May is Military Appreciation Month and also Memorial Day, when we honor those lost in action. Blue Yonder associate JR Fuller, Vice President, Sales, shares his experience with the military and how it changed his life and continues to influence him.

I was 17 when I enlisted, with the signature of my parents of course, in the Army. I went directly from high school to Army basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I was going primarily to get money to go to college; the Army offered me (and many others) a chance to save for college with a very generous savings match. I had no idea how much it would change my life. 

I was born and raised in western New York in a small town called Lockport. It was not a very diverse town to be honest. I only knew a couple of people that were not white. It was a cultural shock to me when I arrived at my first barracks in Fort Jackson. There were eight people sleeping in the same room and the majority (75%) were persons of color.  

I was exposed to new experiences thanks to living with a diverse group of people. I learned so many new things, like shaving methods (none of the guys used a razor rather a cream!), dew rags (how to properly wear one), languages (I learned my first Spanish words!), and new (to me!) music. To this day, my favorite music is R&B.

When I joined, I was terrified to go overseas. I went to Germany, which turned out to be awesome. Remember I said I learned new languages? Well, German was another language I learned. The German people were warm and accepting when you engaged with them and made an effort to speak their language and learn their culture. 

I was able to travel around Europe and get exposure to many different cultures and languages – and I loved it! It gave me a lifelong appreciation to learn to communicate with others, and to understand and appreciate how ALIKE we all are no matter where we come from, what language we speak, and what our daily life looks like.

I am blessed to have friends from all races, different cultures, different countries, and languages as a result of my experience in the military. As a result, I’m blessed to lead a multicultural team here at Blue Yonder. My experience in the military helped shape me as a leader and as a human.