Tipping the scales at nearly 300 pounds in high school, Private First Class (PFC) Ray Birch says military service was the last thing on his mind. His father was a retired Marine, and military service ran in his family, but when he graduated from high school his physical condition was not in his favor.
His attitude was a totally different story.
The young man – who would eventually serve the State of North Carolina as a Military Police Officer in the Army National Guard – became an avid volunteer in his hometown of Havelock, NC. He served the Parks and Recreation Department doing just about anything they asked, which included organizing logistics for events, driving VIPs, and even dressing up as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to entertain the kids.
PFC Birch says he was eager to serve in whatever way he could, so the town gladly accepted his volunteer work on two additional boards, which gave him the opportunity to establish greenways and other nature preservation efforts throughout town.
While his love of community service was growing, his health was still at risk. After a frightening visit to the doctor and a reminder of the diabetes that affected some family members, PFC Birch decided enough was enough. The weight was coming off.
Through a disciplined diet and lots of exercise, he shed 120 pounds. It wasn’t easy, but PFC Birch wasn’t going to let any obstacle stand in his way.
“I haven’t had a Big Mac, Whopper or soda in seven years,” he says.
As the weight started to come off, the doors to his future swung wide open.
He attended classes in manufacturing technology and started a career as a machinist. While he had established a way to earn a paycheck, his heart was still tied to serving the community. The National Guard, he says, was as an opportunity to take his commitment to community to an entirely new level.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve North Carolina,” he says. “This is where I was born and it’s an honor for me to do what I do.”
When it came time to choose a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), PFC Birch remembered that his uncle was a retired Army Military Police Officer (MP), and he thought the values embodied by the position would fit his own values perfectly.
As it turned out, he was right. The MP motto is “to assist, protect, and defend.”
“Being the police of the military, I can help other Soldiers live the military values and show them how to do it,” he says. “And I can assist our community and protect fellow citizens when they are in a time of need. I’m still a volunteer at heart. The MP fits that.”
The police methods and skills he learned through the National Guard led to a position as a security officer at a local hospital, so PFC Birch now keeps things under control on duty and off. Plus, he continues to serve his hometown through volunteer work.
His transformation from overweight high school kid to a fit, strong National Guard Soldier, security officer, and community volunteer has opened his eyes to his own potential and what he can do in the future.
“I believe in the military values: never accept defeat, never quit, and never say you can’t. I lived those [ideals] before I joined the Guard and the Guard has taken them to a higher level.”
Right now he’s thinking about his options, which include making the National Guard a full-time career, or sticking to part-time Guard service with a civilian career. He says he can see himself going back to school to get his bachelor’s degree, moving on to become a State trooper, and possibly even running for State senate.
“I love this State. I put my heart and soul into this State. My ultimate goal is to serve North Carolina, to try to make the world a better place.”
If you’d like to see a whole new perspective on what you can accomplish, visit the Army National Guard jobs board and contact a Recruiter today.