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Selfless Service To Soldiers To The End
by U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Tatum
February 6, 2021

Soldiers and family members shared in the final career moment of Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Peterson, senior advisor for 1st Battalion, 337th Brigade Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade, as he relinquished responsibility to Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth H. Marshall, Jr. on January 22, 2021 after 31 years of service to the Nation.

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Peterson with his wife Angela at the ceremony honoring the end of his service after 31 years to the Nation on January 22, 2021 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. (U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Ryan Tatum, 181st Infantry Brigade)
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ernest Peterson with his wife Angela at the ceremony honoring the end of his service after 31 years to the Nation on January 22, 2021 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. (U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Ryan Tatum, 181st Infantry Brigade)

Peterson, an Alabama-native, chose to join the Army after being inspired by his Father’s service during World War II.

“My father, Ernest Peterson, served in World War II as a logistician, and I am also a logistician. He served four years and came back to support his family, and I decided that I needed to continue the legacy,” said Peterson. “The second reason I joined was for my mother, Lola Peterson. I felt that I had to support her in some way, and I knew the military would provide that stability for me to help support my family."

Peterson’s parents instilled life lessons which he would carry with him in the Army.

“My father was the first person in my life to lead by example; one of the things my father told me was, ‘If you do right, right will always follow you,’” said Peterson. “Second, my mother, being a woman of faith, she prayed over my life and instilled in me the importance to have a relationship with God. I am grateful for my mother and my father and all those values and moral ethic they steered in me as a young child growing up.”

Even though he had less than three months left in his career, Peterson’s family life lessons and Army values were still put to the ultimate test.

Sgt. 1st Class Ruben Gonzalez was compassionately reassigned to the 181st Infantry Brigade in November, because his daughter Sofia was diagnosed with cancer. By December, Sofia’s fight with cancer took a turn for the worst, but before her passing, Peterson did what he could to honor her before the end.

“My Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Ruben Gonzalez, lost his daughter late December, and it was a hard moment for me and our organization. I knew as a noncommissioned officer and as a person, it was all about selfless service and taking care of people,” said Peterson. “Before she passed away, the commander, a few Soldiers and I came to visit to lift her spirits, one of the Soldiers dressed up as Santa Claus. We had party items, gifts and took pictures with her, and for the last part of her time on Earth we made sure she felt appreciated by her extended Army family.”

Gonzalez, an observer coach trainer for 1-377 BSB, was moved by the support from Peterson and other leaders in the organization.

“When I got to the organization, Sergeant Maj. Peterson’s first concern was why I was here. He didn’t ask what could I do for him, but instead asked what he could do for me,” said Gonzalez. “He could have clocked out, checked out. He came in late one day and called the emergency room to make sure I got the grant to help with medical expenses. He went above and beyond to help me.”

Peterson looked back on his career to recall what it meant for him to serve in the Army and expectations of his service to the Soldiers that he has served with.

“Looking back on it, I would not change anything. Every duty station, every assignment, every deployment happened for a reason. I wouldn’t change anything from the beginning at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to Fort McCoy, Wis., because it was all lined up and according to God’s purpose,” said Peterson. “I am glad that I did my 31 years. Leaving out the door is just as good as coming in because the Soldiers really took care of me.”

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