On Jan. 7, 1986, the day Jim Thorpe native Thomas D. Rodgers, all of 18 years old, enlisted in the U.S. Army, then-President Ronald Reagan imposed economic sanctions on Libya amid growing tensions between the United States and Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy.
"I needed to find a job," he said.
Twenty-four years, three foreign countries and four medals later, Staff Sergeant Rodgers retired, on Nov. 1, 2010.
Rodgers' tour of duty took him to Panama, Saudi Arabia and Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan (twice) in addition to his stateside assignments. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, 9th Award; the Joint Service Achievement Medal; and the Army Achievement medal, 7th Award.
Rodgers served as an Ammunition Specialist, Echo Troop, 2nd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
What did he learn in his 24 years of military service? "A whole bunch of stuff - how to fix tanks, how to carry explosives on trucks without getting blown up, and how to drive a train," he said.
Rodgers, now 43, participated in a military retirement Sept. 24, 2010 ceremony in Fort Hood, Texas. He and his family live in the Fort Hood complex in Killeen, Texas, where he plans to work for another 20 years, fixing tanks.
A son of Katheryn and the late Phillip Rodgers, Thomas recently visited his family back home. He is one of 10 children: Mary Marzen; Phillip Rodgers; Bernadette Marzen; Anita Achey; James Rodgers; Vincent Rodgers; the late Joan Rodgers; Kathy Becker and Patrick Rodgers.