FORT DRUM, N,Y, (WWTI) — “Make it Matter.”

This is the mantra that Colonel Brian Ducote, now Commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team for the 10th Mountain Division, followed while deployed in Afghanistan. Col. Ductote was first commissioned in Army by the United States Military Academy in 1999 and first assigned to Camp Vilseck in Germany where he served as a Mechanized Platoon Leader.

Over twenty years later, he has been deployed six times and has served over 80 months over seas. However, experiences that he holds close to him are his two deployments in Afghanistan.

Col. Ducote was first deployed to Afghanistan as a Plans Officer for the 10th Mountain Division after being assigned to Fort Drum in 2010. He was then deployed a second time in 2017 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Enduring Freedom. Reflecting, he pointed to the 10th Mountain Division and American flag on his jacket.

“Wearing not just, not [the 10th Mountain Division] patch, but [the American] flag and doing good for others, helping them to be better, to believe in something to give them hope; I saw that as a field grade officer, I saw that as an advisor,” Col. Ducote said. “It’s just an amazing experience. And just so humbling to be part of an organization like the United States Army.”

However the experiences he has had in the past 20 years, were ones he never could have predicted when he first started his career.

Times were different when Colonel Ducote was first commissioned in the United States Army. It was 1999. The September 11 attacks had not happened yet. He said this is why he applauds the soldier he leads today as many are returning from America’s Longest War.

“When I first came in the military back in 1999, September 11 hadn’t even happened yet. These soldiers volunteered knowing full well what they’re doing,” Co. Ducote expressed.

He then turned around to look at photos on his wall: two taken while serving in Afghanistan. He said they reminded him of the bond shared between servicemembers. Which continues to motivate him every day.

“The bond between soldiers is strong and I loved seeing that in Afghanistan. As hard as it was to be away from by family and as hard as it was to live through the sacrifices that so many have made, that bond was so powerful,”

Touching on his personal experience, he said his time in Afghanistan made him a better husband, father, person. Throughout his time in the military he has lived all over the world with his wife, Gina, and two sons. At the time of his first deployment, his youngest son John was only two months old.

“Afghanistan made me a better husband and made me a better father because we don’t take our time for granted. I had deployed 88 months in a 22 year career,” he explained. “It is one of those situations where a story of Afghanistan can’t be told from my personal perspective, without mentioning the sacrifices of our military families.”

But Afghanistan certainly changed many people’s lives. It will go down in history as America’s Longest War, with many who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Col. Ductote expressed that the end of the war in Afghanistan coinciding with 9/11 is a testament to the character of the country.

“It’s important to me that ending operations, Afghanistan coincide with 9/11 because it’s a testament to our America resolve. It’s a Testament to our national character and both events have shaped who we are as a nation, as people. It has shaped who we are as an army and who I am as a person,” he shared.

He then shared the following quote from Major General George P. Hayes to capture what service means to him as he concluded his final reflection on the war with Afghanistan.

Stay in contact with the soldier in front of you, no matter what, keep moving, we’ll meet at the top.

Col. Ducote said, “When I think about when our nation calls, it calls on our military. And when our military calls, it calls on our Army. And when our Army Calls, it calls on the 10th Mountain Division.”