Veterans Day programs are on Friday, Nov. 10, 9 a.m. at St. Mary’s School; 10:30 a.m. at Sleepy Eye High School.

From a very young age, David Webster knew he wanted to join the Army someday. “I decided when I was about eight that I wanted to be a soldier,” said Webster. He said the idea came from place of a gratitude.

“I was adopted at age three, along with my sister, from a rough life in Peru and felt very fortunate,” he explained. “Also, my mom always encouraged me to read and many of the books she brought me helped form my values of service and gratitude.” Webster said he felt protective of his sisters as a kid, and had an uncle in the Army and one in the Navy—he looked up to them both.

It all came together as a young boy’s plan to join the Army. The idea was planted, and then solidified when the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States occurred.

As a senior at New Ulm High School, Webster enlisted in the U.S. Army. (As a 17-year-old, he needed a parental waiver in order to enlist.) He began his Army career on July 24, 2007 at Fort Benning Army Base in Georgia, where he reported for Basic Training, followed by Advanced Individual Training as an infantry rifleman.

Webster graduated that November and reported to Fort Wainwright, in Alaska, to be part of the 1-25 Infantry Division. Assigned to the 3-21 Infantry Battalion, he deployed to Iraq for the first time, serving there for five and a half months.

Webster’s further deployments to the Middle East included a return to Iraq in September of 2008 for one year; and a nine month deployment in Afghanistan in 2010-11, until he was sent home due to injuries sustained overseas.

When asked if he realized what he faced in the Army, Webster said, “You think you know, but it’s more intense than you probably picture in your head. But I knew I would go into combat.” Any second thoughts? “Sir, I got lost on the way to college,” Webster quipped.

War is tough on a country, and Webster said it would be nice to see that part of the world again. “I’d go back to visit in a time of peace,” he said. “People everywhere want to live quiet, successful lives. I’d like to see them living that life over there.”

Webster said he did miss the structure and sense of purpose he experienced in the Army. He found that joining the American Legion and being part of a VA support group helped to give him that feeling again. He also realized he had a great interest in the topic of leadership—something he continues to study.

Webster recommends that other young veterans join service organizations. “They don’t realize they have a lot to give,” he said. “They can get involved and continue to address today’s societal ills.”

Webster recently transferred his Legion membership from New Ulm to Sleepy Eye and accepted a position as Treasurer of the local post.

Webster will speak at the Veterans Day programs at the high schools on Friday, Nov. 10 (9 a.m. at St. Mary’s; 10:30 a.m. at public school) and at the annual Veterans Dinner on Saturday evening.