CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Three years ago, 1st. Lt. Tommy Gorman, assistant fire support officer, 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, left leading a classroom to fulfill a life of service that began at birth.
The San Diego native grew up in a household where selfless service to the nation was viewed as an obligation to a greater cause. That lineage began with his grandfather, who served in World War II, and continued on to his father and uncles, who served during Operation Desert Storm. Gorman's service manifested in high school, where he tutored elementary school students as a volunteer with the San Diego Urban League, a nonprofit organization.
His passion for helping others led him to San Diego State University, where he earned a degree in journalism and a minor in history. After working for the Social Security Administration for 12 months, he said he felt a hunger to truly make a difference and resigned.
He accepted a teaching position in San Luis, Arizona, a small town near the U.S.-Mexico border. Gorman said he was initially nervous with the idea of teaching seventh-and eighth-graders whose second language was English, but said he created fun and exciting ways to teach the students grammar fundamentals to facilitate the learning process.
It was there he met his wife, Mary Coe, an art teacher whose father retired from the Army, and they talked for hours about growing up around the military. They both later took positions at Academia Del Pueblo Elementary School in Phoenix.
“Mr. Gorman was always very passionate and enthusiastic about teaching and always made time for his students,” said Samantha Sepulveda, former San Luis student and current Arizona State University student. “He was not your typical teacher. His personality made a positive impact the entire school year, and it was not the same when he left.”
Gorman said the most fulfilling thing about teaching was when he saw an “aha moment” in a student's eyes, signaling he or she finally understood what he was teaching.
“Tommy was very patient and able to take students whose math, English and language arts ability was far below average, and he was able to raise their scores to meet and exceed the state standards,” Mary Gorman said.
Staff Sgt. Dean Owens, assistant squadron fire support NCO, left, and 1st. Lt. Tommy Gorman, assistant squadron fires officer, right, both with the 4th Sqdn, 4th Cav. Regt., perform final pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspection on their High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle Aug. 28, 2014 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Courtesy Photo)
It was an interaction with a fellow teacher that sparked Gorman's interest to serve in the military, he said. A teacher who was also a Navy Reserve officer talked about a life of service and how the military was looking for people like Gorman for the officer corps.
“It was that moment that I decided to explore the possibilities of military service like the other men in my family,” Gorman said.
He walked away from a rewarding, two-and-a-half year career as an educator, he said, and began a life in uniform in March 2011.
Shortly after, he arrived to the “Big Red One” to take on the challenge of leading Soldiers.
“Being an officer is similar to being a teacher in that you have opportunity to impact the lives of Soldiers,” Gorman said. “Some of the Soldiers are like my students in that they enjoyed learning new things.”
Gorman said he developed a good relationship built on trust and communication with his noncommissioned officers and Soldiers, which has given him invaluable insight into their experiences. That has helped him plan relevant training events, he said.
“The best thing about being an officer is the opportunity to lead Soldiers in accomplishing the mission,” Gorman said. “I'm a traditionalist in the sense that I believe that it's a moral obligation for any able-bodied person to render service to this nation at some point in their lives.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bernhard Lashleyleidner
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article