Background: US Army, 2010 to 2013
I served in the US Army infantry for three years, and I hit all the traditional landmarks of a grunt. Benning, Sand Hill, grog, march, blisters, and the blue cord. Queen of Battle! I was stationed at Fort Lewis as an E4, 11B, rifleman. My platoon went through 16 months of deployment in a combat-heavy part of Southern Afghanistan.
I finally got the chance to test my mettle as a rifleman. My deployment involved hunting for IED makers and placers. On one of those missions, a very large IED decided to test me. A blast, a huge cloud of dust, and a wave of pain later, and I was on the ground. I instinctively reached for my marbles, those prized jewels every rifleman values above all else. (The infantry can’t give ‘em to you; they just help you grow them.)
Turns out IED makers get complacent too. The full charge failed to blow and I got out of there with just a broken foot. After a five-day flight, six months in a cast and three months of physical therapy, I was back on my feet. But I was out of the game. There’s no guiltier feeling than being home while your brothers are still there. While I was knocked out on pain medication for my foot, and during therapy, I only felt a pang of regret that I’d somehow let them down.
But my patience was rewarded, every single of one of my siblings in arms returned from that deployment. There’s no greater relief than seeing all your fellow warriors home. It was great catching up with them and knocking back a few drinks.
On the grand scale of the conflict, I’m sure our impact was minuscule. But in our eyes, our mission was complete to the fullest. We’d gone there, never quit, always pushed, and we brought home everyone alive, even if some of us returned not totally whole. Shortly after that, the platoon disbanded and that’s when I left the Army.
Since then, I’ve become an avid shooter and outdoorsman. I like to push my boundaries, ideally with friends. We regularly go on trips to the desert here in California and see where we can take our limits. There’s a sense of serenity when looking through the optic of a rifle not designed for distance, anticipating the confirmation of a victory. A steel bell rings in the distance and echoes in the canyon, and your spotter calls out “Hit!” Even better is the next nine hits that follow. I’m organizing some overland trips later this year, and I intend to try as many adventures as I can.
Who knows what’s next after all these adventures?