Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Military Veterans in honor of Veterans Day.
Guest blog post by Robyn Diehl, Training Specialist, International Trade Administration
My father is a Vietnam and Iraq War veteran, so I was raised to understand the challenges and benefits of military service. It was not my life’s dream to follow his footsteps into the service, but at age 17, I surprised my parents by telling them I was going to join the Navy. Since I am the baby of the family they were nervous but extremely supportive. I looked at it as an adventure but had no idea what to expect.
During a blustery winter at boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, I was selected to interview for a position in the Presidential Ceremonial Guard. I had never even heard of the Guard but I thought it sounded interesting. It is a small command of less than 100 sailors stationed at Naval District Washington. I was thrilled when I was chosen for a two-year tour. I took part in hundreds of ceremonies and parades. I stood at State Dinners at the White House and participated in Joint Service Ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was able to perform ceremonies with General Colin Powell and the Secretary of Defense, Mr. William Cohen. There were some very special moments for which I am extremely thankful.
Over the course of my two years in service, I had the extraordinary honor to participate in hundreds of simple and full honors funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. At times, these ceremonies were intense and emotional but there was a clear understanding that those being laid to rest deserved to be honored and remembered. I hope that these ceremonies offered a small amount of peace and closure.
As rewarding as it was to serve, assimilating to Navy life was not without its challenges. I often felt guilty for missing birthdays, holidays, and other special events. My family was always understanding and supportive.
One of my favorite memories came during the fall while I was stationed in San Diego. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and I was used to being there four seasons a year. As October approached in Southern California, I missed seeing the leaves change into their firework hues. Then one day I received a package from my mom. In it was a box full of leaves she had gathered from the back yard. It was the most thoughtful gift ever, and that memory is one of the many reasons I recognize and thank service members’ families on Veterans Day. Their support and love are critical to those who serve. I would not have been successful during my enlistment without my family and friends.
I feel particularly lucky that I was able to serve and have these amazing experiences. I find myself continuing to rely on lessons learned while serving – most importantly, the value of community and teamwork. I have been fortunate to meet so many amazing friends and colleagues since I joined the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA). There is a special sense of community here just like there was in the Navy.
In my current role as a Training Specialist for ITA, I have been given the opportunity to work across offices and business units. I’ve never seen a government agency with such a dedicated team. Much like members of the military, Commerce insists on delivering excellence in all aspects of their work. I have learned that what we do here is extraordinary and affects the farthest corners of America and the world. I’m very thankful and proud to work with and learn from such dynamic and committed colleagues.
So, in honor of Veterans Day, I want to thank those who are currently serving and those who have served for their unwavering faith and dedication. Thank you for all your sacrifices.