BECKLEY, W. Va. –
At first glance, the inside of the Beckley Military Entrance Processing Station closely resembles the waiting area of a Department of Motor Vehicles.
Directly across from the front entrance sits an individual, who like a DMV receptionist, will ask you for the purpose of your visit.
In the center of the reception area, about 50 white chairs face a single television screen. Offices line the perimeter of the room where men and women from diverse backgrounds sit and wait for their names to be called.
Unlike the DMV, however, those who walk through the MEPS’ front doors all share a common goal: to join a branch of the U.S. military.
One young man, in particular, sits in the reception area waiting to recite the same “Oath of Enlistment” his father repeated nearly 20 years ago.
Meet Michael Winter, a future Army Soldier
“I’m here to join the Army Reserve,” Michael Winter said proudly. “It aligns with what I want to do, where, in the near future, I can be successful and provide for my family.”
While some future Soldiers travel to MEPS with only their recruiter to guide them, Michael Winter arrived to Beckley with his biggest fan, Army recruiter and father, 1st Sgt. Timothy Winter.
“I decided to join after talking to my dad about it,” Michael Winter said. “He’s fully supportive, no matter what decision I make.”
As a current student at Ohio Valley University, Michael Winter plans to put his degree in IT Management to work as an ammunition stock control and accounting specialist.
“I’m interested in the accounting part of the job,” Michael Winter admitted. “I’m more so inclined to business. One day I want to own my own business.”
In joining the Army Reserve, Michael Winter will receive a $20,000 signing bonus, as well as $50,000 in student loan repayment. Despite these incentives, Timothy Winter is proud just to see his son preparing for his future.
“I talked to him about [joining] when he was 17,” Timothy Winter said. “When he sent me the message asking to sit down to talk about the Army, it didn’t take me a hot minute to get in my car and drive to Parkersburg.” [The town where Michael currently lives.]
“I even screenshotted the message just to make sure I read it completely,” Timothy Winter laughed.
Waiting until after he completes his degree before shipping off to basic, Michael Winter has already begun preparing for life in the Army. His new routine consists of morning trips to the gym followed by basic training research.
While his son and so many others prepare for the next phase in becoming a Soldier, Timothy Winter offered these two pieces of advice:
- Physical fitness can go a long way in the Army. The more you prepare, the more you prove to yourself, your peers and your drill sergeants that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
- The first three weeks will be the most mentally challenging. Dig deep and never give up. By the time you get to week four, you are well on your way to becoming a Soldier.
A few folders worth of paperwork, a handful of signatures and a turkey sandwich later, Michael Winter was ready to take his “Oath of Enlistment.” With his dad and four fellow future Soldiers by his side, Michael Winter took his last steps as a civilian down a narrow hallway decorated with photos of Soldiers and the Declaration of Independence.
In a room not much larger than a typical classroom stood the flags of each military branch, their corresponding plaques hanging proudly on the adjacent wall. Michael Winter took his place in the center of the room, shoulder to shoulder with his peers, right hand raised.
In less than a minute, Michael Winters repeated the oath so many others before him, including his dad, have spoken on their path to becoming a Soldier, a title that will stay with him for a lifetime.
Waiting for him under the Army plaque stood his dad, arms outstretched, grinning from ear to ear.
After embracing and sharing a few words of praise, Timothy Winter and newly-ranked Pvt. 1st Class Michael Winter headed home, now united by their service to their country.
From learning how to drive to enlisting in the U.S. Army, Timothy Winter has and will continue to be Michael’s greatest fan, providing encouragement and support every step of the way.
“It means everything to me,” Timothy Winter said. “It’s just a great honor to be here and watch my son take the step forward.”
Michael Winter is scheduled to attend Basic Combat Training in January 2020 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.