PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents SSG Kevin Lipinski’s legacy of his military service from 2002 to 2018. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Army.
I wanted to serve my country, but it took about a year after 9-11 to decide, and I was still on the fence, so I did the National Guard first, and I found out I loved it and went active. I also have a strong family military tradition that is important to me.
As they say, the rest is history!
Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?
My service career path started with Field Artillery as a Fire Direction Specialist and then reclassed to Military Police, where I became a Traffic Accident Investigator and Squad Leader. Later, I reclassed again to become an Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, Contracting a Noncommissioned Officer. I left when I medically retired from the Army in 2018.
If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?
Yes, I deployed to Iraq twice in 2005-2006 in Mosul and in 2007-2008 to Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom during the Surge. The Baghdad deployment was the most significant one because I lost some people I knew and got promoted to Sergeant, and received two awards during the deployment. Later on, as a Contracting NCO, I deployed in 2015-2016 to Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.
I had a few times during my 2007-2008 deployment when I was scared for my life. I remember one mortar attack in particular where I was blown back into the bunker and hit my head on the concrete, seeing stars. If not for a buddy diving into the bunker at the exact time of the blast and taking the shrapnel, I’d have had my face cut up pretty good. Another time we spent almost 8 hours in the bunkers in a prolonged rocket and mortar attack.
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
I would have to say I miss Mosul the most because it was my first deployment, and I miss Okinawa as a duty station because it was the best time in my military career and one of the best in my personal life. In Mosul, I made a lifelong friend in my fellow Military Policeman and Sergeant, Anthony Bernini. In Okinawa, my son found his love for the beach, my daughter was born, and I absolutely loved the culture and food. My least favorite was probably the cold and snow of Fort Drum, New York. An absolutely beautiful North Country, but no joke, bitterly cold weather that I don’t particularly love!
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
I would have to say that so far, it’s been my memory of being able to be present for the birth of both of my children; I was lucky and not in school or deployed. Thankfully, I could also be there to cut the umbilical cord for both kids and hold them right away. It was a surreal and amazing experience, especially as they are now in their teens at 15 and 13 years old.
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
No, I was not awarded any medals for valor. However, I was awarded the Combat Action Badge in 2007 for my experience with being engaged by the enemy in Baghdad. A few times, I came very close to being hurt or killed.
Thankfully, I managed to come through “without a scratch,” although due to my TBI and actual cut on my head, I’ve applied for the Purple Heart Medal at the behest of a number of battle buddies. I think that the fact I earned my Combat Action Badge and brought all of my Soldiers home uninjured after being promoted to Sergeant in theatre is one of my proudest accomplishments and achievements in my military career.
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?
As previously discussed, my Combat Action Badge is the most significant because it reminds me of the friends and people I have lost in combat. However, the two Military Outstanding Volunteer Medals are also a point of meaning as I spent endless hours volunteering at the Post Chapel, USO, Cub Scouts, and Elementary School (with the Character Counts Program), pouring into Soldiers and Civilians alike in the local community.
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
I have four people in mind as I think about this question. First is my first Team Leader, Adam Castillo, who now works as a Policeman and amateur blacksmith, and knifemaker in Arizona. He was a good leader and helped me through some hard times during my first deployment in 2005.
Second is First Sergeant Edwin Rossman; he was hands down the best First Sergeant I’ve ever had. Moreover, he was a battle buddy when my son was born pre-mature before my second deployment, as his son was born pre-mature years prior. Also, in retirement, he introduced me to a positive outlet in Wargaming, specifically with the game Bolt Action. He is an amazing Husband, Father, Leader, and friend. I would follow him to Hell with a squirt gun at a moment’s notice!
Also, I would have to say that MSG Kowalski had a big impact on me as a person and soldier; she was my first Platoon Sergeant and became a Command Sergeant Major. She is the only senior NCO that had ever apologized to me when she yelled at me for something I did not do. She is an amazing leader and someone that leads from the front.
Likewise, as a colleague of Staff Sergeant Anthony Bernini (U.S. Army Retired), we have walked through a lot of life together. We’ve been on two deployments, lived together for a time in my house and then his, and walked through the Medical Retirement process together. He is truly a colleague and best of friends.
List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.
Sycamore, Illinois: C Battery, 2/122 FA–SGT Francis Zaylik. I liked how he was always supportive and encouraging, and I’d like to know how he’s doing. I haven’t talked to him in 14 years.
Fort Carson, Colorado: 59th MP Company–I still keep in touch with 1SG Rossman, SSG Bernini, and SPC Katz, which are all the people I desire to connect with.
Okinawa, Japan: 257th MP Detachment–I think I’d like to reach out to SSG Joshua Hughes. He transitioned into the Military Intelligence world and was an amazing guy to be around. He did standup comedy on the side and was always quick with a joke or a story.
Fort Sam Houston, Texas: 25th MP DET (CID) and HHC USAG: I would like to connect with SGT(P) Seth Kunkle at the time. He was the Drug Team Chief, and I was his NCOIC. He later became a Warrant Officer for CID, and I last saw him in Hawaii in 2012.
Schofield Barracks/Fort Derussy/Fort Shafter, Hawaii: 39th and 13th MP Detachments–I still keep in contact with SPC, now SGT in the National Guard Joseph Creta from New York. We got into a lot of shenanigans in Hawaii, and he has been a good friend and battle buddy over the years. I last saw him in College Station, PA traveling to Ft. Drum from Ft. Belvoir. I regularly call and talk with him and greatly value his friendship.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia: 212th MP Detachment— I still keep in contact with SGT Wesley Sage, who is now a Texas police officer and National Guardsman, then SGT, now SSG Bryce Fazenbaker, who found a home as a full-time Army Recruiter, and then SGT and now Department of the Army Policeman David Payamps. These guys were my Soldiers and gave me a mix of laughs, inspiration, heartache, and hard work second to none. I continually keep in contact with them all and treasure their friendship.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia: 631st and 864th Contracting Teams–I will never forget the quiet smile and soft tone of Sergeant First Class Shannon Booker. He helped teach me the basics when I became a Contracting NCO, and I still see his posts on Facebook sometimes. I’d like to give him a call sometime in the near future. He was a great family man, leader, and battle buddy.
Fort Drum, New York: 925th Contracting Battalion–Sergeant First Class Thomas Brown and I are fast friends. We both went through the drama of being overweight up there and are now both out of the Army; he is a Contracting Officer at Ft. Drum in the same organization he left, and I will be taking a position as a Government Service Contracting Specialist or Officer sometime soon.
We became friends at fort drum after finding out we had a common history of Mosul and Tal-Afar, Iraq, from 2005-2006. We were a city away, and both love the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen that make up the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He had the pleasure of serving under the Famous Soldier, Historian, and later on National Security Advisor but then COL H.R. McMaster. I had the pleasure of getting a coin and Certificate of Achievement from him and personally being invited into the Regiment by him and SGM Caldwell as I transitioned from Guard to Active Duty. This was, of course, after the superb performance as an MP at Ft. Carson and a great night where I danced with his wife and others as a living history re-enactor at the 3rd ACR Christmas Ball in 2004 before they deployed to Tal-Afar. Tom and I talk just about every week about stories such as these and life in general.
Fort Bragg, North Carolina: 900th Contracting Battalion–One person comes to mind, Maxim Pikulskiy, my Russian brother from another mother. I met Max in 2016 when I deployed to Iraq/Kuwait. We started talking, and when I found out he was moving from Rock Island Arsenal to Fort Bragg and going through the same Medical Board issues, I invited him to live with me. He stayed with me at my home on Ft. Bragg and taught me to make Borsch and about the Wendy’s 4 for 4 “Immigrant Meal” I taught him some guitar, one of which I gave him and showed him how to have fun and let loose a bit. Max is now a retired Staff Sergeant, as am I, and a Department of the Army Contracting Officer at Rock Island Arsenal. We talk by phone one to two times a month, and I truly value his friendship.
Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?
I was on a convoy from Anaconda to Mosul, and we were escorting like two groups of 60, the 172nd BCT’s Strikers on HETT’s. We stopped for a vehicle breakdown, and my team leader (SGT Castillo) stopped and got out of the truck to take a crap. I got out and pulled security on my side of the truck. He shouted at me what I thought was “pull forward,” so I jumped back in and pulled up the truck as he did the crab walk on the TC side of the Humvee. He then yelled stop and yelled at me for a bit. Apparently, he told me to “close the door” so he wouldn’t get shot in the ass as he took a shit against the open door of his Humvee.
Another time in Hawaii, I was working a fatality traffic accident on Kole Kole pass. My Traffic Accident Section chief Staff Sergeant Huer, had us search the site online for any debris. As the one fatality at the time didn’t appear to have one of his eyes. I, without thinking, yelled out, “make sure you watch out and don’t step on any eyeballs.” He immediately became sick to his stomach and almost puked and said something like, “man, that’s gross, eww!”. This was especially funny because he was a guy who tried to be a tough guy, had a Combat Action Badge, and was obviously out of his element. We found out later, after an autopsy, that the eyeball was punched into his skull from the impact of the crash. At least the three people who were ejected at the scene survived with relatively minor injuries.
What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? if you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?
I was a Field Artilleryman, Military Policeman, and Acquisition, Logistics, Technology, and Contracting Noncommissioned Officer. After I was medically retired, I worked a few part-time jobs at Home Depot, Taco Johns, and Starbucks to stay busy. I then realized I needed to get back to work. This was after my wife Rebecca so eloquently put it when she said, “you’re retired, not dead! Get a job!” So, I applied for a Contracting Specialist/Officer job in the Government Civil Service system with the United States Air Force as a GS 1102 (Contracting career field) civilian.
What military associations are you a member of, if any? what specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
I am a member of several military associations, and the benefits I derive from them are keeping current on the issues within that organization and educating me on current Army issues. My primary focus is currently the Combat Veteran’s Motorcycle Association, or CVMA as it’s known, and the Patriot Guard Riders or PGR.
As I was pending retirement at Fort Bragg, I bought a 2016 Olive Green Street Bob from the Harley dealership in Fayetteville. I added aftermarket Vance and Hines Grenade pipes, a fuel pack, and led lights. A windscreen with a few stickers on it, 13D (for my old Field Artillery MOS), 31B for my Military Police MOS, and a sticker that reads “Dirty Nasty Leg” just to give the Airborne folks at Bragg something to chuckle at! I had the honor of accompanying both groups on fundraisers and rides.
One ride with the CVMA, we raised a few thousand dollars for the Gold Star Mothers organization in Fayetteville. On another ride, I had the honor of escorting the body of Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to Fayetteville with the PGR. SSG Johnson was one of 4 Soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017. I feel that these groups positively impact both the members and the community, and I am proud to be a member of both!
I’m currently a less active member of the PGR and a very active Life Member of the CVMA. I am a former member of Chapters 15-1 and 15-9 in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, Area. I am the former Chaplain of CVMA Chapter 12-4 in Dayton, Ohio. Now I’m a member of CVMA Chapter 16-1 in Omaha, Nebraska.
I am also currently a Life Member of the VFW and a prior post Trustee for the All-American VFW Memorial Post 8312 in Beavercreek, Ohio. I will be joining a new VFW Post shortly as I’m currently a member at large, as I’m in the middle of a move/relocation. While a Post Trustee, I helped my VFW get a new roof, and my Son was Scout of the year for 2022 for the Beavercreek VFW Post. He also made Eagle Scout with his service project of building flag retirement boxes for two VFWs to include my post (Post 8312).
The benefits of being an active part of these organizations are humbling and necessary to continue my mission to help Veterans anywhere and everywhere. I love giving back and believe it is a part of my mission after my Active Duty Service ended in 2018. After all, I am a “Soldier for Life” and love my country and fellow brothers and sisters in arms like none other. I am my “brother’s keeper”!
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?
I was an immature teenager acting like 22 years old, and now I am a married and more mature man that takes my career and life very seriously. I’ve been blessed with two wonderful children and a wife I don’t deserve. That being said, I do miss my battle buddies’ camaraderie, fellowship, and friendship when I was in the service. Although I am still in contact and friends with quite a few of them still, I do miss the “hurry up and wait” mundane day-to-day of the Army interspersed with moments of sheer excitement and sometimes terror!
The things I miss the most are my Soldiers, the camaraderie/esprit-de-corps, and teamwork while fighting through impossible situations with my brothers and sisters in arms.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Army?
Keep it up, don’t ever give up, and when you think you can’t go on, keep going. This job is both the most demanding and most fulfilling job you will work in life other than being married and raising children! Do it to your absolute best and always try to be a positive example to those around you and have fun! Change your blinker fluid regularly, organize your boxes of grid squares, take regular exhaust samples, don’t forget to fill out the ID10-T Form in triplicate, and never forget that you can’t spell “Lost” without LT!
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
I am able to keep up with the people I served with and see how they are doing. Additionally, and more importantly, I am able to remember those who aren’t with us in tribute profiles and by viewing others’ tributes, helping to keep their stories and sacrifices alive! Lastly, it reminds me of my past and the military history I come from in my family, lest we forget!