PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Oct. 30, 2012) — Deployed Army Sgt. Bradley Toman looks back at the last 12 years of his military career with fond memories and as an encouraging way ahead for his family and soldiers.
Toman, a native of Davison, Mich., enlisted in the Army in 1998 as a carpenter and mason. He recalled that he was in Washington, D.C., during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
He recalls the event as if it were yesterday.
“I was standing outside watching over in the Pentagon area. I saw black smoke over there and immediately realized there weren’t any factories over there,” Toman said. “I ran inside the office and that’s when I found out the Pentagon got hit.”
Assigned to the White House Communications Agency, Toman had a unique job.
“I used to design, build and refurbish presidential podiums, and any special cabinet needs that the president needed, I would build them, knock them out and get them done,” he said.
In 2005, Toman decided to leave the Army and pursue a career as a civilian carpenter. A couple of years later he still had a void that he couldn’t fill.
“When I got out, I knew I had a lot and knew a lot was going on for me in the Army, but when I got out I realized exactly how much [the Army would be missed]. I loved it before and it just made me love it that much more,” Toman said.
Toman said family is a big part of what keeps him focused in Afghanistan. The support of his wife and daughter on his decision to return to active duty, he said, was the only thing he needed.
“After things started to fall apart — my father had passed away — my wife Patricia told me to do whatever made me happy, and the only thing that really made me happy was my time in the Army,” Toman said.
His wife helped out his decision with a little more than just some encouraging words.
“She knew what my answer was going to be, so she went to the recruiter a week prior and started the dialogue on my behalf,” Toman said. “So when we decided to go down to the recruiter’s office and I stepped into the office they addressed me as ‘Sgt. Toman’ and all I had to do was sign the paperwork.”
Now on his second deployment, Toman is making a major contribution in Afghanistan as a noncommissioned officer in a route clearance patrol platoon, tasked with the mission to find and destroy IED’s.
Toman is a recognized leader, who, despite his accolades and accomplishments, stays grounded and engaged with his soldiers and leaders.
“The things that I will remember about this deployment are the guys — training them, getting trained and teaching them about the job. Their lives are in my hands,” Toman said.
He’s decided that he will stay in the military and retire. He also said his family is extremely proud of what he does.
“When I went home to my grandpa, I noticed he had a tear in his eye for the first time that I can remember,” Toman said. “He told me, ‘You’re doing a good job son.’ That meant the world to me.”