County Face: Roger Felix of Caribou

Roger Felix was an Army sergeant on the battlefield in the Middle East during the first Gulf War when a message was delivered to him from the American Red Cross letting him know his wife had just given birth to his first child and that his mother was ill.

Torn between the mission and wanting to be with his loved ones, he stayed to make sure his men would be taken care of before he left.

Three days later, Felix was back home in Caribou taking care of his new daughter. He also was fortunate to spend a little time with his mother before she died.

The now 50-year-old retired sergeant major talks about sacrifice and how it’s a daily occurrence for members of the military. But he modestly indicates that he didn’t make any “big sacrifices” during his military career.

Born and raised in Stockholm, Felix was destined to follow in the footsteps of his family members who’ve served in every branch of the military.

Right after graduating from Caribou High School at the age of 17, Felix signed up for the Army and set off to see the world.

He said growing up in a small town taught him how to treat a person right and how to be self-sufficient.

“I wanted to take what was instilled in me and take it somewhere else,” he said.

His first stop was Germany and he ended up spending five years in Europe.

“I’ve been to every European country,” he said.

By the time he was in his 20s, Felix was leading an infantry division and responsible for equipment with big price tags, such as armored personnel carriers and weapons systems.

His career path led him to become a recruiter, which meant more traveling.

Around the time the Berlin Wall fell, which he witnessed, he met Malena, a County girl, while he was on leave back home. They married a year later, in 1990, and he said she learned quickly what military life was going to be like.

“She’s been a very strong supporter of me, the military and other wives,” he said. “Without that foundation, man, talk about a rough world to live in.”

Felix didn’t plan on retiring from the Army. He remained focused on one mission after the other, until his daughter asked him, “What are the chances of going through high school with all the same people?”

So he retired from the Army in 2006 and remained in Caribou where he and his wife raised their daughter and younger son.

“Some days after I was first retired I really struggled with it because it was tough. I had to take all my uniforms out of the closet and pack them up in bags and put them away,” he said. “Over half of my life, that’s what I was, I didn’t have to worry about what I wore, I didn’t have to worry about what I was doing … I had to find something to do.”

He and a few family members opened their own business selling used cars. After two years the business suffered a tragedy.

“Unfortunately one of the vehicles in our shop caught fire and the business was destroyed … within two years that dream went poof,” he said.

He thanks his military training for helping him get through the loss and the rough months that followed.

After getting himself and his family members back on their feet, it was a drive through the former Loring Air Force base and past the Job Corps campus that led him to ask, “I wonder if they need any help?”

He’s been part of the Loring Job Corps for almost a decade, turning students who join the honor guard into leaders before they join the military.

“My plan is I’ll be here as long as I need to be here, and I’ll be that guy in the background at times that just pushes people in the right direction,” he said. “My biggest success now is to watch them be successful.”

In his “downtime” he remains active in veteran service organizations and the American Red Cross.

“To me if my plate wasn’t extremely full, I don’t think I’d have a purpose — I need to have purpose,” he said.

He once was a teenager looking to become part of something larger and travel the world. Now he’s back home helping other teens follow their dreams.

“What I tell the young people now is, ‘Why would you read about history when you can be part of it?'”

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