This being the inaugural post, I just want to give you a brief history of my life before the army and a basic outline of my years in service. This way we have an excellent base on who I am and how the hell I ended up in the Army.
I was born in Chicago, Illinois in the early ‘70s. My parents divorced when I was young and both remarried once or twice. There was no real parental drama, though. They did the best they could and were good people. My stepmother was a little crazy, but she was good to me, so I can’t knock her. Also, my stepfather was around since I was really young. He was there throughout most of my young and young-adult life. I can’t say anything bad about him either. Besides that, I was the youngest and I’m sure it went both ways, but my brother and step-siblings drove me partially mad, and as I stated, I’m sure I reciprocated.
Being a bit of a nerdy kid and was bullied in school. I lived the stereotype, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Comic Books, crap at sports, etc… I maintained this trend until mid-high school. I had transitioned to what I would call a skater, New Wave, Stoner hybrid. I didn’t really drink or do any drugs. That is until after the summer of Junior year. I spent a few months in a Volkswagen Vanagon traveling the country with a friend who was a Senior. Yeah, I was 17. My mom was nuts to let me go.
After coming back from that trip, I transitioned to being more of a Dead Head than a punk. Experimentation was a thing, a little of this and a little of that. No need for details. Because of different reasons, I ended up dropping out of High School and going straight to Community College. In college, I took whatever course sparked an interest. If I took any core curriculum courses, I usually quit or failed out. But I did great in sciences and humanities courses. Basically, the things that interested me. This mess of an education went on and off for a few years, along with partying.
Around the age of twenty-one, after working all kinds of jobs, machinist, painting sculptures, door to door petitioning, carpentry, and various others, I found myself working in the deli of one of our local grocery stores. Yes, after twenty-plus years of life already, I had made it as far as slicing lunch meat. I remember thinking to myself that I really need to turn this boat around.
Historically, I always had an interest in the Navy, helicopters, and soldiering. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot before I started getting so lost. I would read books on the Navy and check out their different aircraft. Why the navy? I don’t know. The army has more aircraft than the airforce; they are all just choppers. I didn’t know. Either way, remembering these things and my brothers recent try at the Marines. I thought the military may be my lifeboat.
So I went and told some of my friends I planned on joining the Army. One particular friend, Mike Rhodes, rightfully spat out, “Right, you quit everything,” or something close to that. He was right. So I made a bet with him for a night out at the movies. If after a certain time I didn’t enlist, I owe him. Of course, if I do, he owes me. Needless to say, I enlisted within a few days of that. And to his work, Mike treated me to a movie about ten years later. But he came through.
I went to basic in Fort Benning, Georgia. I had joined the US Army Infantry. The recruiters asked me what I wanted to do; I had a lot of options because of scoring pretty high on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). But all I could really think of is Platoon, Rambo, and any other war movie with guys going through the jungle on foot fighting off the enemy. Stupid me, but I asked for it. And infantry life for me.
After basic teaining I stayed at Fort Benning on Kelly Hill with the 24th Infantry Division, which was later re-flagged to the 3rd Infantry Division. From there I went to the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. In Korea, I exited active duty after four years and joined the Illinois National Guard, where I remained for 4 years and two deployments later. In this time frame, the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 happened. My close friend and Squad leader at the time, Christopher Davis and I decided we needed to go back active after that. We were deployed immediately with the guard and couldn’t actually get back to active duty till we returned from that deployment almost a year later.
At the end of 2002 we re-entered the active army, infantry again. We were stationed down in Fort Hood, Texas, and actually deployed to Iraq a few weeks after arriving there. We went as casualty replacements with no unit, eventually ending up in the 3rd ID yet again. After returning to Fort Hood, they placed me in the last unit I would serve with, the 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry. After some months of working to get ready to return to Iraq, I made the second trip. About a month after leaving Fort Hood, I was involved in the ambush known as Black Sunday, where we had the largest casualty count since the Vietnam war. I was one of those casualties and my career ended not long after that; I was medically retired some time later. The events are in the book by Martha Raddatz, “A Long Road Home” and the National Geographic miniseries based on the book.
All kinds of things have happened in the middle and in-between of these 10 years of my life. As my memory allows, I am going to share as many as I can, both for myself, my kids to read someday, and for anyone who is interested.
Tim Apple, Sgt US Army Retired.