A military career came to a bittersweet end Saturday. Master Sergeant Carl Dehling retired from the Nebraska National Guard in a ceremony at the 1057th armory.

Dehling’s retirement wasn’t his first exit from the military, however. He served in the regular Army for six years before enlisting in the National Guard for one year. He left that behind for a career as a police officer only to rejoin the Nebraska National Guard as the result of a traffic stop.

Dehling pulled over Sergeant First Class James Mendoza as he was headed home from a Memorial Day ceremony, his vehicle full of flags. Mendoza asked if Dehling ever thought about returning to the Guard, and the more Dehling thought about it the more interested he became. He joined the Guard for the second time in 1996 on a part-time basis, continuing his work in law enforcement as well.

The realization that his job with the sheriff’s department was in question each election cycle, however, prompted him to look at joining the Guard full time. In 2002, he was hired as a recruiter for the Nebraska National Guard.

“It turned out to be the best job ever,” he said.

He’s had the opportunity to change lives for the better, recruiting soldiers who have gone on to become pilots and officers, or enhance their civilian careers with their Guard training. For the last three years, he has been in charge of overseeing the recruiters working for the Guard between Chadron and Kearney. The West Team is currently leading the state in recruitment, a title they’ve won previously.

“It’s been a real satisfying experience.”

Dehling has recruited 180 individuals to the National Guard in 13 years, making sure each one of them has goals in mind and connecting them with how the Guard can help them achieve those goals. And while the Guard sells itself, Dehling said there have been times he’s been discouraged when recruiting wasn’t going the way he wanted it to. In those times, he said, he was fortunate to have mentors who kept him motivated.

“I was grateful that I had somebody that pushed me,” he said.

His dedication showed, said Major Joe Egan. Dehling always went the extra mile to take care of his troops and epitomizes the message of the NCO creed.

“We’re gonna miss you,” Egan said.

His time in the Nebraska National Guard has gone by quickly,” said Dehling, a New Jersey native. Standing beside him all those years has been his wife Isabelle, whom he met while in the regular Army.

“She’s been with me my whole military career,” Dehling noted during his farewell speech, thanking her for her commitment.

They both found comfort in the relationships they were able to build with others serving in the Nebraska National Guard, forming friendships that have meant a lot to them, Dehling said. He wrapped up his remarks at his retirement ceremony by giving one last piece of advice to the troops he’s built those relationships with.

“To all of you today, I leave you with this. Figure out what you want to achieve, then commit to it. Set your goals that motivate you, write them down. Anyone here can be anything you want to be.”