From Goldman to Grunt

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His parents and closest friends urged him to reconsider, but eventually realized his mind was made up.

"My first reaction was, 'Are you out of your mind?' recalled Mincio's father, Ron. "But, knowing my son, once he set his mind to something -- that was it."

"He knew he had to do something other than save computers," said his mom, Karen.

On Feb. 22, 2002, Mincio enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. He sold his house, his car and most of the rest of his possessions, and prepared to ship out.

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However, nothing could have prepared him for Infantry School, Fort Benning, Ga.

"It wasn't so much the physical aspect of it," Mincio said. "I mean, here I am this 31-year-old Wall Street guy with a bunch of 18- and 19-year-old kids. I was completely out of my element."

Mincio quickly began to second-guess his decision. Three days after the 15-week training regiment began he paid a visit to the office of his platoon drill sergeant. Head hung down, Mincio explained that he had made a mistake and asked if he could go home.

Sgt. First Class Russell Ballew gave him a choice.

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"He called me a [wimp] and assured me that I would regret quitting for the rest of my life," Mincio said. "But he also said that if I changed my mind he was going to put me in charge of the entire platoon. I guess he saw some leadership skills in me. Even now I still find myself feeling grateful for the advice he gave me that day. He was right. Quitting would have been the worst decision of my life."

Mincio indeed stuck it out, and as platoon leader began to manage their affairs like he would a business, always keen to maximize efficiencies. For example, he figured out a way to get all the laundry done overnight during guard duty. On Sundays, Mincio, accustomed to long hours and working weekends from his days at Goldman, organized a landscaping detail to keep the grounds just outside the barracks well groomed.

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About halfway through his training at Fort Benning, Mincio went to the Central Issue Facility to pick up some new boots, T-shirts and fatigues, his "second issues." He looked around and noticed a fresh batch of recruits waiting to pick up their first-issue uniforms. A drill sergeant called Mincio over to meet with one newcomer in particular.

Like Mincio, the guy was older than the others in his class, and had an interesting background prior to enlistment. The two soldiers chatted briefly about some of the challenges of life on the base, and wished each other luck.

That soldier was Pat Tillman.

"I remember he was friendly and treated me with respect," Mincio said. "And I definitely felt a strong connection to him because in my opinion we both still carried a strong sense of duty from that fateful day."

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One week prior to the first anniversary of 9/11, Mincio graduated from Infantry School. He'd come through the nearly four months at Fort Benning a completely changed person, a soldier. Mincio was even selected to stand in front of his entire class to salute the company commander during the commencement ceremony.

"I had tears in my eyes at that moment," he said. "I had never felt more proud of myself."

From there, it was off to Scout Selection in Fort Lewis, Wash., an intense trial of mental, physical and emotional endurance. Mincio made it through, despite nearly drowning during a brutal combat swim test.

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