He learned the lesson early, growing up in a family with a father, grandfather and uncle who served in the military. Following in their footsteps and enlisting in the Army — complete with multiple deployments, a Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart — Garfield Edwards now is a full-time student with two jobs, a history of volunteering and a dream to start a nonprofit to aid soldiers.

“I like staying busy,” Edwards says. “It keeps my mind from wandering. And I have a real passion for people. I’m passionate about people, about finding a way to help them.”

With his military service finished, he now serves the Springs community through volunteer gigs at the Springs Rescue Mission, the Marian House, and Care and Share Food Bank. During the day, he works at C&C Sand and Stone Co., a local landscaping supply firm. At night, he fills in at Regis University’s Veterans Resource Center, a university organization that aids veterans in navigating the transition from military service to college student. In between, he works on a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Regis.

Edwards is a native of New York City, but came to Colorado Springs after he was stationed at Fort Carson. He stayed, he says, because his kids were in school. It’s a decision he doesn’t regret.

“The kids were in school, my oldest was playing football,” he said. “So I stayed and went to school too. After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I started on a master’s. It’s the people that really make this place home. I’ve met people who have helped me get started, so many people who work at Regis that have helped me along the way. It’s a great city.”

Edwards believes the degree will help him set the stage for his second career. The man who once led soldiers wants to lead a nonprofit to help veterans and children.

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“When I first got in the Army, I was really young,” he said. “My wife was still in school, and she was pregnant. We had nonprofits help us out in those early days, and I want to do that for other young military families. Helping other people — that’s what I love. I am busy, but I love everything I’m doing now.”

And he looks forward to taking on a larger leadership role in Colorado Springs, an echo of the role he once played for younger enlisted soldiers. He was an Army Ranger, a drill sergeant and a first sergeant.

“I believe I had a big impact on shaping soldiers,” he said. “That’s really what I’m proudest of in my military career — the chance to lead younger soldiers and make a difference to them.”

— Amy Gillentine Sweet

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to do the kind of work that will be helpful to others. That’s why I work at the Veterans Resource Center; it’s why I volunteer at the Crawford House, the Springs Rescue Mission and the Marian House.