I just got home from having lunch with a brother of mine that I haven’t seen in twenty six years. I got out of the Army in 1992 and he stayed in, retiring just last year. Of course he’s not my brother by blood, but he’s no less a brother than if indeed I had one.
The military is a great mystery to the vast majority of Americans. There is no typical person who enlists. There is no average person who serves. All ethnic backgrounds, all education levels, all financial classes, everyone is represented and most are there for different reasons. The Canadian who didn’t want to wait on a list (much quicker to join our military), the linebacker who played with Doug Flutie at Boston College, the daytime soap actor looking for a life experience to make a movie about, the kid from the projects taking his only way out – the stories are endless.
I was twenty one when I enlisted in the Army. Older than most, but by no means the oldest. I was looking for an adventure because college wasn’t doing it for me. In 1987 the adventure was just being in the military. There was no war. But even without war, the military had plenty of adventure to offer. Want to drive a tank? Want to shoot cannons? Want to jump out of airplanes? Ah yes, just like Clint Eastwood in that Heartbreak Ridge movie that had come out the year before. That’s what I wanted to do.
I wasn’t feeling very adventurous in May of 1987 when the doors opened on a C-130 Hercules aircraft over Fryar Drop Zone, for my first jump. In fact, the only thought in my head was, “what in the hell am I doing here?” I learned to love it, though. Jumping out of airplanes became everything that I ever hoped it would be, and the more challenging, the better. There was nothing like 120 Paratroopers, loaded down with gear, trying to get out of the plane in the pitch black darkness of a moonless night. Adrenaline Level: 10. Later on when I was getting shot at, I’d discover that my adrenaline level actually goes to 11.
So here’s to all of the brothers and sisters who, for whatever reason, chose to dedicate a portion of their lives to serving. It wasn’t easy, it was rarely fun, but like most things in life it was worth it just for the people you meet.