Horatio Alger Success Stories
A Personal Biography of Tim Gaestel
I was born in Pearl City, Hawaii on May 26, 1983. I am the youngest child of Richard and Elizabeth Gaestel, and I have one old sister, Rebecca. My father and mother met in the army while stationed in Ft.Cambell, Kentucky. Shortly after they met, they married and had my sister; five years later I was born. My father retired from the army at Ft. Hood, Texas and we moved to Austin, Texas, which became my home. I grew up and went to school in Leander. During my senior year I decided that I would not be able to pay for college and needed to start thinking about other options. In August 2001, I decided that I would join the army, and I started the process. On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in San Antonio, Texas, at the military entrance program station on my way to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma when our nation was horribly attacked. That day I was not allowed to travel to basic training and had to wait for another week when the airplanes would be allowed to fly. On September 16, I flew to Ft. Sill to go through basic and advance training school. After basic training I took a long bus ride to Ft. Benning, Georgia for airborne school. After a short time of jumping out of airplanes, I took my first military orders: I would be on my way to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. My first and only unit in the army was Charlie Battery 1-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
Over the next four years with 82nd Airborne Division, I witnessed combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq and received the Purple Heart for wounds I received to my back. Despite the various trials and traumas such experiences continue to raise for me, I am grateful for the discipline and the work ethic that I gained through my service to this country, and I am honored to be a veteran. I never realized until I joined the army that we are not limited in learning, only in what we are willing to learn. The things that I accomplished in the army made me realize that with effort, dedication, and determination, I can develop my character and intellect, and in turn, help others develop as well.
Since my release from the army in 2005 I have been presented with opportunities that have encouraged my drive for education. Andrew Carroll, a writer and editor developing a book sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, held writing workshops at several military installations including mine. After working with him abroad, Carroll contacted me with the news that a story I wrote would be included in his book, Operation Homecoming, which is a compilation of stories from military men and women and their families. When my story was published, I was able to travel to Washington, D.C. for the book release and participate in a signing at the Library of Congress. I was also able to see my story published a second time in The New Yorker. These experiences taught me that individual voices can make a difference. I am grateful for my exposure to the educational experiences of the book project.
In 2008 I was accepted to Texas State University and with the help of the Horatio Alger Military Scholarship, and I hope to graduate in the next two years. I know that my education at Texas State will not be easy, but after what I have been through in Afghanistan and Iraq I believe that I can do it. I keep pictures of Iraq and Afghanistan on my school binders to remind myself that if I can make it out of there, I can graduate here. The hardships that I have overcome have only made my character stronger. I am proud that I served my country and will never regret any part of what happened to me while I was in the service; it made me the man I am today. I am grateful to now be out of the service and understand the importance of education. Through all of my experiences I have learned that education is the path to success and to helping others succeed. My goal is to become a teacher and a coach, as those are the individuals who have meant the most to my own intellectual and emotional development. I want to motivate people in life, as I have been motivated.