Landon Becker, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, served in the military for 20 years, taking him to Egypt, Australia, Singapore, Iraq and Afghanistan. After 18 years of service, though, he said he took on his most important mission: Aiding wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital as a family liaison.
Becker said he wanted to join the military ever since he was 5 years old and saw his uncle home on leave from the Marine Corps. Named for two uncles who both served in the military, Becker said his family was supportive when he told them he wanted to sign up.
Becker joined the Army in 1993, and was immediately confronted with culture shock.
“They went through basic training in the late ‘60s and ‘70s and it was a whole lot different compared to what I went through in ‘93,” Becker said. “It was very different compared to what the expectation was from what they had said.”
During his initial enlistment, Becker said he had the opportunity to see the world with the Army, but as his tenure came to a close in 2001, he said he was ready to get out of the military and back into the real world — until Sept. 11, 2001.
Becker said he was scheduled to get out of the service in November 2001, but after 9/11 he fought to return to the military, and soon after was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Becker said the most meaningful part of his military career, though, occurred back in the states as he was selected to act as a liaison between soldiers and their families at Walter Reed Hospital.
“You see the progression of the guys who are coming in in a coma or on life support,” Becker said. “Three months later they’d be up and walking. It was the culmination of my career and the most rewarding part to help those guys and their families and see them get better.”
Becker said he would often meet soldiers as they got off the plane and went along with them to the hospital. Once they were in good hands, he turned his attention to their families.
“So often, the soldiers are getting all of the proper care they need, sometimes the families can be lost or forgotten sometimes,” Becker said. “It was all about making sure they had what they needed so the soldiers could focus on getting better.”
Becker continued his mission of working with veterans when he took over as commander of the Mount Airy Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Becker said though Mount Airy has a smaller post than some, they work hard to make an impact both for the community as a whole and for the veterans who come through their doors.
“A lot of guys come in here, really, because it’s their safe zone,” Becker said. “They know that if they come in, they are with their fellow veterans who have been there and done that and they can just be themselves and not what society thinks they are.”
Becker said he hopes younger veterans give the VFW a chance. He said the organization is not what many envision it to be, as it changes to modernize and become more of a family-friendly gathering place. Becker said despite the range in age and experience in all of the veterans at the VFW, they all share certain key experiences.
“We’re one percent of the entire population. We have to stick together and have a place we can call our own,” Becker said. “It’s about the camaraderie of people who have seen what you’ve seen and done what you’ve done. We have World War II veterans all the way up to the [Operation Enduring Freedom] and [Operation Iraqi Freedom] vets. Everybody has the same story, just told in a different time frame.”