This year, after more than a decade of service as a linguist and a paratrooper, Jay Huwieler made the decision to leave the military.
“It was a combination of feeling like I’d served my purpose, and at the same time feeling like there had been too many times when I was too far away from my wife,” he said.
Huwieler recalled his sergeant major telling him: “One day you’re not going to be in the Army. When it’s over, there needs to be a family there because you didn’t leave them behind.”
He came to see his own experience echoed that of past generations of service members who translated what they learned in the military into valuable skills in the civilian world.
“I think what that ends up meaning is you don’t have to make a career out of it in order for that experience to be useful and fruitful for the rest of your life,” Huwieler said.
“I felt like it was okay say I don’t have to stay all 33 years. It’s okay to do your part, to give, in my case, more than a decade of my life to my country. But also, there are times when it’s time to bow out.
Sometimes the greatest thing that you can do as a volunteer in the U.S. Army is to hold the line long enough for the next generation grow up so they can do their part.
I felt like I owed it to them to turn around and say, ‘Now it’s your turn.’”
Jay Huwieler shared a story about a phone call that changed his life at a live storytelling event recorded at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
The Ft. Bragg Stories series is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear all stories in the series here.