Young Veterans

Young veterans from recent wars coming home to new challenges


Two wars in the last 15 years have produced a new kind of veteran.

Young vets.

These men and women coming back from war today seek new opportunities and have difficult changes in order to adjust to the civilian world.

“Before I went I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t know how hard it was going to be,” Derek Rupp said. “They put you through a lot of stuff that requires you to toughen more than just physically.”

Derek Rupp is an Iraq War veteran who served in 2009 until 2010. Today, his life is different than five years ago when he was with his unit in Iraq.

In 2015, the 26-year-old works on renovating his house and commuting to Clarion University as a business student.

He said military was always a goal when he was a child and he knew he wanted to join when he was seven.

“I wanted to be a pilot,” Rupp said.

He looked up to his brother who joined the Army before him and thought of it as just following his footsteps.

At 17 Rupp enlisted in the Army. His mom now had two sons putting on the Army uniform and serving the country.

“My mom was happy,” He said. “Any mother is happy to see their son doing something other than sitting around the house.”

Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, is where Rupp spent his time during basic training after finishing eleventh grade at Oil City High School.

“We called it fort lost in the woods,” he said.

He came home to finish his senior year of high school before starting active duty.

“I saw it as an opportunity to advance or find my own path,” Rupp said.

After finishing high school Rupp began training as a parachute rigger. An inner ear problem that causes spinning called vertigo made him stop his training as a rigger and lead him into artillery.

“In parachute school they don’t like spinning,” Rupp said.

Artillery is a lot harder. He said but he felt well prepared when he went to Iraq during his fourth and final year enlisted in the army in 2009.

“Iraq was different when I went over because I went at 2009 until 2010,” Rupp said. “It was more of a peacekeeping mission. We didn’t see much combat and it wasn’t scary or as hard as the training regime was.”

While in Iraq, he became very close to his non-commissioned officer. Rupp said that made it easier because he had someone to talk to and communicate with about problems or situations.

“Before I left we would meet up, drink, hang out and really bond.” Rupp said.

Just before making the decision to leave, Rupp began studying to be a sergeant. He said he was almost ready to go in front of the board when he was over in Iraq but decided to come home instead.

When Rupp left the Army in 2010 he said it was a big change going from a soldier to a civilian. He took two years settling a divorce and trying to figure out what he wanted to do.

He said it was weird not having to go through the training every day and not having to listen to people 24 hours a day.

“I realized throughout my transition it was time to look for something better,” he said. “The military was a good career and it would be good for the long haul but I wanted something that fit me more.”

Rupp found his passion through business school. He said he wants to open his own business some day but is not sure what type of business yet.

He started school at Venango College in Oil City and now attends Clarion University. He plans to graduate in two years with his bachelor’s degree.

“As long as I have good people working around me and a career that doesn’t drive me nuts every day, I think that’s the best job I can find,” Rupp said.

If the military needed him, Rupp said he would go back. He recommends that everyone join the military for at least two years and said everyone should enlist.

“It teaches you a lot, you get to see things you never saw, and experience things,” Rupp said.

Republished with permission from The Derrick.

First Published Saturday, May 23, 2015

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