TOPEKA (KSNT) – Paul Warner was a sergeant in the Marine Corps during the early 2000s. He was 17-years-old when he convinced his parents to sign for him. While it took some negotiation, enlisting in the military was always a no-brainer for him.

“I’ve always kinda felt like I wanted to join, even growing up when I was little,” Warner said.

Family members in the service also inspired him to enlist and believes it wasn’t a matter of if he would serve his country, but when. A short two weeks after graduation he was shipped off to boot camp across the country and started working as a combat engineer.

“Explosives, demolitions, carried a machine gun my first two years,” Warner said.

The responsibilities were both physically and mentally challenging for the recent graduate, but no challenge was as difficult as serving in Kuwait right before U.S. troops crossed the border to Iraq in 2003.

“Eat when you can, sleep when you can,” Warner remembered the hardships he faced. “Over there, you know it’s just try to get to the next minute.”

“I was with task force Tarawa, we were the ones that took the ships over,” Warner said. “So 38 days I think on a U.S. naval ship and then we spent about 3 weeks in the Kuwait desert and then we crossed and went straight to Nazaria. We were there for a couple weeks and then we bounced town to town clearing.”

Even after those long nights in fight holes, with no access to news, and only the brothers around him, he says he wouldn’t trade those years he served for anything and encourages others thinking about enlisting to go for it.

Paul also thanks the military for creating lifelong friendships; he looks forward to connecting with his military buddies every third weekend in July at a farm in Kentucky.

We’re highlighting veterans in our community every week just like Andrew. If you’d like to nominate someone for our Veteran Salute Segment, please email Kelli.Peltier@KSNT.com with the subject line VETERAN SALUTE. Include the veteran’s name, military branch, and rank, years of service, a short biography, and a number to contact them.