OKEECHOBEE — Born and raised in Okeechobee, veteran Nicholas Mitchell graduated from Okeechobee High School. He had actually joined the Army while he was a junior in high school, he explained. He knew he didn’t want to go to college, so if he wanted to get out of Okeechobee, joining the military was the way he would have to go about it. “The military was my escape route.”
He went to basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Afterward, he trained for 92 Yankee-Logistics Specialist AKA a supply clerk at Fort Lee, Va. He did this for 20 years and one month. He did not find the adjustment to military life and basic training difficult. “It was hard for some, but not for me,” he said. “I laughed a lot through basic. I got in trouble every now and then just for laughing at the drill sergeants. I tried to explain to everyone that my dad yelled at me on a regular basis, so now I was in basic getting paid to get yelled at. Yell away.”
He was based at seven different duty stations over his career, he said. They first sent him to Fort Stewart, Ga., where he stayed until he made his specialist. Then he was sent to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, went back to Fort Stewart, then to Fort Knox in Kentucky, on to El Paso, Texas, followed by Fort Drum, N.Y. He left New York and went to Korea and finally went to Fort Benning, Ga., where he retired.
He said he loved Korea. “It’s a completely different culture,” he said. “Different culture, different language. The rules of law are a little bit different, but almost the same as the U.S. We had a little bit more freedom. We met people from all aspects of the world. We met Filipinos, South Africans, a lot of different cultures.” He learned a few new words while he was over there, but not a lot of the language, he said. He was there for one year. He said the weather was not much different there than it is over here, especially in the summertime. There were a lot of mountains, though, so that was a big difference for him compared with Florida.
His favorite base had to be Hawaii, he said. “It’s summer year round.” He was there for three and a half years.
In 2003, Mitchell went to Iraq, and in 2011, he went to Afghanistan for a year.
Mitchell decided after making it through 10 years in the military that he might as well see if he could make it to 20, and he did. “It was guaranteed pay, guaranteed medical, guaranteed dental. If I wanted education, it was paid for. When I got married, it took care of my family. I thought, why not?”
He would absolutely recommend that young people who are not planning to go to college or who are trying to go to college but need help financially consider joining the military. “Give it two, three years. If you don’t like it, get out. If you do like it, try to go to college while you are in there. It’s free.”
After he retired, he got a job at a plasma center working as a plasma processor, and he has been there now for about four years.
Mitchell and his wife, Angela, have three children between them.