My name is William and I am an officer in the greatest Army on this earth. I was raised in a small town in the UP (upper peninsula of Michigan). My folks weren’t much, blue collar, hard working, didn’t have a pot to piss in. My childhood was a series of misadventures, neglect, and abuse. I used to have an older brother but he was killed when I was two. I imagine my mom and dad were more “normal” before the accident. I don’t remember him or “normal”.
I went to high school and did fairly well for a kid whose dad was drunk all the time and whose mom was never home. I played baseball and received a partial scholarship at a mid-sized college in Michigan. Unfortunately I didn’t have the rest of the money I needed to pay for school. Baseball was almost a full time job so I couldn’t really work most of the year. I decided to sign up for ROTC and have the government pay for my education. I’d be the first one in my family to have a college degree.
Dad fought in Vietnam and I’m pretty sure he left his sanity there. He told me I was out of my mind (he used other words) if I joined the Army and I should just forget college and get a job at the mill like everyone else. I always imagined something different for myself so I didn’t take his advice and I signed up.
While in college I met Abby and we fell in love. I think to this day she is the only person in the world that I truly loved. Abby and I were inseparable; one thing led to another, Abby got pregnant and we got married. During this time I never really thought about my obligation to the Army. I was just a college kid having fun, playing baseball. Sure I had my regular ROTC duties but they seemed more like boy scouts than military. Abby was seven months pregnant when we graduated. My dad stayed home.
Well as fate would have it my active duty turned into activation then deployment. Abby, I and our daughter spent a few quick months at Bragg then I was off on my first tour, then my second. Between the first two tours Abby got pregnant again, at the time it seemed like good news.
While I was off doing my patriotic duty, Abby got tired of living in North Carolina and moved back to Michigan. It was about the same time my dad took his life with an old handgun he kept around the house “just in case”.
Our son was born while I was living in a tent somewhere in the desert. By this time I knew Abby was pretty much gone. She needed someone to be there, not a war fighter. I often think I could have sold tires in Traverse City. I could have been normal.
It’s funny actually. When I got the news that I would be deployed, I considered going AWOL. I thought about moving to Canada. I stayed and fulfilled my duty because I didn’t what my children growing up thinking their father was a coward. What kind of role model walks away from his responsibilities, his Country? Now I think which would be better, kids who think you are a coward or kids who don’t know who you are? My kids are older now, Michelle is almost a teenager, and Billy is seven. I haven’t seen either of them in five or six years. They call a tire salesman in Traverse City Dad now.
I’m sitting in the mountains in Afghanistan now watching holes in the ground. There are younger guys that should be doing this but the fact is, I’m very good at what I do and the Army needs me. The Army is all I have left. I’ve given up everything to be a soldier, my education, my home, my family.
When my dad did talk about Nam, he said that he was one of the ones that got spit on coming off the plane. He said people will never understand the soldier; they have no idea of what it means to sacrifice so much for your country. I think now I can finally agree with him on something.
I worry about the next time I come home. I hear things and wonder what is happening to our great country. I’ve bleed (literally) more for the United States of America than most alive today, and I did it without question. I’ve given up any chance at a normal life to protect our interests and I’ve never asked for anything in return, until today.
If I could ask this; please think about us and try to understand. Try to realize most of us are here doing what we have to but we all wish were sitting where you are now, comfortably reading this letter. We are still human beings like you and we need your support and appreciation. The next time you see a soldier, thank them. Welcome them home. Think about the sacrifice they made for OUR country. Think about all they have given up to be an American Soldier; to serve the American people.
I’ll never sell tires in Traverse City. I’ll either die somewhere like this or I’ll end up behind a desk at Bragg wishing I was dead. No it certainly isn’t much of a life, but it’s mine.
United States Army