Your First Year as a Veteran: Rick Santerre USCG
First, I would like thank the team here at the Texas General Land Office (GLO) and the Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) for providing this opportunity to share my story. We have several great programs for Veterans and military members administered by the VLB, some of which I have benefitted from and others that I may utilize in the future. And who knows what the future holds? Both the VLB and GLO do a fantastic job of recognizing those who have served, both within the agency, and of course far, far many more outside the agency.
It is these two facts that have encouraged me to reach out today to others who have served in our Armed Forces. Why do I say this? Simply because, for many years after my separation from active duty, I diminished my role in the service to our country. I am a Vietnam era Veteran. I attended the United States Coast Guard Academy as a Cadet in New London, Conneticut from June of 1972 to May 1974. It is a well-known fact that service during that period of our country’s history was not popular. I could write numerous posts about the treatment of soldiers, including my stateside assignment, that would, frankly, serve little purpose today. What it does offer though is a perspective that is analogous no matter what your particular circumstances are, be they peacetime service, a conflict, or declared war. I have come to appreciate the fact that service, no matter what situation, no matter the capacity and no matter the duration, are equally important to our country. Every individual who possesses a DD-214 with an honorable separation status, or equivalent, should be proud of their respective contribution.
My father was a Veteran as well. He served during the Korean era and he, like me, also served stateside. He impressed upon me how fortunate he felt that he wasn’t directly in harms way, while many of his contemporaries were. My situation was similar as many of my peers were featured on the nightly national news as casualties of the Vietnam conflict. I remember all too well the daily tally of those killed that was displayed on the nightly news. I felt my service was inferior to those who had risked and lost so much more. I still have those feelings today. Our nation owes its existence to those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.
My feelings did change somewhat after many years though, during private and public sector work experience involving building, managing and encouraging teams. Teams very similar to those that were a daily part of my service stateside. I have often made the analogy that business teams, or any team for that matter, is similar to our national pastime: baseball. Some players are pitchers, some are outfielders, and some infielders. Some of these players might be able to play several positions, but most become superior at their position. However, truly successful teams understand and maximize their potential by recognizing the differing contributions made by all the players on the team, even including the ones on the bench. The military is very similar, in that whether you served here or there, and whether you flew a plane, helped land it, or were working in the galley; you were part of that team. Your contribution is no less important.
My hope is that you won’t diminish your contribution as I did. That you will recognize your role in the bigger picture of service to your country. That you will, as my fellow Veterans have suggested, reach out to your peers, seek those who can help you assimilate and by all means use the benefits you have earned through your service.
U.S. Coast Guard Veteran
Rick Santerre has worked for 14 years as a Special Project Analyst with the Budget and Planning division of Financial Management at the Texas General Land Office. As a Veteran in Texas he’s used the VLB Land Loan Program to purchase land, and financed a home using the VLB Veterans Housing Assistance Program.