I wanted to be a part of a military since I was young because I believed it was about honor, sacrifice and loyalty to others. Perhaps I was a bit idealistic when I first joined, but I got to put these childhood ideals to the test. What I learned was that the military is about relationships.
In 2010, I found myself in Southwest Afghanistan and in the middle of a very hot and heavy war. I learned to fly the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and became a MEDEVAC pilot. My job was to pick up wounded soldiers (enemy and friendly), K-9s, civilians, anyone needing life-saving medical treatment and extraction.
The faces of fear, shock, and sadness I witnessed in the back of my Blackhawk during my many months in Afghanistan are seared into my memory.
I’ll never forget an injured elderly old man wearing blood soaked robes in the back of my helicopter. He had the face of an 80-year-old, but in reality, he was probably only about 50. But had the expression of someone who has much older. He looked bewildered, tired and sad. War had taken a toll.
I was suddenly struck with the idea that this man was probably someone’s dad. I had a dad too. How would I feel if someone I loved was ever in a situation like this? These people all belonged to someone—they were mothers, sons, grandparents, friends.
Most of us live in safety, surrounded by countless resources. In our hectic lives, we can lose perspective on what really matters in life. Our familiarity with those closest to us can cause us to take them for granted.
My relationships- especially those most dear to me- took on a deeper, richer meaning after my time in the military. Life can change completely in an instant, so I’ve learned to appreciate every moment.