HARKER HEIGHTS — Troy Summerill had ambitions of a short stint in the U.S. Army and then becoming a police officer, but after a few years of working as a military policeman, he decided his heart was not into arresting fellow soldiers and so he started considering other options.
“I’m too nice of a guy,” Summerill, a Harker Heights resident, said, laughing.
“My job at Fort Sill was catching DUIs and DWIs. Sometimes, though, it was just better to take them home (instead of taking them to jail). Back then, Desert Storm was over and they were trying to get as many people out of the Army as possible — there was no leniency. You could be kicked out for anything.
“I’d see these E-7s and E-8s, young officers, who had made a mistake. It (drunk driving) is a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but people make mistakes. I make a mistake every ten minutes.
“It was a good career, and I was awarded and stuff like that, but it just wasn’t for me. I worked with people who’d arrest their brother, and I thought, ‘Man, that’s tough. You can’t just be a robot.’”
A native of Bremerton, Wash., Summerill graduated from high school in 1989 and decided to join the Army mostly for the education benefits. He served three years as a military police investigator, and got out as an E-4 (corporal) in 1992.
“(President) George Bush Sr. offered people the chance to get out early after Desert Storm (the beginning of ongoing U.S. involvement in the Middle East after the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait), and I raised my hand very high. I was ready to get out. I enjoyed my career, but I knew I was not going to be a career soldier.
“I just knew it wasn’t going to be a career thing for me. I had other ambitions. I was going to come back home to Bremerton, which at that time was the second-best police department in the States. I actually knew people on the force, so it was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go to a really cool police department,’ and then I got into hospitality and never looked back.”
After leaving the Army, Summerill went back home to Bremerton, but his career path took a turn and he wound up working in the hospitality industry. That career eventually brought him to central Texas in 2009, when he worked several years as manager of the Shiloh Inn Suites Hotel in Killeen.
Unlike many former soldiers who settle in the Killeen area, Summerill was never stationed at Fort Hood, but now says there is no other place he would rather be.
“I used to run resorts, and our company was building one down here in Killeen. I was running one of their ocean-front resorts (Ocean Shores, Wash.), and they said, ‘Do you want to take over the one in Killeen?’
“I said, no. That’s what I said at first. But I wound up taking it, and it was probably the best decision ever. I love Texas. As soon as I got here, it was like, ‘Wow, this is a pretty cool place.’
Now 50 years old and the father of six children, Summerill owns and operates three businesses in Harker Heights with his wife, Amy: POP CornUtopia, a gourmet popcorn shop opened in 2017; Sprinkles on Top Texas ice cream; and a mobile kettle corn maker.
Even though his stint in the military was short-lived, and his career in law enforcement did not materialize, Summerill says things seem to have a way of working out for the best. He enjoyed his time in the Army, is proud of his service and has no regrets.
“None, whatsoever,” he said. “It was great.
“My stepdad was a cop, so I thought that was what I wanted to become – a cop. I was headed in that direction, and then I got into hospitality and I liked the idea of being able to come home every night. So that kind of killed my law enforcement career.
“So far, everything is going well. Business has been pretty good. I’m not a millionaire, but I have no desire to be one. Just enough to pay the bills is fine with me. I’m still crossing my fingers … I’ve been very lucky.”