Spc. Roberto Ramirez, left, and Spc.Taulago Pritchard, assigned to Company E, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, are best friends serving in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika Province. [courtesy photo]

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The U.S. Army is a reflection of the principles the nation was founded on. The melting pot known as America has produced some of the world's finest Soldier-citizens. Soldiers now days have plenty of reasons to serve. Some carry on the traditions of family members, and others join out of a sense of civic responsibility or even education.

Spc. Roberto Ramirez and Spc. Taulago Pritchard, both assigned to Company E, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, shared their reasons to serve.

Ramirez, a second generation Hispanic, and Pritchard, an American Samoan descendent, were both looking for a way to accomplish their goals and stand on their own two feet.

Ramirez, a native of El Paso, Texas, has seen prosperity and poverty.

"Seeing the two sides, and being so close to Fort Bliss, you get to see the influence of the military has in the community," he said. "It also seemed like all the good things the military does in the community was being taken for granted."

Pritchard, from Tacoma, Wash., has seen and experienced the military her whole life.

"I actually grew up around Soldiers all my life. My grandfather, who was a Soldier at Fort Lewis, founded a church that brought all the Samoans together named after Fort Lewis," she said.

After high school, both future Soldiers took time to explore what the world had to offer within certain parameters and cultural restraints. The adventure of getting an education and seeing the world called to them.

"I didn't join straight out of high school. I actually lived my life a little bit and realized it wasn't going anywhere," said Ramirez. "I tried to attend the University of Texas in El Paso but I didn't qualify for financial aid."

"I had friends that were actually attending classes with the military, and I saw my way in," he said.

"I saw the military as a way to gain independence. I needed to explore other places, states and countries," said Pritchard.

Ramirez and Pritchard both walked into their nearest recruiting stations and made life changing decisions. Joining the military isn't always the easiest choice, knowing that as a Soldier, you can possibly give your life in conflict. However, the good outweighed the bad in their minds.

Two years later, they both have the opportunity to accomplish their goals of becoming college educated, worldly individuals. Meeting each other at their first duty assignment at Fort Riley, Kan., they have been good friends ever since. Serving in an austere environment for the first time, the two have gained experiences that no one can teach.

"Here it's true, people are dying and that part sucks. At the same time you realize that there is a period of reflection with everything going on. Even then I'm thankful," said Ramirez.

Their battalion has already lost three Soldiers in the line of duty. The thought alone has hit close to home for the two.

"I see the text traffic of events or encounters the Soldiers go through on a daily basis. It can take a toll on you," said Pritchard.

"I do feel that as a military fighting force we are making a difference here, and I would rather be here than anywhere else," she added.

Ramirez serves in the company's small arms and artillery repair technician shop and Pritchard is a motor transport operator. They may have different jobs, but they share the same common goal: to support and defend the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.


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