If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Jesse Boettcher was the keynote speaker during the Colfax school district’s annual Veterans Day program Friday, November 9.
CSM(R) Boettcher is a native of Luck and enlisted in the United States Army Reserves as an Infantryman in 1988 and entered active duty in 1990.
He was a high school classmate of Polly Rudi, the director of special education for the Colfax school district.
CSM(R) Boettcher’s first overseas assignment was with the 3rd Infantry Division in Wurzburg, Germany. In 1992 he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to serve in the 1/327 Inf. Scout Platoon.
In 1995 CSM Boettcher attended the Special Forces Qualification Course. After graduation, he returned to Fort Campbell to serve on ODA 551 in 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (A).
CSM(R) Boettcher retired from active duty in October of 2016 and now resides in Hayward. He is married to Nicole (a U.S. Air Force Veteran) and has three children.
“It is a privilege to introduce a real American hero, who graciously accepted the invitation to join us today,” said William C. Yingst Jr., school district administrator and a retired Command Sergeant Major in the United States Army.
Here are CSM(R) Boettcher’s remarks to the audience gathered in the gymnasium at Colfax High School:
I am truly honored to have the privilege to speak with all of you on this Veterans Day, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
I am not a recruiter. I am not here to convince anyone to join the military. I will say the army was the single best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. I’m just a kid from Wisconsin, and the army allowed me to go places and see things and experience things that money can’t buy. It offered me opportunity that did not exist over in Polk County.
So why do people join the military? Is it just because of an overwhelming sense of patriotism or a strong desire to serve their country?
Surprisingly, that’s not the reason why most people walk into a recruiter’s office. People from all walks of life join the military for a multitude of reasons. Some join to escape something, to get away from Mom and Dad, to get out of the big city or away from a small town. Others join to achieve something, for a challenge or adventure, for money or education. Some were drafted. They were called upon to serve their country during times of war.
And some do join because of an overwhelming sense of patriotism.
Regardless of the reason, they all make sacrifices and they all serve something greater than themselves.
Ironically, many of them gave up some of the very freedoms that they were willing to die for, to protect for you — and for me.
So, to the veterans in this room, and the twenty million veterans in America, I can sincerely say, “thank you for your service.”
So why do people not join the military?
During World War II, 12 percent of our population served, compared to just 0.7 percent serving today. One reason why might be because we haven’t had a draft in 45 years. Young Americans are no longer compelled to serve.
Another reason might be because we have steadily increased the standards for enlistment.
Today there are about thirty-three million Americans between the ages of 18 and 24, but only 27 percent meet the minimum eligibility requirements to join the military.
Another reason for our lower enlistment numbers might be due to societal changes. Role models are no longer fighter pilots or police officers but instead it’s the Kardashians … Heroes are no longer Medal of Honor recipients or firefighters, but instead, they are kneeling football players.
Success is no longer measured by working hard and achieving the American dream but by the number of Twitter followers you have.
I have my own definition of success that’s quite simple: If the boy you were would be proud of the man you are, then you’re successful.
Most veterans are proud of who they are, what they’ve done, who they have become. Therefore, I think most veterans are successful, at least by my definition.
What’s the opposite of success?
Most would say failure. But I disagree. I have failed many times in my military career, but I’m still proud of who I am.
At my last assignment in the army, we had an annual fitness requirement that included an 18-mile hike wearing a uniform and boots, carrying a 40-pound backpack, and you had to do it in four-and-a-half hours or less. This wasn’t just for the Green Berets. This was for everyone in the battalion — mechanics, cooks, intelligence analysts, everyone. There was a young solider … who crossed the finish line in five hours and twenty-one minutes. He failed. He failed badly. But despite severely blistered feet, aching shoulders and swollen knees, he did not quit.
That’s the kind of guy I want on my team. Don’t get me wrong, I also want the fastest guy, the smartest guy and the strongest guy. But I will always take the guy who refuses to quit.
So I don’t think the opposite of success is failure. I think the opposite of success is quitting. Keep that in mind the next time you are talking to a veteran. You can rest assured that they have been challenged and they have been tested to the breaking point, but they didn’t break. That’s exactly why we’ve all gathered here today, to pay tribute to those men and women who have served their country during times of peace and war, to give us the gift of continued freedom.
Despite adversity and tribulation and at times overwhelming odds, they did not quit.
Thank you again for letting me take part in your ceremony. God Bless our troops … God Bless our veterans. And God Bless America.
In 1998, CSM Boettcher volunteered for selection and subsequent assignment with a Special Mission Unit. He served there for 12 years as an Assaulter, Sniper, Team Sergeant, and Troop Sergeant Major.
In 2010 CSM Boettcher became the first enlisted soldier to be selected for the Army’s Congressional Fellowship Program. After working on Capitol Hill for a year as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R-Texas) military assistant, CSM Boettcher worked as the Congressional Liaison for HQ US Army Special Operations Command.
He then served in Afghanistan for a year as the CSM of ISAF-SOF. His final job in the Army was in Germany, where he served as the CSM for 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group.
CSM Boettcher has numerous deployments throughout the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, including 11 combat deployments.
CSM(R) Boettcher’s military awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, six
Bronze Star Medals, and other awards commensurate with his rank and time in service. CSM(R) Boettcher has also been awarded the Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman’s Badge,
Military Freefall Jumpmaster Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and the Excellence in Competition Marksmanship Badge (Rifle).
His foreign awards include Airborne wings from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and Germany.
CSM Boettcher’s civilian education includes a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College and a Master’s Degree in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University.