Salute our Heroes 2022 - Page 8

Col . Sears retired from the United States Army in 2016 and moved back to his hometown of Williamsburg with his wife Becky . Here the couple is shown at a 2019 function for the Whitley County High School JROTC , where the colonel has found a second career instructing students . | PHOTO CONTRIBUTED
“ I don ’ t know how they do what they do ,” Col . Sears said . “ They have regular jobs and then they just get unplugged .”
He shared a story about a mission in Iraq in 2003 which required support from a National Guard unit out of Arkansas .
“ They were trained ,” the retired colonel said , “ but I was thinking , ‘ These guys can do this and then go back home and get plugged back into their world .’ I just really appreciate those guys . The other thing is the families . Our vets could not do what they did without the support of their spouses .”
Sears had always planned to put in the standard 20 years of service and retire to “ do something else ,” but coming out of Afghanistan in 2010 , he found himself looking at retirement differently . He was married with two daughters in college .
“ I decided to stay in ,” Col . Sears said . “ I had always prayed about my assignments , and I just didn ’ t have a calling to go anywhere [ else ].”
Sears explained that when someone is promoted to colonel , typically they will go on to retire after 30 years unless they are promoted to general and keep going . But he found himself finally ready to retire after six more years .
Col . Sears retired in 2016 from Fort Knox — where he was involved more with the business aspect of the Army rather than soldiering . Though he had brought his family with him to his stations much of the time — sharing that his older daughter Erin had attended three high schools while the younger , Kristin , had gone to two — the retired colonel estimates that he was apart from his family for some nine years over the course of his 26 years of active duty . He ’ s happy now for he and Becky to make their home back in their hometown of Williamsburg .
“ It seems like my entire life was on a five-year plan ,” Sears said . “ At this point , I ’ m happy to wake up in the situation I ’ m in every day .”
The retired colonel has found a second career teaching JROTC at Whitley County High School .
The program is headed by Master Sergeant Donald Gross who , according to Sears , has his own military experience as a combat medic and nurse .
“ As a combat veteran , it really helps to work with someone that you can share stories with every once in a while ,” Col . Sears observed .
As for his involvement in the program , which has some 180 students , Sears sees it as a way to give back . “ I feel like I ’ ve been given a lot ,” he said , “ being born at the time in which we live in America , the investment that the Army made in me , and having a great family . I ’ m appreciative , and I think a lot is required of you when you have that much .”
Sears spoke highly of the kids participating in JROTC and hopes his instruction enriches their lives in some way — knowing they too may be military veterans .
“ This area has a strong legacy of military service ,” Col . Sears said . “ I ’ ve run into people from this area all over the world .… The world is a very dangerous place , and I think that America is worth defending . I made the decision it was worth my life , and millions of veterans made the same decision .”
8 Salute our Heroes