FROM READERS: MU graduate learned value of public service from military experience

Sunday, April 21, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
Drafted into the U.S. Army and later retiring from the Missouri National Guard, veteran Jim Weber says the military has inspired him to continue his public service.

Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America, an organization that honors and assists ill, wounded and injured service members.

The son of a German immigrant, Jim Weber regularly returns to his father’s homeland to maintain connections to his relatives through spirited family reunions.

And though proud of his family’s heritage, Weber asserts that experiences during his military service have strengthened his love for America and his desire to continue his public service.

“My father settled in Mid-Missouri when he was 18 years old and went on to become a general contractor in the area,” said Weber, 68, Jefferson City.

A 1963 graduate of Jefferson City High School, Weber went on to attend the University of Missouri, becoming a walk-on for the football team and later earning a football scholarship.

While in college, he completed two years of Army Reserve Officer Training Corps — which was mandatory at the time — but initially had no interest in joining the service.

But in 1968, he received a draft notice, a small piece of paper that forever changed his career outlook.

“Since I was still in college, I was able to get a one-year deferment,” he said.

He graduated in 1969, having earned both a bachelor’s of science and master’s degree in education. With his deferment now expired, he was drafted into the Army the same year.

That summer he went to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, and then traveled to Ft. Sill, Okla., where he spent the next several months completing the requirements to become an officer, and attending advanced training to become qualified as a field artilleryman.

Weber was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1970 and given the opportunity to attend automatic data processing school since he graduated in the upper percentile during his previous training — a course which introduced him to automation such as mainframe computers.

With his initial training finished, he was transferred to Ft. Carson, Colo., spending the next 18 months assigned to the division data center.

In 1972, his enlistment expired and he decided to return to Jefferson City to be closer to his family. Not wishing to lose the investment of time he had made in the Army, he continued his military career by joining the Missouri National Guard.

Throughout the next decade, he worked full-time as a state employee while continuing his part-time military career with the Guard. He also returned to the University of Missouri, earning a master’s degree in public administration in 1980.

He became a full-time employee of the Missouri National Guard in 1984, hired to fill the newly created position of Management Information System Officer, and given the responsibility of bringing automation to the state headquarters and numerous Guard units throughout the state.

With the remainder of his military career primarily focused on implementing technology and providing automated support, Weber retired from the Missouri National Guard in 1999 at the rank of colonel.

For the next six years, he returned to state employment, retiring from the Missouri Department of Revenue in 2005 as the chief information officer.

“The military,” Weber shared, “imbued in me a level of discipline and leadership skills that have helped me in everyday areas.”

However, the veteran believes that one of the most profound lessons he has gleaned from his time in service is the importance of being a “servant-oriented individual.”

This has inspired him to become deeply involved in community activities with Faith Lutheran Church, serving on several boards such as Calvary Lutheran High School and the Cole County Historical Society, and membership in several local clubs and non-profit organizations.

“When I first attended college, I thought life was about nothing more than playing football and having a good time,” Weber said, smiling. "Nothing else seemed to be a priority."

Married to Betty, his wife of 46 years, the father of two unreservedly shares the transition that occurred in his youthful viewpoints many years ago.

“But after a little bit of time in the service, my perspective completely changed. I soon realized that we were put here to help give back what the Lord has given to us,” he added. 

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor Joy Mayer.

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