Name: David Hotelling
Branch: U.S. Army
Age Joined: 18
Rank: Sergeant First Class (E7)
Years Served: 26
What made you want to serve our country?
A family history of service. My grandfather served in the Army Air Corps in WWII and my father served in Vietnam with the United States Air Force. I have cousins that have served in all branches at various times as well. My youngest brother served in the Army, and most recently, my nephew.
What advice would you give someone looking to go into the military?
My only advice would be to go in with an open mind. The opportunities to learn and grow yourself, both personally and professionally, are endless. Will it be hard? Absolutely. But I promise, it will be worth it.
What is your favorite quote?
“You learn far more from negative leadership than positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.” General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
Did you make any close friendships while in the service? Did you continue any of those relationships?
The answer to both questions is yes. The military is a brother/sisterhood and those you serve with become family. I have kept in touch with several good friends, and in today’s era of social media, I have even reconnected with some friends I’d lost contact with. I have traveled cross-country with my family and not paid for a single hotel along the way as friends I have served with have opened their homes for us to stay. I, in turn, have done the same with my home for friends traveling. And finally, I have the pleasure of working alongside my best friend at work even though neither of us are still serving.
What was the best and worst ‘military’ food you were served, and why?
The best meal I had in the Army was Thanksgiving dinner 1989. I was still in training and away from my family. We were served prime rib,
turkey, stuffing and all the traditional sides, as well as desserts. All of it was prepared by Army chefs. The food was great, but what
made the meal the best was the comradery in the room. We were a bunch of young kids away from our families during the holidays, but we had each other. The worst food I was served would probably have to be powdered eggs. We were deployed to Somalia, and fresh eggs were rare. To put it in words you can print….powdered eggs just suck.
Tell us a funny story you experienced that could only happen in the military.
I was deployed to Somalia in April of 1993. When I left, my then wife was pregnant with our first child. It was July 6, 1993 when she came into the world. She was born at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri. In those days, cell phones were unheard of, so the only way I could be notified of the birth being 8,500 miles away in Mogadishu, was through a message delivered to my commander by the American Red Cross. There is an 8 hour time difference (Mogadishu is 8 hours ahead of the Central Time zone) and I was getting a haircut when the message was delivered. When my commander made the announcement, the guy cutting my hair told me to hold very still. He cut the word “Dad” in my hair! I’ll add that he was no licensed barber too!
How does your military experience affect your life today?
The experiences I have had in the military have had a profound impact on my life. I think the biggest takeaway I got was the fact that there are purposes out there bigger than us as individuals. I feel if you can help someone you should.
Were you awarded any medals or citations? How did you get them?
I was awarded several different medals. They Are as follows: 3 Meritorious Service Medals, 3 Army Commendation Medals, 11 Army Achievement Medals, 6 Good Conduct Medals, 2 Nation Defense Service Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal- Somalia. I also have the Army Service Ribbon, Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon and the Overseas Service Ribbon. To get them I performed many different acts, but the two that mean the most to me are one of the Army Commendation Medals and one of the Army Achievement Medals. I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for actions as an M-60 machine gunner during 4 ambushes by Somali fighters in one day (July 17, 1993), and the Army Achievement medal was awarded for performing first aid on a fellow Soldier who had suffered a heart attack and transporting him to the hospital. Of all the awards I received, those two mean
Do you recall the day your service ended?
January 11, 2016 was my last day of service. I was stationed in Seattle, Washington as an Army Recruiter.
What did you do in the days and weeks afterward?
In the first 10 days, my wife and I rented an RV and traveled cross-country back to Tennessee. Along the way we stopped and visited friends and took in some sites. After arriving back in Tennessee, we began the process of setting up our home.
Where did you travel while in the service?
My travels are many. My first duty assignment was in Stuttgart, Germany. In the two years I was stationed in Germany, I also visited many other European countries: Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), Italy, France, Spain and Austria. As mentioned previously, I was deployed to Somalia. While there I also went to Kenya and Ethiopia. Stateside, I have been stationed in Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee,
New York, Kentucky and Washington. Of the 48 contiguous states, I have traveled to 37. I have also visited Hawaii.
Why did you pick the service branch you joined?
That’s a tough question to answer. I had family members that had served in each branch while I was growing up. I can remember being about 8 years old and deciding I wanted to be in the Army. As I grew older, I decided that while my father had served in the Air Force, and I was (still am) proud of that, I wanted to set out on my own path. Of course, I sought the counsel of my father and others in the family that had served, but none of them, regardless of how proud of the branch they served in, tried to push me to that service. But as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a Soldier, so that’s what I did.
Do you recall your first days in service?
I do. I was 18, and scared. Not scared of basic training or anything after but scared of the unknowns. Joining any branch is a huge decision. I remember being hell-bent on enlisting, yet when the wheels of the airplane taking me to basic training left the runway in Kansas City, I was scared, because at that very moment I realized there was no turning back. By the end of the third week of basic training however, that fear was gone, and graduation day will always be one of the proudest days to me.
Was there something special you did for “good luck”?
A couple of things. One is probably more of a superstition than an actual “good luck” charm. Everyday I put my uniform on, I ALWAYS put my right boot on first. I still do that today, no matter what kind of shoe/boot I put on, the right one has to go on first. But I was given a purple rock 2007 while stationed as a recruiter on Long Island, New York. It was given to me by a very young Girl Scout who had come to my office selling cookies. She pulled it out of her pocket and told me she wanted me to have it, it was her lucky rock. I put it in the left breast pocket of my uniform that very day, and I put it in the left breast pocket of my uniform every day after that, until January 11, 2016. A couple of notes to that story: I bought all 15 boxes of cookies she had, and I still have that rock today. I don’t carry it anymore, I don’t want to lose it, but I still have it.
Did you work or go back to school?
I completed my college while serving, receiving a degree in business management. I have gone back to work since retiring from the Army, I do maintenance for a property management company.
Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered?
I would encourage anyone that has ever thought about joining a branch of the military to seek out a local recruiter for that branch and have a discussion with them. There is no obligation whatsoever to get answers to the questions you have.