Matt Hoyte graduated from Naperville North High School in 2007 and the very next day, he was off to basic training for the Army National Guard.
Two years later, the Naperville man was deployed to Afghanistan where he was first a gate guard and then later became part of the police mentor team, tasked with training the Afghan National Civil Order of Police (ANCOP).
“It was an infantryman’s dream,” said Hoyte. “You’re out in the middle of nowhere with ten guys, so self sufficient that you’ve got to do your job. I was doing missions every day, driving around in a Humvee.”
Over the course of about nine months, Hoyte lived amongst the Afghan people in a compound, with the mission of mobilizing their government.
“I think the American public needs to realize we’re not just being soldiers but also in a way a politician,” he said. “We were not just trying to strategically beat the Taliban but also showing the Afghan people what we were doing, why this is the system they should adopt instead of the Taliban’s.”
Now a veteran himself, Hoyte is an active member of the Judd Kendall Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), serving on the group’s house committee. Every year the VFW holds a special ceremony on Veteran’s Day and as they prepare for the event, he reflects on what the day means for him.
“I never try to make it about myself. In some ways it doesn’t seem right. I just did what I had to do and I know anyone would do it if they had to,” he said. “And so for me, Veteran’s Day is a time for me to remember all those guys I was with because some didn’t come home with us. Others just fell outta contact. It’s that one day a year where you think about all the guys you were with.”
As he’s one of the younger veterans, Hoyte says the biggest difference between today’s generation of service men and women and those that served in the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II is that many were drafted.
“The actual service for my generation has been solely voluntary and I think that in turn makes the job a little bit easier because you know you were there by choice,” said Hoyte.
Still, that choice to serve our country through the military isn’t without its sacrifices and not just for those serving but their loved ones as well.
“I don’t think people fully understand that it is the entire family that has to go to war,” said Hoyte. “While there may be only one person that actually does it, the family has to deal with the consequences of whatever happens.”
For that reason, Hoyte appreciates that Americans nationwide take one day out of the year to honor those sacrifices.
WANT MORE LOCAL NEWS?
Get daily news headlines delivered to your inbox!Sign Up Today!