“Thank you for your service.” As a U.S. Army Soldier living in Louisville, I am grateful for these words, which I hear often.

What many people do not understand is that I’m the one who is thankful.

I am thankful for the camaraderie, the global understanding, the commitment made to me and my family and the opportunity to dedicate every day to the people of this country.

I am thankful for the education and cost-free health care I receive, the worldwide experiences I have had, the skills I have learned and the opportunity to be a leader in the most trusted organization in the nation.

I am thankful to be part of history. This week the U.S. Army celebrates 244 years of dedicated service.

Generations of soldiers have inspired professionalism, honorable service and a commitment to the common good. For this, I am proud to call myself a soldier. And now, I am part of the team inspiring the next great generation of soldiers to find their place in history.

We face many challenges when searching for the right people to fill our ranks. Yes, we need infantrymen and Special Forces soldiers, like you see in the movies, but we also need logisticians, nurses, engineers, truck drivers and IT specialists.

About 50 percent of today’s young people admit they know little to nothing about their nation’s military – the people who work daily to protect their freedom.

They don’t understand the depth of the knowledge and technical skills they can learn in 150 different career paths. They don’t understand the degrees they can earn or that the benefits and perks often match or surpass those offered by civilian employers.

Choosing to serve in the Army has been one of the best decisions of my life. I am a better person because of the U.S. Army and the people I have met throughout my career. I see amazing young people in our region desiring to serve their communities and I believe we are doing them a disservice if we are not encouraging them to explore the military as a potential career path.

The Army invests in its people, often to the benefit of outside organizations. Veterans are more likely to vote, volunteer and be involved in their communities. They have the maturity and self-discipline private industries are seeking.

Only 29 percent of today’s young people have the ability to meet our qualifications. We will work to find the right people and we will compete to retain them for the good of our nation. But we need your help. In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 and the Army’s 244th birthday on June 14, the Army is activating a nationwide “Call to Service.”

I challenge leaders, parents, educators and the greater Kentuckiana community to step forward. Inspire the young people around you to be part of something bigger, to be part of history. Inspire them to answer the call.

Col. Eric P. Lopez is commander of the U.S. Army 3rd Recruiting Brigade at Fort Knox and is responsible for hiring more than 17,000 soldiers this year from throughout all or part of 16 states. Follow Lopez on Leadership on Instagram, You Tube and Facebook.

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