After completing basic at Ft. Benning and earning the privilege of becoming an infantryman, I served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard from 2002-2008. I deployed to Iraq in ’04 with the 256BCT from Louisiana and with the 105th Cav from Wisonsin in ’07. I volunteered for my two deployments to Iraq (2004-2005 and 2007-2008) for several reasons, chiefly, it was my duty. Growing up, my family had always stressed the importance of service to one’s community and country. I have relatives who were in the military, are teachers, health care workers, and on and on. So, really, I was just doing my part. My service impacted me in several ways, some positive and some negative. Ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything–I think I learned a lot about a lot during those years.
I’ll miss quite a bit during my time trekking across the country, but it perils in comparison to the sacrifice our service members and their families make for all of us on a daily basis, whether stateside or abroad. I’ll miss the beginning of Champions League–let’s go Madrid! I’ll miss hunting season, which has become a type of therapy for me every year. I’ll miss my bed and the traditional amenities of home. Finally, I have a wife and daughter that I will miss a great deal during this trek to LA. and I will have them as my motivation as I go. It’s ironic, each step I take takes me farther from them, but it brings me closer to the reunion I’ll have with them.
I’m doing this with Tom because I think it’s important. I believe our communities need to understand their part in the reintegration of Veterans into the community. Coming back from service, while exciting, poses issues that most people, I feel, fail to consider in the “Veteran experience.” I want to help Dryhootch raise some funds so it can continue its important work and I want to raise awareness of Veteran issues as I go. I hope that this experience will help me work out some of the issues that continue to influence me while simultaneously raising the collective consciousness about Veteran issues in each community that we pass through. I’m also doing this for my friends in the military–those still in and those out, who deserve a place like Dryhootch where their service is respected and revered without pretense. Getting into shape isn’t a bad thing either.
With that, I leave it to you to help us as we go. If you see us passing through your town, give us a honk, donate to Dryhootch, and wish us luck.
I served on active duty in the United States Army for three years, from 2003 to 2006. After initial infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was ordered to Fort Lewis Washington to serve with the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, an element of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, one of the Army’s first Stryker Infantry Brigades.
Upon arrival in the unit, I competed for and was awarded a slot in the scout sniper platoon. A battalion of 700 typically selects around 40 of its best soldiers for this role, so I was proud to be selected for this honor and responsibility. As a scout sniper, my mission was to move far forward of the rest of our unit (undetected by the enemy) to provide information to our headquarters and covertly attack long-range targets if ordered to do so.
In October 2004, after 20 months of training with my unit, I was deployed to Mosul, Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. My time in Mosul was one of the most dangerous times in the war, as we were attacked daily with roadside bombs, suicide car bombs, sniper fire, mortars, and rockets. The toll of deployment was high on our platoon with the loss of our platoon sergeant and squad leader, who were both killed in action.
While in Iraq, I was proud to participate in hundreds of combat missions, convoys, security patrols, raids, area clearance operations, and humanitarian relief operations including providing security for the first democratic elections Iraq since the invasion. I was also fortunate to conduct several scout sniper missions with the 160thSOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment), the Army’s most elite helicopter unit. After returning from my 11-month deployment in 2005, I left the Army in January of 2006.