterans Day is so important because we need to thank veterans for what they were willing to do,” Wilson said. “Just like with any good team, those who came before us are our teammates. Just like relay runners with a baton, veterans who have served have handed the stick of service off to today’s Soldiers. I’m serving today because of them. When my service is done, somebody is going to have to pick up that stick from me. I don’t know who that someone will be but I know they will because there because we will continue to move forward.”
Wilson encouraged the students to consider serving their nation in some capacity, whether that be military service or serving in another capacity to the betterment of society.
“Watch, learn, participate. Be prepared for service because at some point you will find yourself serving others. Consider picking up that stick of service,” he said.
Bergman, a Huntsville, Alabama, native whose service has included an assignment the National Guard Military Police headquarters in Athens, said Veterans Day is about honoring those who have pledged to defend the nation.
“Only 1 percent of the U.S. population will stand up and raise their hand and swear the oath,” he said. “Military service is selfless service.”
When Bergman thinks about Veterans Day, his hero is his daughter’s 96-year-old grandfather who serve with General George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. For himself, Bergman’s commissioned in 2001 and his 21 years of service have included serving with the 1-203rd Air Defense Artillery Battalion (Patriot missile), 14 years in the National Guard and eight years in the Army Reserve, with deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and in support of Hurricane Rita Relief efforts.
“The Army has given me a sense of purpose. I am part of a team with teammates to my left and to my right,” he said. “No matter who they are, my teammates are going to help me and they are going to help the team. I’ve been all over the world and have worked as a team member on many awesome teams.”