There is no mistaking the pride in David Stalter's voice when he speaks of his service to his country by serving in the army.
He is a 30-year veteran and still travels for speaking engagements on the Army's behalf. His career has taken him into harm's way more than once and has cost him a great deal but even knowing what he does now, he still says he wouldn't have traded it for anything. Having lost both of his legs as a result of service in Operation Desert Storm his outlook on life serves as an inspiration to others.
I always say that the good Lord let me enjoy 30 years of fun while being in the Army and if I had to pay for those 30 years with my legs then I am still happy I had those years. I wouldn't go back and trade them for anything even if it meant having my legs again, he said.
Stalter grew up in Ennis and graduated from Ennis High School in 1962 before taking a year off to work and then joined the Army where he was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic infantry training. He was also given military police training and a few years later was sent to Vietnam where he served two tours of duty before returning home in 1971. He then worked his way up through the ranks over the years to retire as a Regimental Command Sergeant Major of the Military Police Corps.
My job was to look at soldiers and their equipment and advise the commanders on what we could be doing to be a better team and to look after our soldiers. I demanded that kids do more than they thought they could do and I expected a lot out of them but that was a two way street. They knew that I did whatever it took to make sure they had what they needed to do to be successful and to be safe. You are only as good as what your soldiers can do and they will do anything you ask if you lead them instead of pushing them. I figured if they could be the best they could be during peace times then the war was a piece of cake, Stalter explained.
His admiration for the Army and his soldiers has opened up many other opportunities for him since his retirement including speaking engagements with soldiers that have lost limbs as a result of their service. He feels what he does is important because the soldiers need to know they are still important to the Army as well as their families and capable of continuing on.
I visit with soldiers that have had amputations to hopefully be an example of what they can still be. I know how difficult it is to get past losing a part of your body but that loss does not mean that your life is over. I am proof that service doesn't have to end with amputation. he said,
He has also been called upon to speak with the families of soldiers that are left behind when they are deployed to battle. He shares his experiences as a way of helping them cope with the adjustment of having a loved one in harm's way and the reality that they have to go on living their everyday lives.
A successful soldier will have the support of their family and friends so that when things get tough they know that at home someone is rooting for them and is behind them. I was blessed to have a wife that stood behind me all those years and raised our children while I was working. Everyone needs that support to have a life to come home to when their service is completed, he said.
Stalter was honored in 1999 by being inducted into the Military Police Hall of Fame and was also accepted into the Military Police Regimental Association in 2003. He has accepted his honors with a genuine appreciation but feels he simply did what he loved and what he was good at.
I worked hard and stayed in the service so long because I loved what I was doing and I loved the soldiers. If you are in the Army and don't love and respect soldiers you are in the wrong business. I had great soldiers that did what I asked them to and all anyone can hope for when it's all said and done is that the impact you made on their lives was the reason they did their jobs well, he said.
He expects to stay busy with speaking engagements and will travel at the Army's request for as long as they need him and in the mean time he has settled into the Horseshoe Bay community in Marble Falls where he fishes as much as his schedule allows.
I have had an amazing life and the opportunities I had were made possible by my service to the Army. I will always respect and be appreciative of those opportunities and for the person they made me into. I may be retired and disabled but I plan to answer the call anytime I'm needed. I guess I'll always bleed Army green, he said with a laugh.
E-mail Candie at firstname.lastname@example.org