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Experienced veteran shares his journey in the Army during school assembly

Kjersten Johnson
Command Sergeant Major (retired) Bill Tomlin speaks to students, staff and community members during the Veteran’s Day assembly on Nov. 10. Tomlin is a recipient of both a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

Each year, Windsor High School holds a Veteran’s Day assembly for students, staff and community members. This year’s honorary speaker was retired Command Sergeant Major William Tomlin.

Although Tomlin is retired, he served 25 years in the Army, including combat on eight deployments to various locations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia and one counter-terrorist deployment to Northwest Africa for a total of over 40 months. Some of Tomlin’s notable assignments over the years include the Ranger Training Brigade, the 82d Airborne Division and the Asymmetric Warfare Group.

Tomlin started off his journey at 19 years old serving in the Connecticut National Guard; he trained there for about three years. Tomlin said, “I really enjoyed the National Guard on the weekends that we trained. Those were my favorite time of the month and that’s why I joined the Army — because I enjoyed being outside in the woods.”

Tomlin clearly had a successful career in the Army, but what made him want to go into the Army in the first place? Tomlin said, “I wasn’t ready to grow up. I didn’t want to do the job that I was studying for in college, and I was almost done with college and started looking at jobs and I wasn’t ready for that.”

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After being in the National Guard, Tomlin knew he wanted to go into the military. But what branch? Tomlin said, “If you’re in the National Guard, you’re considered prior service, so you actually can’t enlist in some of the other branches, but because I was already in the Army and trained in a job, it was an easy choice.”

Military members look on while Bill Tomlin speaks at the Veteran’s Day assembly on Nov. 10. The annual assembly is open to community members. (Kjersten Johnson)

After serving three years in the National Guard, Tomlin joined the Army as an active-duty member. Those 40+ months of active combat, though, were unexpected: “Originally joined just to do three years and go and get some adventure out of my system and become a glorified boy scout, and then I ended up re-enlisting.”

Tomlin earned two major awards during his time in the army, one of being a Purple Heart. This is awarded to soldiers who were wounded or killed while serving. Tomlin said, “The Purple Heart I knew was coming because you know that’s coming once you get wounded.”

The other major award Tomlin received was a Silver Star, which is awarded to soldiers that were gallant in action against an enemy of the United States. Tomlin said, “For Silver Star, I was surprised because you don’t think about what you’re doing in the moment — you just kinda do it, and after the fact somebody says you have been recommended for the Silver Star. The first thing I thought was ‘Is that really worth a Silver Star?’ but everybody seemed to agree that it was.”

In addition to awards received, Tomlin had a lot of fun memories during his time in the Army. His favorite memory was taking his wife to dinner at the White House. Tomlin said, “It was the best date night we could have had.” During his speech, Tomlin mentioned how grateful he is for all the military has made possible in his life, including free breast cancer treatments for his wife.

This year, at least two students plan to join the military after graduation. Tomlin’s advice? “Have a plan, and join for a reason.”

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Haleigh Haddon
Haleigh Haddon, Reporter
Haleigh Haddon is a sophomore at Windsor High School and hopes to go into real estate. She enjoys working out, hanging out with friends and writing.
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