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Eric's Story

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Since joining SAP, I’ve worked with and befriended people from every race, religion, gender, sexuality and background, and I couldn’t be happier.

Eric Yarger

The Tuesday morning he saw Mrs. Sayer sobbing uncontrollably was the day Eric Yarger’s life changed forever.

Mrs. Sayer was his creative writing teacher in high school and she was in the first trimester of pregnancy. Eric, who was in his final year, had just left his first class of the day – world history – and joined his classmates in Mrs. Sayer’s room, where all of them were puzzled by her state of high emotion.

He remembers there was an “awkward” silence while they waited for the bell to ring, signifying the start of the class.

"Knowing she was newly pregnant", he says, we naturally thought a complication with the pregnancy had occurred. "But when the bell rang, and the last student closed the door, she looked at us and told us what happened."

It was September 11, 2001, the day remembered universally as “9/11”.

Until Mrs. Sayer composed herself and was able to address her students, Eric’s biggest concern was the upcoming football season and homecoming court. The terror attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon shifted his attention. Instantly.

The heightened resonance for Eric was that he had enlisted in the US Marine Corps a few weeks earlier, in June. In just one morning, the whole picture had changed for him.

"The rest of the day every class, every conversation, and every media outlet talked about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

"War loomed and rumors which explored America’s undertones of racism spread like wildfire and talk of revenge was on everyone’s tongue. The final bell of the day rang and, like most American high school movies depict, we all gathered in the parking lot next to our cars. Normally, radios would have been playing music, boys would have been tossing footballs and naturally engaging in the most stimulating part of our educational experience - the social connection of teenagers.

"But this day was different. We still gathered, there was still the sound of car radios filling the air, but it was all news channels, and everyone talked from a different angle. I spoke that day with my best friend Rusty, who had also joined the Marines. We both knew we were eventually heading to war and the rest of the school year seemed like nothing more than one big obstacle or detour for me to bypass before fulfilling my patriotic duty of going to battle for my country.

"To give you the short version, I deployed not once, not twice, but six times to Iraq and Afghanistan, and for 12 years of my life, I was entirely consumed with war. I trained, deployed, came home, and re-deployed to war for a solid 12 years. That was my life. If I wasn’t in the war zone in those two countries, I was training, thinking, and preparing to be there.

"As an 18-year-old infantry Marine I first went to war during the invasion of Iraq. Considering that I had a baby face and weighed in at just 150 pounds (68 kilograms) soaking wet, you wouldn’t have been at fault for assuming I was in the Boy Scouts. I still remember the civilian woman working on Marine Corps Base Cherry Point letting out a fear tears as she realized just how young the other Private First Classes and I were as we boarded the big grey bird that was taking us to war.

"It was a cycle that dominated my life. Eventually, in 2010 I finished my fifth deployment and arguably the hardest of them all. Then came a mandatory stand-down period called Third Location Decompression, or TLD. This was designed to help Special Operations Marines, SEALS, and Green Berets decompress before going home. During each TLD, everyone had to meet a psychologist for a five-minute evaluation.

"In my session in Rota, Spain, I collapsed mentally. I was sobbing uncontrollably. There it was. My bottle had finally broken. Over the years of deployments, I had put too much sand in it, and I was well and truly done. I was a veteran in theatres of war. And yet I was only 26 at the time. Another tectonic shift in my life was underway.

"Over the course of the next year and a half, I went utterly sober, worked with my psychologist, and refused medication. I put in the hard yards to “get back on the horse” and re-deploy for my sixth and final time and then came home and got out as soon as I could. On that final deployment, my wife, son, and baby daughter (just nine days old) drove me to the battalion where I did the “sea-bag drag” to the buses that took us to the airbase to start the 18-hour flight on a C-17 to Western Afghanistan.

"Near the buses were the rest of the Marines whom I deployed with and their families holding each other in long embraces and fathers having awkward conversations with their kids, sometimes pretending like all was okay and talking as if they were just ducking off to the shops and some fathers trying to squeeze out that last bit of wisdom and advice to their kids.

"My family held the tradition of kissing goodbye at the car with a quick drive away. It’s kind of like taking off a Band-Aid; some people prefer to rip it off and others try to slowly pull it away. But neither of those methods truly removes the pain and we all just have our preferences in dealing with it.

"After finally boarding the bus, I sat down next to a junior guy on my team. He looked at me and said he couldn’t wait to get over there and “get into it”. I said I couldn’t wait to land in Kyrgyzstan and raid the USO (United Service Organizations) tent, which had a seemingly endless supply of chocolate bars.

"At that point I realized that I was set to deploy to a combat zone for my sixth time in 10 years and, more importantly, only a handful of guys in my company had done so. It was my watershed moment. That was the first time in my career where I couldn’t truly say why I was deploying or what I was doing it for. War had become what I did as a job and this was just another day at the office. In many ways I was addicted to the job, I was addicted to combat and felt that was the only area I could truly be great or achieve success. I will happily report, though, that I did in fact take enough chocolate bars to last me halfway through the deployment. We all have life goals and I feel like I achieved mine that day.

"Fast forward to 2014, when I walked off Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for the last time. In my time as a Marine I earned the titles of Recon Marine and Marine Raider (Special Operations Marine) and, more importantly, leading Marines in and out of combat, something I will never, ever forget. I walked away at the height of my career after working in billets well above my rank as a fast riser through the ranks. I was married by then and my wife was involved at high levels of command and even advised the Commander of US Special Operations Command on matters of family readiness and the many impacts on families.

"Family is everything to me. Everything. I left my promising career in the military because my family was miserable, a situation that was heightened by the arrival of our daughter. It was simply untenable to continue doing what I did and keep the operational tempo expected of a Marine in Special Operations.

"My darling bride, being the brilliant woman that she is, had no qualms about correcting our commanding officer in one meeting when he said, “the Marines are home more often than we think”. I’m quite proud that she added up the numbers to demonstrate that I was only home for 62 days every two years. Leaving the Marines was a big decision and, as with all big decisions, my wife and I discussed the job, weighed the pros and cons and in the end my wife told me to jump, and I did. One of the large factors in making the decision was the lack of people actively trying to end my existence daily, which we consider an upside.

"When I walked into my commander's office and told him I was leaving it was a surprise.

"I’m not your typical SAP employee; my background is anything but tech, I don’t write code, previously was never interested in writing code. Instead, in between deployments to war zones I studied through American Military University, eventually earning my degree in Intelligence Studies, often writing papers on theories I had previously or was currently practicing.

"I wasn’t an intern or a sales rep from a rival tech company. Instead I found my way to SAP and Singapore after receiving a text from a friend and mentor, asking me if I was interested in joining SAP. At the time I was in Canberra, Australia, with my gorgeous wife, two crazy kids, and a dog named Snickle Fritz whom I brought home from Afghanistan, only to relocate her from the United States to Canberra.

"I’m into my second year at SAP and feel like I’ve found my new home, a family away from my own family and I can’t express enough how happy I am to be with SAP. It’s the company I will be with until I decide to hang it up and become an old curmudgeon complaining about kids being on the lawn somewhere in Australia with my gorgeous bride.

"Why does my story matter to SAP? That’s easy. For 12 years of my life, I was a complete monster to a group of people in a different part of the world. I destroyed lives, communities, infrastructure, hopes, dreams, and futures. But SAP’s aim is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. We simplify complexity and help organizations run better. I understand the sentiment; however, I firmly believe that “the best-run governments make the world run better”. You can say what you want about governments until you stand on foreign soil with wholly collapsed, corrupt and inefficient governments - only then will you fully appreciate the importance of governance.

"Since joining SAP, I’ve found that everyone in the organization likes SAP, outside of the small complaints that are normal in any company or any place that has humans, the team here genuinely love being here. What I find interesting is the difference in “why” we like SAP.

"We all have different reasons, and I’m happy to share why I love SAP and naturally spend 30 minutes talking about myself in this article that will be published and contribute to my ego, which is directly reflected in the size of my pompadour, which in turn I spend an inordinate amount of time paying homage to Elvis through my ritualistic blow-dry, wax, and excessive grooming.

"Another reason why I love SAP and especially the APJ region is the diversity of the company and its focus on harnessing the power of diversity and inclusion. In my previous life, I worked predominantly with white males (maybe one or two African Americans and perhaps one Hispanic) who were all relatively my height, weight, age, demographic; we all could run at the same speed, lift similar weights and all had the same stupid haircut. We were as demographically interesting as a piece of white toast.

"Since joining SAP, I’ve worked with and befriended people from every race, religion, gender, sexuality, and background, and I couldn’t be happier. It is so incredibly refreshing to work with such a diverse group of people, learn from them, and engage with them daily. I can honestly say that I’m excited to come to work every day and work with my team and I look forward to what the future holds.

"Another aspect is I am a very proud feminist and supporter of equality in every aspect of life, and it makes me incredibly proud to work for a company that matches my values and improves people’s lives through helping governments engage their citizens and improve their lives.

"Semper Fi. You don’t have to be a Marine, ex-Marine, military historian or Latin scholar to know what that means. It’s a contraction of the Latin phrase ‘Semper Fidelis’ and its abiding relevance is so powerful. It means ‘always faithful’."

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