MARIANNA, Fla.— If you were to walk up to the service desk at Chipola Ford, you might find a friendly face in a camouflage hat.
That man would be Jeff Rash, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 14 years.
Rash, 42, entered the service in 1997. There, Rash operated a fuel truck.
“We had to receive the fuel, store it, test it, make sure it was safe to use,” he said. “There was quality control, inspection and maintenance on the trucks, and everything else. But, long and short: Big green truck, put gas on planes.”
While Rash learned many things with the military, perhaps one of the most useful was the ability to get to know people. Rash says the military truly made him come out of his shell.
“You get put on a position where all you have is the people around you,” he said. “You have to get to know people.”
In addition to the physical closeness of friends made in the military, shared experiences can also aid in creating a bond.
“It doesn’t take long to get to know somebody when you’re in bad situations,” he said.
Rash said that he still stays in contact with many of the friends he made during his time in the service. Rash says he hopes that’s how things stay.
“Hopefully, forever,” he says.
Rash says that his time in the service was filled with ups and downs.
“There were good times, there were bad times,” he said. “There’s a bunch of stuff I will never forget. I don’t talk about it too much, honestly.”
Rash says that during the good times, he was glad to have the people around him. During the bad times, he was even more thankful.
“I had some good times and met some good people,” he said. “I had some bad times and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by really good people.”
Rash says the military has impacted the way he thinks. Today, Rash says he tends to take many factors into consideration instead of focusing on the “now.”
“I have a sharpened sense of thinking from point A to point B,” he says. “I don’t think about now, I think about consequences and “what ifs”. I don’t live by “what ifs,” but goes into account. When you’ve been taught to think a certain way, that’s the kind of thing that’ll never go away.”
Rash says to anyone considering going into the military, it’s important to do your research and to talk to a veteran.
“Do your research,” he said. “Do your research and talk to somebody who’s been in the service. If you want to know the ins and outs of the service, you need to talk to someone who’s lived it. Don’t just listen to what you’re recruiter has to say. It’s a lot better if you have someone who’s lived it and who’s not going to benefit from you joining the service.”
Rash says that among the things he is thankful for is the support of those around him.
“Every time a stranger finds out I was in the service, you always get the handshake and a smile and a ‘Thanks for your service,’” he says. “It just gives you a smile, a little bit of pride, makes you feel good that people care enough to say it.”
Although Rash didn’t enter the service for the purpose of recognition, he is glad that veterans get the recognition they do.
“For someone to go out of their way to thank you for what you did— that means a lot,” he said. “And I think there’s plenty of room for more of that to go on.”
Today, Rash is a service advisor at Chipola Ford. He was thankful for the chance to have this story written.
“I think it’s a good thing you’re trying to shed a spotlight,” he said. “Whether or not someone recognizes my name, I don’t really care. If it makes someone thank a veteran, I think it’s a great thing.”