November 11, 2020
I am Steve Petracek, a Principal at TK Architects and a CDR in the US Navy Reserves and I want to say thank you and express my thoughts on this Veteran’s Day. I am in the Navy Reserves and only a few months short of achieving the 20-year mark, but I have no retirement plans. The military has helped me grow in ways I couldn’t see 20 years ago. There have been some good times and some bad times, but all of them have helped shape me into the person I am today.
I joined the Navy in May of 2001, only months before the 9-11 attacks. My wife and I had discussed the time and effort it would take, but we had no idea what lay before us. I have only completed two deployments during my time. My first tour was to Kuwait in 2006-2007 for eight months, with my second one to Afghanistan in 2012-2013 for 12 months, with each providing unique experiences.
In Kuwait, I was a lieutenant tasked to provide engineering management for small construction projects in the state’s eastern part. My home was Camp Arifjan, and my focus was on overseeing projects that provided safety and resource staging for our troops. I had the continual support of the Kuwait military in all I did. I can’t imagine letting any other sovereign nation establish a base on US territory, yet they did and were very thankful.
My trip to Afghanistan was an entirely different story. I was the operations officer for the battalion, and I started this position a year before our unit was to deploy. What the means is I was responsible for training and preparing 550 people through classes and field exercises to face the austere and hostile environment Afghanistan was at that time.
For any of you who have seen “Band of Brothers,” a bond does form with people who endure hardships together. Shortly after leaving Afghanistan, I read a quote that best describes the deployment. It has stayed with me, and the further I get from my time there, the more real it rings, “I am homesick for a place I never wanted to call home.” The bonds created there are forever locked in me that time will never take away.
I have been blessed in many ways. I have a wonderful family that has supported me and been there every step of my journey, as well as an understanding and appreciative company that has bent over backward to help any way they can. As my family will attest, these 19+ years have not always been easy. The time away is difficult, and each of us changed in ways we didn’t think. We have ridden the rollercoaster through numerous hills. The best and worst times followed each other closely. The joy of coming home from a year’s deployment was followed immediately by anger and resentment. We never went back to the way we were, but we always found a path through the hardships.
There is so much more I could say, and if you ever want to listen to it, I would love to grab a cup of coffee and talk about it. Good or bad, I am thankful for the opportunities to serve my country. I am so very grateful for what my country has provided me, and it has been my pleasure to give back in some measure.
Non sibi sed patriae.