BC student reminisces about his service, transitions to civilian life
Enlisting in the army changed Andrew Vargas’ life. For the better, of course.
Vargas, a 24-year-old Broward College student who is currently on his second semester, joined the Army when he was just 19-years-old. He was following his family’s footsteps – his father is a Vietnam War veteran.
“I dropped out of high school the first semester of my sophomore year and was working as a bag boy at Albertsons and a busser at a restaurant. I wasn’t reaching my full potential and I had family members who served, so I followed their footsteps,” he said.
He is the youngest of five siblings, two of whom also served in the Army. Vargas remembers fondly his time in the Army. From the night in Nashville when he tried to dance with a country girl 6 feet tall and ended up as laughing stock, to the 12-days field exercise that consisted of no sleep and no shower.
Vargas’ cheerful spirit always saw the best of every situation and made his best times a hundred times better.
“Everything from the freezing 5 degree winters, the pissed off Platoon Sergeant’s, and the pranks on the young Privates will always be the funniest times. I have more stories than you can imagine,” Vargas admitted.
However, in a more serious tone, he admits there were downsides and times when he couldn’t avoid his reality.
“It was a hate-love relationship. I had the best and toughest experiences in life. I can say that the United States Army molded me to be the person I am today,” he said. “The hardest thing for me was not being able to watch my three nieces grow up. I missed three of their best years, and now I feel like our relationship is not the same. I am a family man, and that was the greatest sacrifice I made.”
Vargas was a 13 Bravo Cannon crew member stationed in the 101st Airborne Division. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, a year after he enlisted, and stayed there for about a year. He later transitioned out of the Army as a Sergeant after serving one term. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Vargas grew up as an outdoors lover. He enjoys hiking, fishing, and waterfowl hunting. But his passion is any physical activity, which relates to his professional goals.
“Someday, I will be Doctor of Physical Therapy,” he said. “I also plan on having a family and mentoring others to be successful with their lifelong goals.”
Vargas also confesses that it has taken him sometime to transition back into civilian life.
“It took some time to get used to the flow. You get out, and it’s different. It’s hard to explain but nothing is the same,” he said.
And as part of his transition, Vargas decided he would go to college and get an education, especially after his experience after dropping out of high school.
“As I grew up, I noticed that a good education leads to a brighter future,” he said. “Knowledge is power.”
Ultimately, his time in the military, Vargas says, definitely prepared him and provided him with the necessary skills to succeed at school.
“I can put the ‘fun’ aside and focus on school when need be and it also taught me to appreciate it because I sacrificed a lot for it,” said Vargas. “I don’t have perfect grades or a solid 4.0, but because the military taught me to work hard and stay focused, I will always be successful in school.”