Two times in his 20 years, U.S. Army Specialist Samuil Matveev’s life has changed significantly.
The first came on his seventh birthday in 2001, when his parents immigrated to the United States with little more than hope and a prayer from Antonesti, Moldova, a commune of two villages on the eastern border of Romania.
The second came in February 2020, when he joined the U.S. Army, leaving his naturalized home in Sacramento, California. That decision wasn’t the most popular with family who recalled the distrust they had for the communist military of their age, but Matveev said he felt a calling to serve.
“I came from a country where we really didn’t have anything,” said Matveev, who speaks English and Romanian. “I felt indebted to the United States for all it offered for me and my family.”
Matveev, a chaplain assistant at U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz in Kaiserslautern, Germany, has served 26 months in the Army. He said his faith and a mentorship from a former Army chaplain jumpstarted his decision to join. Since the start of his enlistment, Matveev said the benefits of an Army career have become more and more evident.
“In Moldova, there’s no health care. It’s nonexistent. If you have money, you can get it. Otherwise, you’re out of luck,” said the recently married Soldier. “So, having health care and dental coverage to draw upon and not worry about is a big benefit.”
What’s at stake?
According to the Army’s recruiting website, in the year Matveev enlisted (2020) the Army recruited about 68,500 people, with about 11% of those coming from his home state. About 41,300 recruits received an average bonus of almost $12,000.
Today, however, the economy is job-rich. According to statistics from the Army, there are about 10.6 million jobs available on the economy and about 6.9 million people to fill them. People have choices when it comes to where they work and employers are upping their recruiting efforts with higher wages and better benefits packages, especially with roughly 3.5 million jobs available than there are people looking for work.
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Command Sgt. Major Stephen LaRocque, the senior enlisted leader for the unit, said understanding the benefits available to Soldiers helps make informed decisions on joining and retaining people and closing the gap with the civilian community.
“The Army has and still offers pension plans, home-buying benefits, 30 days paid annual vacation, paid parental leave, and more,” the senior enlisted leader said. “I think some of those surprise folks about the military, but it’s something that we’ve done for years – take care of our Soldiers and their families.”
LaRocque also mentioned other benefits including enlistment bonuses up to $50,000, complete health care coverage for full-time Soldiers, and over 1,500 advanced training certificates.
A degree and some security
The Army also offers tuition assistance with the opportunity to earn full college tuition. That benefit is something Matveev capitalized on, finishing his bachelor’s degree in psychology and he’s forging ahead to get a graduate degree.
Matveev, the Installation Management Command-Europe Soldier of the Year in 2021, also talked about some of the intangibles that make his time in the Army an “absolute calling.”
“I don’t have to worry about the housing crisis. The Army does well to provide my wife and me with housing on post,” he said. His wife, also a Moldovan immigrant, enjoys the safety and security of living on post. “It was crucial to her.”
LaRocque said he’s seen how important many of the intangible benefits can be to Soldiers from the start of their service until its conclusion.
“The research tells us that folks like Specialist Maveev want security and stability more than ever, but few recognize the Army as the path to achieving that,” LaRocque said. “In the Army, Soldiers will find a supportive environment that puts people first, cutting-edge career training, and opportunities to develop skills that can be used in and out of uniform.”
USAG Rheinland-Pfalz’s lead chaplain has seen Matveev evolve in his career, and said he’s seen Matveev encouraging peers. Lt. Col. Randall Curry said it’s exciting to watch the young Soldier grow.
“As a young leader and teammate, Specialist Matveev grasps hold of the Army values, and he encourages his peers to do the same,” he said. “I have watched him analyze many of the career, educational, and family opportunities that the Army provides. As he contemplates how he can use them to develop himself, he talks about it with other Soldiers wherever he goes, spurring them to grow too.”
Matveev said he wants to serve in the Army as long as he’s able, and looks forward to what the future holds, thankful he’s found a job that supports him as much as he supports the Army team.
“I want to do this job as long as I can. I feel like the Army’s done well to take care of me,” he said.
Note: This article coincides with the “Know Your Army” campaign, helping introduce many to the benefits and opportunities joining the U.S. Army. Learn more at www.Army.mil