Photo courtesy of Monte Gould.
Monte L. Gould stood before an American flag in Las Vegas with his right hand raised. He spoke these words in front of a uniformed officer: “I, Monte Gould, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”
What separated him from the 18-year-olds shuffling through the recruiter’s office and into the Military Entrance Processing Stations that same day? Gould had done this once before, years prior. Now, at 59 years old, Gould is bringing a wealth of experience with him back into the proverbial trenches.
“I have seen the good and the bad of the military,” Gould said during a recent interview with Coffee or Die. “I’ve been an exemplary soldier, a shitbag, and a rogue as well. […] I’ve been both a bad example and a good one. I understand the system and how it works. I’ve nearly been divorced over my military and police service, hence my break in service. This is going to be a difficult adjustment to the modern mentality of the young soldiers and their thought processes. I hope to impart the wisdom of my failures, difficulties, and success over my service period.”
When most people reach the age of 59 in the military, they are well out of direct combat situations. Some are kicking back in an administrative position, others are practically politicians, and many are retired. As an incoming E-6 (staff sergeant), Gould will find himself in the unique position of serving alongside much-younger counterparts. He also brings with him experience from his prior service (1978 to 2009), which included serving as a cook in the U.S. Marines, an infantryman in the U.S. Army National Guard, then as a sniper and squad leader. Later, he was a civil affairs team sergeant and worked in psychological operations with the U.S. Army Reserves. In total, he spent more than three years on deployments.
Additionally, Gould is a retired police officer with more than 27 years of law enforcement duties, including 22 years in SWAT, and he runs a firearms training business called International Mobile Training Team. Needless to say, he brings a wealth of experience to share with the soldiers to his left and right, most of whom are in their early 20s or 30s.
Many young men and women in the Army are at the dawn of their adult life — some are starting families, some were married young and are struggling with divorce or facing the birth of their first child while deployed. These are situations Gould is all too familiar with, either from his own experience or those he has served with over the years.
“I hope to help them navigate the compromises between family and service and to act as a buffer with the command,” he said. “At times I have forgotten my family and been solely focused on the next mission and or adrenaline rush.” He went on to describe how this was particularly the case when he trained SWAT teams for his police department — how one can still be “home” but neglect their families if they aren’t careful. These are waters Gould can help them navigate as a peer, mentor, friend, and fellow soldier.
Modern soldiers struggle with some modern problems, and Gould recognizes that — the influx of information in the digital age, the focus on the self, and the anxiety that can come along with it. However, the core tenets of success in the U.S. military remain the same: “Never quit, have confidence in yourself, focus on the positive, and realize that everyone struggles, some more than others. Get back up, ignore the haters, and drive on!” he said.
Gould exudes a healthy optimism that’s born from a genuine drive to constantly better himself. It’s a trait that he’s nurtured over decades in rough environments.
Just as he is an example to the young men and women with whom he will soon serve, Gould is also a prime example for men and women his age at-large. The fact that a 59-year-old has signed up for an inherently physical job — an enlisted soldier — may sound surprising to some, but to Gould, it’s just another obstacle to overcome.
“Life doesn’t end until you take the big dirt nap, once you’re in front of the Big Guy explaining yourself and your past deeds,” he said. “Do the best you can do with what you have, whatever that is. As I have aged, there’ve been times when I’ve said, ‘I earned the right to be fat, I earned that extra desert, I earned that beer’ — that’s bullshit! You don’t earn excuses to let yourself go and to destroy your health. It takes basic maintenance to keep your body right, and to abandon that is to intentionally abuse yourself — I think it’s pathetic.”
Gould added that he’s not against sometimes indulging in “a glass of good whiskey, the occasional good cigar, and a piece of cake if you want,” but he’s seen people die too young because they’ve failed to take care of themselves.
“We were placed here to do something positive with ourselves and make a difference,” he said. “Enjoy the life you were given and be disciplined and responsible. […] Death and the reaper await us all; those who abuse themselves are likely to meet him sooner. Stop saying, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ — get your ass out there and get in the fight!”
This hard-nosed positivity defines Gould’s path in life. He believes in service, having volunteered in aid work overseas several times, joined the military, pushed himself in ways that he truly believed mattered to the world around him, and enforced the laws in a country he deeply desires to protect. He treats his body as an essential part of that service — a piece of equipment cannot function for the benefit of others if it does not function at all. Gould lives by a mantra, one that he repeats to himself as often as necessary: “Be better every day.”
Luke Ryan is the author of two books of war poetry: The Gun and the Scythe and A Moment of Violence. Luke grew up overseas in Pakistan and Thailand, the son of aid workers. Later, he served as an Army Ranger and conducted four deployments to Afghanistan, leaving as a team leader. He has published over 600 written works on a variety of platforms, including the New York Times.