The Morning News â€” Bob Hudson
Master Sgt. Jim Blake, holding his granddaughter ShayLee Blake, accepts congratulations from 1st Lt. Annie Gardner, upon his retirement.
BLACKFOOT â€” When Annie Gardner first started looking into enlisting in the Idaho National Guard, Jim Blake was there as her recruiter.
"When I got to basic training, everything he said was spot on," said Gardner. She noted that other soldiers told her that their recruiters had painted vastly different pictures of the experience.
"He didn't lie to me," Gardner said.
Gardner recalled Blake's support as friends met at the National Guard Armory for a retirement social on Monday.
Although he has always lived in Pocatello as an adult, he was the Guard recruiter in Blackfoot for a dozen years. Over those years, he recruited 273 young men and women into the service.
"I don't think he just recruits the soldier, he recruits the family," said Gardner's mother, Cindy Reese.
"When I recruited her, the lieutenant had some self-doubt," Blake said of Gardner, who is now a first lieutenant. "She not only met the challenge, but surpassed it."
Blake was the first to salute Gardner when she received her commission after completion of Reserve Officer Training Corps at Idaho State University.
Scott Reese, Gardner's father, served as Blackfoot's mayor during much of the time Blake was the county's Guard recruiter.
"He was always asking what he and the Guard could do for the city," Reese said. "He was always volunteering to help with the community."
One example Reese gave was the milepost signs on the Jensen Grove walking trail.
Blake said his father, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Marines, helped mold into what he has become. He is retiring after a 37-year career, most of it in the Guard.
"My wife (Debbie) has been there the whole time," Blake said. "It hasn't always been easy."
He noted that one of his favorite movies is "It's a Wonderful Life." He recalled the scene where Jimmy Stewart's character was preparing to jump off a bridge when an angel intervened and showed him how many people he had influenced positively.
"It has been a great experience."
He expressed pleasure in seeing many old friends, including "one of my first recruits who is now a lieutenant.
"I appreciate all who've had an impact on me and my community," he concluded.