A retired Army Colonel said during a first of its kind exercise with the Kansas National Guard, he performed extremely well, when he was pitted against active-duty soldiers, so that’s what inspired him to join the active-duty Army.
John Buckley said before he deployed for the first time he was anxious to see if his skills would hold up in combat.
He said he looks back now and he thinks how foolish since he said he knows now the war is extremely complex and dangerous.
For Cadet Buckley it all started at the New Mexico Military Institute, then after college, it was off to the Kansas National Guard.
“Gary was my mentor,” Retired Army Colonel John Buckley said.
It was in Buckley’s second year, Gary Wofford, offered up some advice on how he was acting as a platoon leader.
“He came up and found me and said okay, what are you doing, is this okay, are people doing what they are supposed to do?” Buckley said. “He said you’ve got 28 other men out there who need your leadership.”
Buckley said that he stayed with him for the rest of his military career.
“It encouraged me to stay compassionate to my soldiers in the rest of my military career, but to also be focused on the mission to make sure we got things done,” Buckley said.
As a young Captain, Buckley deployed with the 101st, one of the first to go to Desert Shield.
“The historical significance of the Big Red One to me was amazing, to be there,” Buckley said.
He said every soldier made it back from the mission in the desert.
“It was something that was very humbling to be able to lead the young men and women of this nation,” Buckley said.
He said he felt that way during times of combat.
“There is a lot of burden and a lot of responsibility, to make sure you take care of them,” Buckley said.
He said it was the same while on peacekeeping operations as well.
“Although not combat, it was just as dangerous, and just as difficult, so I really approached it in a different way,” Buckley said.
Buckley did a couple of tours in Bosnia.
“We were trying to build partnerships and relationships and it came to help us when we were in Bosnia,” Buckley said.
He leads the first combat unit into Bosnia.
He was later handpicked to go back to Iraq, to help train an Iraqi Combat Arms Unit.
We had the opportunity to really influence them on how a military unit should support democracy.
He earned this Army Accommodation metal while in Iraq, and many others along the way.
The most significant to him was The Legion of Merit.
“So it was an indication of how well I performed in my military service, for the duration,” Buckley said.
He was also awarded beyond the Army, at one time by a Navy Admiral.
“To have somebody from a different service, give you a medal, was very unique and very rewarding as well,” Buckley said.
He said the most rewarding was the ability to lead.
“What we have are all the ranks that I wore, from 2nd Lieutenant, up the rank of Colonel,” Buckley said. “This is my promotion to the rank of colonel.”
He said he is so glad his wife and kids were all there.
“You’re part of this, was probably one of the best things about that day,” Buckley said.
He said his family also made many sacrifices during his 33 years of service.
“When I first retired, I think I had a difficult time making that transition like many veterans do,” Buckley said.
Buckley said he became aware of how many veterans were taking their own lives.
“I thought that maybe I could share the things I learned in my day to day work with other companies in the area, so I stepped up with a couple of other volunteers and we created what we call the Veteran Advocacy Board,” Buckley said.
He said the mission is to find veterans jobs.
Buckley also got involved with Passageways years ago, and they strive to help vets who are homeless or near homelessness.
He said both organizations are offering our nation’s heroes far more than employment and a place to call home.
“It’s giving them their integrity back, giving them their self-worth back,” Buckley said.
Buckley said he will always remember what he learned very early on in his military career, Mission First, Soldiers Always.
He remembered when his son was just three or four and his same mentor, Gary Wofford, would put his son on a popcorn tin and then would coach and mentor him.
The Buckleys just recently found out the same son, will be commissioned in May, before he heads to the Army to serve as an infantryman.