Ever since Tage Burd was a little kid, he knew he wanted to be a soldier. It was something he felt deep inside—a need to belong to a team, to be part of something bigger than himself. He wanted his life to have real purpose. To defend his country and be the boots on the ground. Growing up in a family with a tradition of military service dating back to the Civil War only further cemented his dream.
Now, the only hard part was getting there, and for Tage that meant encountering a few bumps along the way, starting with high school when life started to get pretty complicated for him.
In his words, those teenage years were pretty “chaotic.” Studying didn’t come easy to him, and all those tos and fros of pending adulthood and conflicting responsibilities made it hard for him to focus and it got harder and harder to keep up. He knew he needed to do something to get back on course, so he and his father decided to look into the HISEC (High School Equivalency Certificate) program offered through Eastern Wyoming College in Glenrock with the hope that it would put him back on track.
It did. For a while. And, through the course of his studies, Tage channeled his love of military history while improving his grades and slowly collecting credits until eventually he was just weeks away from graduating.
Now, it was only a matter of maintaining the momentum and keeping the distractions at bay in order to focus.
Once again, however, those adolescent issues got in his way. This time it was a restless urge to go make some money, which at the time, seemed a heck of a lot more important that getting good grades as once again the short-term gratifications overshadowed his long-term goals.
Just two weeks shy of graduating, Tage quit school and moved to Cheyenne to work for an oil field services company with his brother.
From there, an opportunity to work on a crab boat in the Bering Sea came up, so Tage packed his bags and headed off to Alaska. This adventure proved scenic but not worth giving up on his dreams, so once again it was back to Glenrock to reassess his life and take a good, hard, long look at reality. With the constant support and guidance of his big brother Dakota, Tage decided he was ready for a real change.
“I kind of strayed from the path pretty good,” he said of that period. “But then, I don’t know what happened. I went to work one night with my brother and we got to talking...I kinda took a step back and analyzed my mess and looked at how I could clean it up.”
So, he grabbed a notebook and pen and made a list of everything he had to do to get to where he needed to be and just started checking off the items on his list.
First up, finishing high school. As soon as he made up his mind to do it, it was easy. He quickly finished up his HISET, graduating with above average scores, and then with a burst of energy and determination he had lacked for months if not years, he focused on his deeprooted dream of a military career.
It took some work, but once again he dug into the research just as he did the HISET, meticulously cross-checking his skill set with various units and opportunities and doing a lot of research to see where he would fit best.
Before he knew it, Tage was standing in front of a military doctor (AKA “The dream crusher”) waiting to find out if he had passed the physical.
“The doctor looked at me and goes ‘sorry buddy….just kidding! You are medically qualified to join the United States Army. Then everything got really real for me,” Tage remembered with a laugh. “Then we went and swore in right then and there and then filled out the rest of our paperwork and from that moment on, we were members of the United States Army.”
What followed next was a surreal period of disbelief, according to Tage, who couldn’t believe he was finally doing it.
“Part of me was like ‘Hey, you’re really doing it,’ ” he said. “One of my life goals, my biggest aspirations, and my dream coming true…it all hit me at once. I’m not gonna lie, my stomach was one big butterfly.” He’d finally done it, and on March 27, Tage will leave for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. From there he will move straight to Fort Lee, Virginia, for the summer, then
onto his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) as a 91 B Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic.
“If kicking in doors fails me at some point in life, I can fall back on being a mechanic,” Tage laughed.
After basic, Tage plans to resign his contract and apply for 18X in the Special Forces branch of the military. If he gets that, he will then attend Infantry School, Airborne School and the Special
Forces program. If for some reason he does not attain full Special Forces qualification, he will be certified as an Airborne Infantryman after all his training.
From here he might go anywhere, as he ticked off a list of possibilities: Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, maybe even Germany.
“I look forward to the brotherhood and the camaraderie I’m going to gain throughout this whole experience,” Tage said, and despite the usual nerves of starting a new path in life, he is ready for the adventure, the good and the bad of military life.
“If something is to happen, let it happen to me and not my brother or the guy I’m fighting next to,” Tage reflected. “I want to come home. I want to see everyone again. But, if something is going to happen, let it happen to me.”
Now, as his departure date gets closer, Tage refuses to look backwards. At the mistakes. The circuitous path to get here. Or the people who doubted him. Everyone takes their own route, he shrugged, but eventually you find the path back to yourself.
“You are going to come across roadblocks. You are going to find things that make you lose hope, but you’ve got to preserve,” he said. “You’ve got to keep going. Just look at something from a
different angle. If you can’t get through it one way, you’ve got to find another way and get through that way. You’ve always got to try. You can’t stop.”