For many kids growing up, a pellet gun is just a simple toy (one that should be played with using caution), but for others it can be the start of something patriotic. Just like other children, I would run around pretending to play Cowboys and Indians with my Red Ryder BB gun, shooting at targets that my parents would set up around the fenced in backyard, but this was just the beginning of what would become a military career for me. This is the story of how a simple toy turned into becoming an Army sergeant.

I was a military kid growing up, and at the age of 12, I decided that I wasn’t going to be a part of the military once I was old enough to make that decision myself. Then, one day, my dad brought home a Red Ryder BB gun and started to teach me how to shoot a pellet gun. At first, it was just a bonding experience between me and my father because he would often be deployed, leaving us little time to spend together. He would come home from deployment and we would religiously take turns shooting the gun in the backyard at targets that he would set up for us. Obviously, he was much better than I was at hitting the targets, but that didn’t take away from me enjoying both shooting the pellet gun, but also getting to spend as much time as possible with my father.

But, as I grew up, I started to actually get really into shooting, and I would often setup my own targets and practice while my father was away. Little by little, I started to get better and better at my accuracy, and as I got better, the more I enjoyed the whole activity both when my dad was home and when he was away. Because of my increased interest, I began looking at other ways I could shoot shoot pellet guns and I found out that there was an academy near where I lived. I asked my mother and father if I could join the academy and luckily they decided that I could. Previously, I had not shown a huge interest in much related to the military and since this was an activity I genuinely found interesting, they decided that it was worth the chance.

While at the academy, I was learning a significant amount about how to shoot the guns and how to read a pellet gun review online to make sure that the gun would be a good fit for me. I found out that I wasn’t using the correct ammo with the gun that I had purchased. From that point on, I would research the air guns and make sure that all of the ammo and accessories worked together so I could be the best that I could at shooting. I became dedicated and strict with myself on my routine with shooting the gun and from that I realized the transformation that had taken place almost by mistake.

Despite my father being gone for months at a time, I learned from him through his dedication and the routine that he would put my family through on a regular basis. Through that routine, and our bonding with the pellet gun, I realized that maybe the military was for me. For the first time, I found something that I enjoyed that was related to the military that linked me and my father. Because of that, when I was 18 years old, I enlisted in the Army to be a part of the infantry unit where I could put my interest in guns to use. Yes the military is more than just shooting, but that joy of shooting is how I ended up realizing that I would follow in my fathers footsteps into the Army.

There is always a desire to be accepted by others in life. The significance of our values, wisdom and generosity is fully realized when shared with our loved ones. Life is like walking through paradise with peas in your shoes. This is one lesson I got to learn when I was part of team committed to improving other army recruits lives in our camp where we were training to become servicemen.

When you study the habits of great men like Charles Atlas, Ernest Shackleton and Henry David Thoreau – you get to realize that they are regular contributors to efforts by many organizations to search out jobs and relay habits of their teams for other to follow.

I have learnt that if you cannot carry, wear, shoot it, and then leave it behind. The matter of shoes is important, more so because the terrain is always tough and hard. You cannot go out without putting on a strong and comfortable shoe in your feet. The word “shoe” has more significance, whether it be a shoe for skating, walking, running, or jumping, almost similar to a prophecy that a rugged road awaits the traveller. Like Moses, when he was taking the Israelites to the “Promised Land”, a shoe is a promise of protection along the way. When I am preparing for mountain climbing, I have to make sure that I have tough shoes, with heavy nails in the soles for stability.

Life is a paradox of sorts. When one person in reeling in affluence and luxury, without having to work hard or even struggle with obstacles; another one scarcely has the same opportunity, perhaps reeling in poverty and starvation.

These Moments offer distinct and unique aspects of the universe, but you will use your consciousness to string those individual steps together into what you call the journey of your life. So to be unforgiving is like walking with a pebble in your shoe. On each step of your journey you should keep reminding yourself that you are in pain. And rather than stopping and removing the pebble from the shoe of your conscious identity, you instead continue on, getting angrier and angrier at the pebble.

Maybe you are aggressive like an athletic shoe. An athlete gets common running injuries of the foot which may cause the heel to hurt, feel hot or swell. All this is foot pain, and many times there’s no where to turn to for plantar fasciitis shoes and that is what life is about.

Let me be blunt about it. I have suffered many losses, tried to deal with a tremendously complicated and emotionally draining relationships. I was given more responsibility than I wanted or could handle alone, and tried with every ounce of my being to just “be enough”.

So, now that everyone talks about “new beginnings”, I ask myself, “why not me?”. Why can’t I put away the past and embrace the future and all that it has to offer me? Have I taken a wrong path on my journey or just hit a dead end? Sometimes, I feel some like I’m walking barefoot, completely exposed and unprotected from the roadway beneath my feet. It is such discomfort, and exhaustion that I just want to give up.

I have learned from experience and from tales of journeys traveled by friends that no journey starts on, stays with, or ends entirely on a well paved, frequently traveled path. It’s the shortcuts through trails less traveled, detours, and simply being lost that make up our journey. It’s those unexpected paths that make us who we are – a road less traveled, with no stop signs, street lights, or busy “life” to stand on the way! I encourage everyone to walk that less traveled dirt road, if for no other reason but to embrace the beauty you might find along the way.

The essence of human experience lies not primarily in the peak experiences, the wedding days and triumphs, but, rather, in the unself-conscious flow of little things: a weekend afternoon with each member of the family engaged in his or her own pursuit, their crossings and connections casual, dialogues imminently forgettable, but the sum of such hours creating a synergy which was important and eternal.

In every persons life, there is something that they keep near to them because it makes them feel safe and whole. It’s human nature to form attachments to physical objects to give emotional stability. For a soldier out in the field and in combat situations, we don’t have the luxury of having a “blankie” or a special key chain. We have our guns, and we become bonded to them through all of our training because they are the objects that make us feel safe and give us hope that we will make it out of combat and to our families. To read about the bond we have to our guns, please read “For Love of the Gun” below.

When I was first issued my firearm, I’ll be honest that I did not know very much about guns. I didn’t know the complexity of their build, how powerful they could be, and how tempermental they often were. I learned about all of those things very quickly as each day of training went out.

It was a absolutely beautiful day outside and I was at the gun range for the very first time to shoot my MP5. The instructor was going through all the checklists to make sure that we were handling our firearms safely; we had goggles, ear protectors, and we made sure that our gun was on full safety. Then, he gave us the instructions to start shooting at our targets. I will just say that it was an eye opener because while the MP5 doesn’t have the biggest recoil, I was still not prepared for the force that it pushed back onto me. To say the least, my accuracy was not very good on that first day of being at the range. After a while, I did get used to the recoil of the gun and I was able to improve my accuracy.

But, it’s important to know that without treating your gun with care and attention, you may not even get the firearm to shoot. I was amazed at how much attention the gun needed for it to be as dependable as we needed it to be. The evening after we had been at the gun range, we came back to base and we were tasked with cleaning our weapons. As we were provided instructions, I began to break down my gun, piece by piece, and by the time it was completely taken apart, there had to be several hundred small and intricate pieces strewn around me. I took a look and sighed because now I had to clean every one of those pieces, oil the gun up, and put it back together. I was not looking forward to the task, but it needed to be done. When it was all said and done, it took me about an hour to complete the whole task. That’s what I call attention and love!

After having been in the military for about 15 years, being able to take apart, clean, and put back together firearms has become second nature to me. In fact, I’ve become one of the best in my company at doing it. Through the years I’ve learned how to become a gunsmith and apply my skills to work with firearms with hands on training, and that is something I hope affords me opportunities in the future. I may not be an expert at every aspect, but I do know enough to be considered an amateur gunsmith.

Some of you may know but when we soldiers are on base and just enter the military we are assigned a specific weapon that we are responsible for, and we need to make sure that the weapons are put back where we receive them. If that doesn’t happen, and someone misplaces their firearm, base goes into high alert. If you want to see my experience please read “Code red on base” below.

I was out on a field exercise one day and it seemed to be a normal day of being woken up at 5 AM hiking for several hours until we get to our checkpoint. In fact, there was nothing out of the ordinary from the typical morning activities all the way to the checkpoint. As usual, we had our guns with us, both our assault rifle and our handgun. We carry both of them when on field exercise so we are used to the feel and the added weight for when we are in a real combat situation.

When we arrived at our checkpoint, we were put in a live fire situation; a live fire situation is where we use real guns and real ammo to take out a target. This live fire situation is done so we are used to the pressure situation involving the bursting sound of ammo being shot out of red hot muzzles. I’ve personally been through these exercises several times so I am used to the environment. It definitely gets the heart pumping with adrenaline!

Now, once we are done with the live fire, we pull out our rations and have something to eat so we have the energy to make it back to base. Trust me, you are NOT missing anything with these MRE’s. In fact they might be one of the most revolting things to eat, but when you’re out in the field, there are no chefs making 5 star meals. You eat what you have available otherwise you won’t be a help to anyone on your team.

After building up some energy and rehydrating, we begin or trek back to the base so we are able to make it back before dark. The trip back is as uneventful as the initial hike to the checkpoint. About the only thing out of the ordinary was one of my fellow soldiers catching a boot in a crack in the ground, spraining his ankle. We were able to wrap it up with our field kit and continue on our way.

Upon arriving at the base, things seemed very strange and odd. In fact, I had never seen the base like it was at that point. After about 15 minutes of silence and crickets, we were informed that the base was under a “code red”, and we all knew that was a serious matter. There are a few reasons that a base would be in “code red”: a military attack on the base, enemy soldiers spotted close to our base, or someone misplacing their firearms instead of putting them back into their gun storage. Gun safe reviews for civilians will help prevent a “code red” at home by affording the opportunity to find the best device for their use. Civilians know the importance of properly storing their gun, and military personnel should also abide by the same rules but in this case, the soldier did not follow protocol and put the whole base into a state of lockdown until he was able to track down his gun.

After a few hours, the soldier found his gun and placed it where we store our guns. Unfortunately for the soldier this was the second time he had an issue correctly storing his firearm so he was put on toilet duty. That is NOT something that you would want to be placed on as I’ve experienced it when I was a new recruit.

Back in Kentucky, I was a country boy who enjoyed going out on hunts with my father while I was growing up. We didn’t have much, but we did have a couple of old rifles that were passed down to us through the year from my grandfather, and we used these guns to live off the land as much as we could. During that time, I grew fascinated with firearms, but I didn’t understand the true power of them because I only had experience with the ones that we owned. That all changed when I joined the military. Read my experience in “The power of a gun” below to see the eye opening experience I encountered.

When I joined the military I had a very little idea just how powerful your typical high powered rifle and sniper rifles really are. Through the course of my arrival at basic training and the first few weeks of training I’ve learned more than just a little about how unbelievably strong these guns really are. I’ve seen them destroy things that make people look extremely soft.
One of the first huge shocks to me was my first experience seeing an assault rifle in use up close. You can hear these guns going off from miles away and its nothing short of impressive to watch them decimate small structures and any target that they’ve created for it. When they finally put one of these guns in my hand it felt nothing short of amazing. I have never felt a weapon that could fire so quickly and so powerfully with the accuracy these guns are able to provide. It was a great bit of stress relief being allowed to use it too since they’d done little other than rack my brain and cause me to panic since I’d been at basic. Firing this gun was an incredible experience I’ll never forget. With that much power it’s terrifying that these weapons are even legal.

My main goal in joining was to be a sniper and they allowed me to practice with one of these as well. I’ve always been a good shot but to compare the accuracy and power of your standard rifle or pistol to a military issue sniper rifle is just wrong. When they first took me onto the sniper course I had some small idea of what to expect but I had no idea what was really coming. These guns have more power than an assault rifle with an awesome amount of accuracy to say the least. You could hit a target from miles away with ease and often if you missed it by only a short distance the force around the bullet would be enough to tear a huge chunk out of it. Being a sniper and going through sniper training has never failed to be anything short of impressive. I’ve never experienced holding that much power in my hands and I doubt I ever will again when it’s all said and done.

I have seen any number of other weapons in use as well. From basic pistols that will scare the hell out of you and blow through a wall to a live grenade being thrown and the explosion wrecking its target with ease, setting off through a small area and destroying everything in its path. Even some of the kevlar and other items we use to protect ourselves haven’t been able to stand up to the lighter guns available. It’s terrifying to think what would happen to a kevlar vest that is being assaulted by an assault rifle or getting hit by a single shot from a sniper. These weapons can tear through just about anything it seems like outside of heavy metals.

It’s certain that these guns in use in the military are not toys. There’s a good reason that weapons like the assault rifles used today aren’t given to the public. They pack more than just a small punch and have the potential to break down even a house with enough clips to manage it and a good knowledge of where to shoot. There is absolutely no question about whether or not we could win a war with these guns, they’re powerful and it’s scary to think an enemy could have something that hurts just as much.

I would like to take a moment to give insight into the initial days I spent as a recruit into the military. I want to be frank and say that this isn’t for everyone, and in fact, many people lack the mental and physical fortitude to make it through the first 8 weeks of basic training. You will train relentlessly from 5 AM until they feel like you’ve completed enough for the day and it will wear you out both physically and emotionally, but if you truly want to be a soldier, you will push through and you will “man up”, as they say. Read my story below if you want some facts about how the initial “Training of a Soldier” goes.

In today’s training, this is where a civilian recruit is transformed into a soldier. This training prepares soldiers for the deployment into the combat zone. This is where you will spend the nine weeks of your life to become a soldier, and you will be amazed to discover how many things you will learn. Your body will be lean, and you will be more confident than you were before. This only lasts a short period of time, but you will remember the tough weeks for the rest of your life. You will be prepared in this field of a soldier for the first deployment into the combat zone. This is a field that you can be prepared for the soldier that you have considered.

You should not have a problem with following instructions to become a soldier, and you will not be asked to do anything that you cannot do. When you work hard and listen to instructions it should not be a problem. There are thousands of people that did not think that they could make through basic training, but they did. When you go through basic training, you will arrive at your camp and be issued an uniform for next nine weeks. This is where you will go through the daily requirements of training and drills.

The days are repetitive as you wake up very early when you are in training. You meet up with the rest of your squad and divide up into cleaning duties, then you are off to your first day of camp. This is where you can start off the day by running laps followed by strength and conditioning, and you will return to the barracks and change into an uniform. Tidy up when you go and do not leave the barracks a mess. Even when you are eating it is all about time management. You will be divided up into smaller groups to finish different training goals, and other important lessons. When you march back to the mess hall for dinner, you will have your final formation and take a final roll call. This lets you know what to expect for the next day and what gear you should wear.

This is where your days will have a physical event such as road marches and exercises that deal with a lot of running. This is where you can learn the basic of how to be a soldier, but you will become physically fit to tackle anything that comes your way. This is where you can become a soldier where you fight with a machine gun and a grenade or other weapons. You can overcome your fear by attaching obstacles that will gain your confidence. Your brain will be challenged every day with newer skills and tasks. You will make lifelong friends to people who can share in the trials of army basic training.

Trainees will receive a haircut and they will be issued the uniform and gear. The training that they receive includes how to march, maneuver, and all regular commands that are required. This is preparing the soldiers for a successful career when they reach their units. They meet with the soldiers’ family and friends to discuss what the training experience is. They answer the questions that you may have, and congratulate the soldier on having a career.

When you train for a soldier, it is designed to help you learn about the rules and regulations that go into the life of a soldier. The recruits have learned the skills that require mental and physical training that they will need to know for the rest of your life. This is where you need to get in shape and be able to run for several miles at a good speed. With a desire to learn and be trained, arrive with a good attitude with an understanding that it is all part of being a soldier.

Many outsiders don’t understand the emotional and mental fortitude that is required to leave your family and friends when you’re in the military and deployed to foreign places. Making matters worse, often the places that we are deployed to have less than ideal conditions and there aren’t always many activities to take our minds off of these hardships. Not too long ago, I was on deployment while my wife was pregnant and that was my rock and my motivation to make it through the hardships that I was facing while away from home. If you want to read more about my experience, read below about “My anchor in the storm”.

I always thought the old saying that, “war is hell” was just a kind of slogan thrown around by people because they didn’t know what else to say about war. It’s been over five months since I last saw Cindy and during this time knowing that she was pregnant I understand now that this saying is an understatement.

This is not my first deployment, this war has drug on for so long that I have been here before. I thought I knew what hell was like, the boredom and the senseless killing was unlike anything I could ever imagine the last time I was here. This time is different because I knew that inside my wife was growing a child that I had fathered. In the midst of all this death and destruction there was a small spark of hope that I had not completely lost my soul or my humanity because if I could only make it back home I would meet this innocent little person who holds the hope for a future that is better than the present. This thought has been my anchor in this storm that kept me grounded.

Always before, the strangest part of my job was going into a Afghan village and knowing that nearby there was somebody that does not know anything about me and yet he wants to kill me. Likewise, I don’t know anything about him, is he married, does he have kids or a dream for a future outside of this war? Although I have never met him and don’t know anything about him I will try my best to kill him. This requires me to suspend a part of myself that makes me human, it doesn’t seem right but I know it’s my job and if I don’t do my job I will die.

This deployment is different from the last one, I have been scared before to the point where I didn’t sleep for days at a time. I don’t want to die, I’m ready if that is required of me, but I really don’t want to die yet. This time though, knowing that my wife is thousands of miles away carrying our baby is almost more than I can stand. I should be there to rub her back when she hurting or to comfort her when she was sick. I couldn’t even carry in the groceries for her because I am in this place of death.

We have been able to talk and Skype over the internet on a regular basis. That has been a lifesaver, I have been able to watch as she grew closer to her due date. We talked for hours about the future for hours and what we were going to name our son, yes it’s a boy! I think it helped both of us to be able to see and talk to one another on a regular basis, I sat alone and cried like a baby after each call.

Finally, my mid tour leave has arrived and I got to leave this hell a few days ago. The long plane rides and layovers seemed to drag on forever but I knew with each passing moment I was getting closer. Due dates are not a precise thing, we planned my leave for me to be home for the birth of our baby. That didn’t work out so well because he had other plans. Off by less than a week, as I was on my last mission in the field Cindy was in the hospital giving birth to our son, Eli.

My mind races as the airplane approaches the Memphis airport, it has been a trip of thousands of miles that removed me from a place of death and destruction to a place of life and hope. As I walk down the hallway leading to the terminal I am overwhelmed by the thought that I am about to meet a little person that belongs to me. I step out into the terminal and gone are the images of war, I run to my wife who is holding little Eli and we hold each other so tight that for a brief moment nothing else matters, we are together.