July 17, 1992 I was 17 years old. I’ve known I wanted to serve in our military pretty much since I was born but finally deciding I wanted to join the Army when I was 12. I couldn’t wait to get out of school and never really cared about school cause I knew the Army would teach me what I needed to know. My parents always supported my decision cause they knew I’d do it anyway. I had begun talking to the recruiter soon after my birthday in April and we had to make sure my braces would be removed before I attended Basic Training immediately after the last day of my senior year. So, my mom signed the paperwork and I enlisted as a 13B Cannon Crewmember. I told the recruiter I wanted to shoot the biggest guns the Army had, hence, Field Artillery.
Much has happened between now and then. Near the end of my senior year the possibility of my actually graduating was pretty bleak. Mainly because I had already checked out and knew I could join with a GED (Good Enough Diploma). Our graduation was 05Jun1993, Saturday, and I shipped off to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma on 06Jun, Sunday. It was also the anniversary of D-Day 1944. Kind of symbolic. Anyhow, I took a Greyhound bus to KC to check into the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and stayed the night in a hotel up there. The next morning they put us on a plane to Oklahoma City then on another bus to Ft. Sill. Gotta say, they were pretty nice at Sill…until we crossed the railroad tracks. Basic Training was awesome. I missed my girlfriend and my home but was eating up all the Army had to offer me. I was in heaven. I did what they call OSUT (One Station Unit Training) and stayed at Sill for my AIT (Advanced Individual Training). I graduated in September and returned home. I joined the Reserves so I only had to do the “Weekend Warrior” stuff. That was until I enlisted into the Active Duty component the following year.
December 1, 1994 I returned to KC MEPS to enlist Active Duty. They gave me a list of Duty Station to choose from then “voluntold” me to do time at Ft. Stewart, Ga. Ahhh, yes…Hinesville. I was still a “Cannon Cocker” doing the artillery thing. I was there a few weeks then off we went to the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin in California. I didn’t know at the time that I’d end up doing about 8 rotations there over the next 3 years. After being at Ft. Stewart for a month I made the decision to marry my high school sweetheart who was still in high school. We got married in my parents’ living room 24Feb1995. My older sister got married in August of 1996 and I was stuck in Kuwait. They wouldn’t let me leave a week early to go home to be at her wedding but I got to talk to her the next morning. After 3 years of “Victory Focus”/”Marne Focus”, a deployment to Kuwait and multiple trips to NTC I had decided when I reenlist I wanted a cushy job, that was still cool, who’s skills I could carry with me into the civilian sector someday. Soooooo, I reenlisted into the aviation to be a crew chief on OH-58(D)I Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
Wie getz!!! Off to Germany we went. We found out we were gonna have our first baby in July 1997 while I was in training at Ft. Eustis, VA. After graduating the school in October we took a couple weeks of Leave then flew out to our new home for the next 3 years in Schweinfurt, Germany. That is one of the best places I have ever lived. I miss it. Kyndall was born 31Mar 1998. We had her induced because we didn’t want her to have to share a birthday with me on April 1st. A year later we found out that we’d be having another baby. This time a boy. March of 1999 three guys in our unit got captured in Kosovo so we spun up to head down there after their release in May. June 1999 I landed in Skopje, Macedonia to spend 6 months on a “Peace Keeping” mission for NATO. I gotta say it was fun. Got plenty of “stick time” flying those little birds around on test flights over the Serbian countryside. While in Germany I traveled all over the place for the Army and for pleasure. Many Hohenfels and Graf rotations. I don’t regret any of em. Mason was born a couple weeks after I returned from Kosovo on Christmas morning. I had decided to ETS (End Time in Service) from the Army in November 2000. My dad offered me a job to work with him so that’s what I did. I took Terminal Leave in October and went home. BUT!!! I enlisted into the Army Reserves to continue my service. I still had some left in the tank.
Back home doing the Reserves thing was much different than the Regular Army but it paid the monthly payment for my Kawasaki Ninja. I missed Active Duty but was getting along. Then the Twin Towers got hit and I knew I’d be going on another all-expenses paid trip somewhere. Weston was born May 27 2002 and not even a year later I’d be leaving him. February 2003 our unit got activated and two months later we were entering Iraq. It was hot but we had a good time. Lots of memories and life experiences over there. After returning home I took a month to just chill at the house before heading back to work for my dad. After spending a year running up and down the roads and in and out of villages in Iraq I decided sales was not my jam and had to do something different. That’s when one of my best buddies and I decided to go into contracting.
I went to work for Blackwater doing “cool guy” stuff while still remaining in the Reserves. Also, while contracting, I had the joy of going thru a divorce up until November 2005. I quickly jumped back into the dating scene after being married since I was 19 and met my wife on Match.com in December 2005. We dated for 4 months. Three of those months I was in Pakistan working for “National Geographic”. April 18th I got off the plane and April 20th we got married. Due to me being gone so much I had to find a unit that was “contractor friendly” so in 2007 I joined the Mississippi National Guard and jumped into the 20th Special Forces Group. That was a great outfit. Around the same time my third son, Colton, was born on 12Sep10. After spending a few years there I got sick of the 6 hour drive and enlisted BACK into the Army Reserves in 2010 and joined the Drill Sergeant unit in Springfield. By far, that worst unit I have ever been it. It was a clown show. Soooooo, I joined an instructor unit and went the instructor route for a couple years before getting out of the Army Reserves and joining the Missouri Army National Guard in 2012. I will say, not just because it’s my current unit, this is one of my favorite units. I really enjoy it. Great bunch of folks. About that same time I opened CrossFit of the Ozarks and ran that for 6 years closing it in November 2016. Time for a new chapter in my book of life.
So, here I am. As I look back 25 years to 17Jul1992 it is just a giant blur. It has gone by entirely too fast. I would definitely do it ALL over again and maybe tweak a few things. As I look back I’ve been married, divorced and married again. I’ve had 4 kids, two of whom were born in Germany. I missed my older sister’s wedding, missed many funerals of close friends and a LOT of my kids’ birthdays. I owned a CrossFit gym for 6 years. I’ve served under presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump. I consider myself “Old Army”. Back in my day if you had an issue you went to the “tree line” swapped blows, shook hands and continued mission. I’ve been to a lot of countries, been shot at, shot back, and danced around mortar splashes. I’ve even broke bread with Mujahedeen commanders, Taliban leaders; I’ve met 2 of our presidents. I’ve had buddies killed in combat and other soldiers I didn’t know injured in combat. We even helped save an Iraqi’s life one day on the side of the road. In Kuwait I went and spent the day and the Prince of Kuwait’s house and broke bread with him. I’ve been chased by bad people, chased bad people. I’ve loved hard and had my heart broken hard. I’ve seen the absolute best in people and the absolute worst. I’ve seen what humans are capable of. I’ve experienced, unknowingly, PTSD and have learned to work through it. Strength thru struggle. It’s a daily practice. I’ve spooned on cold nights with black people, white people, Hispanics and Asians. I believe there is only one race and that is the human race. I have learned and instilled in myself morals, values and principles that I try to teach my children and those around me. I have always been and will always be proud to be a United States Army soldier.
So, here’s to looking back to 25 years in the United States Army. The best damn Army on the planet and the best damn memories and experiences a person can have. I’ve forgotten more than I can remember but one thing is for sure. There is no way any of this could have been possible without the grace, patience and understanding of my Father in heaven. I give all I’ve done and will ever do to God. He has blessed me beyond understanding. I love you all.