Alan Larpthaveesarp had everything he ever wanted.
It was 2011, and a young Larpthaveesarp was an in-demand software developer and project manager working on projects for Google and Android in California's Silicon Valley.
Only two years out of college, Larpthaveesarp had a lifestyle many dreamed of. He lived in a plush apartment in San Francisco and worked from an office with a window that looked into the field of nearby AT&T Park.
Larpthaveesarp wanted for nothing - except to do something bigger with his life. He had friends who had joined the military and deployed to war zones.
"I was honestly looking for something bigger," he said recently via phone from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, where he's stationed.
So Larpthaveesarp gave it all up and joined the Army, as he'd dreamed of doing since middle school.
On Oct. 3, 2011, he stepped off a bus at Fort Benning, Ga., to attend basic training.
For Larpthaveesarp, basic training was surreal - "a shark attack of a lot of yelling."
"I was coming from a civilian work environment where if you're getting yelled at, you're about to get fired," said Larpthaveesarp, now a second lieutenant. "It's a very unique experience the Army provides you with. You're getting yelled at and put in an intense situation, but you're shown that you can transcend that situation."
Larpthaveesarp left Fort Benning as a signal officer and headed to Fort Carson, his first duty station. He was assigned to 4th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and deployed with it this summer to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, Larpthaveesarp serves as the convoy commander of the "Iron Horse Express," a security detail that uses a motorized convoy to provide troops transportation and security outside of the airfield. He also oversees security operations at the Regional Command South headquarters compound on the airfield.
"I'm definitely happy that I'm the signal officer who got a scout-type mission to be on the ground in Afghanistan," he said. "When I first joined the Army, the one thing I didn't want to do was ride around in a truck in a country filled with IEDs. How things come full circle."
Larpthaveesarp isn't sure when he'll choose to leave the service and transition back to the civilian life. He has goals to accomplish while in the Army, such as making the rank of captain, and attending Ranger and airborne or air assault school.
"You really never know where the Army is going to take you," he said. "The Army is an adventure. At some point in time, this adventure is going to end. At the end of everything, I want to be able to look back at all the stories I compiled and say, 'That's a really freaking good book.'"
As for leaving his comfortable life and successful civilian career, Larpthaveesarp said it was worth it. When civilians thank him for his service, he tells them, "You're worth it."
"When I say, 'You're worth it,' I mean you, your family, everything we stand for, everything this great country truly represents," he said.