After 21 years in the U.S. Army, lifelong Snoqualmie valley resident Luke Vilsmeyer is gearing up for his next big adventure.
The 40-year-old will be flying across the country, moving to Indiana this week with his wife and children. Luke Vilsmeyer retired from a long career in the Army last year, first as an artilleryman and later as a Green Beret. He has been awarded medals and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and southeast Asian countries.
But he got his start right here in the valley. His father, Marc Vilsmeyer, said his son has always been a natural athlete. He grew up playing sports, and played his first game when he was 9. But despite being a star player, he was always a team player first.
“He was the biggest kid, the best athlete on the team, but he always made sure that others were able to score and be able to get the ball,” Marc Vilsmeyer said of his son.
Luke Vilsmeyer attended Fall City Elementary, followed by Chief Kanim Middle School and finally Mt. Si High School. After graduating in 1998, he took a year off and worked as an apprentice carpenter in the area.
But he decided to enlist in 1999. He went through basic training in Oklahoma as an artilleryman before being shipped out to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He was always interested in joining the military, and held it in high regard, he said.
“As cheesy as it sounds, from a young age, I realized how good we had it” in the U.S., Luke Vilsmeyer said.
He wound up fighting forest fires in Montana around 2002. He re-enlisted and shipped out to Italy as part of the 173 Airborne Brigade before being sent to Iraq in 2003.
After that tour, he was sent to Afghanistan in 2005 and again in 2010. In 2006, he went into the Special Forces assessment and graduated as a Green Beret and Special Forces Communications Sergeant in 2008.
He was also assigned to the Philippines in 2011 before being sent back to Afghanistan in 2013. There were also numerous small operations throughout Southeast Asia, he said. The last assignment he went on was in 2019.
During that time he earned two Bronze Stars and survived some close calls. One instance that his father recalled happened while Luke Vilsmeyer was on patrol: He heard an explosion behind him, and when he went to check it out, discovered someone pursuing him along the same path had stepped on an explosive.
But he said the next position up was a desk job, one that would keep him out of the field. So he decided to retire. He also got married in 2019 and had twins.
“With all of that, it’s just like time to be home and be available for my family,” he said.
Marc Vilsmeyer said he is proud of his son, but he’s also grateful that he came home safe. With his role in special operations, there were times they wouldn’t know what was happening to their son.
“We kept ourselves busy with things like care packages and letters and that kind of stuff to keep us going, but he had so much confidence in his training that we felt that would protect him,” Marc Vilsmeyer said. “And besides, we believe that he has a guardian angel who’s very strong. It was very difficult for us sometimes to know that he was out there and not hear from him. And sometimes we didn’t get to hear from him for quite a while and your mind races and you think of all these things that could be happening.”
Luke Vilsmeyer has a tattoo of that guardian angel, his father said. It has red hair, just like his mother.
“I found myself in a lot of scary places,” said Luke Vilsmeyer. “But I found myself in a lot of incredible places all over the world.”
He said one of the biggest takeaways is an appreciation for his country. He also talked about veterans. One of the biggest things he said that can help veterans returning is connecting with other veterans — people who can relate to what they’ve been through.
His next steps include moving to Indiana, where he will work with the Midwest Threat Assessment Center and be close to his wife’s family. He’s looking forward to the move, even though he loves being near his family in the Snoqualmie valley.
When looking back at his 21-year career, he never thought he would be in the military for so long when he enlisted. He originally said he was planning to serve for a few years, go to college, get a job and start a family. But he ended up loving what he did, and said staying in was the best choice he could have made.
“It’s been a hell of a ride. It’s one of those things you never expect to get into,” he said.