Close To Home
Just in case anyone reading this doesn’t know who I am, I grew up in the wonderful little town of Walden. I’m the son of Jack and Michelle and brother to T.J. I had the privilege to spend 19 years of my life here till I graduated and shipped off to join the U.S Army in 2013.
Anyone who’s spent more than a few days in Walden can tell you just how unique of a place it really is. I was always pretty blessed in every aspect of my life. I had wonderful parents, grandparents, friends, and a great little brother. Caring teachers and coaches helped me excel in school and sports. Even with all the great things I had, I spent my last couple of years anxious to get far away from my home-town and see the world; and see the world I certainly have.
I went through infantry and airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia before being stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. The Army has been an exciting ride that’s taken me everywhere from the swamps of Louisiana, the woods of Virginia, the city streets of Germany, and even out of a perfectly good airplane straight into a sunflower field in Bulgaria. I’ve met amazing people and made friendships with many great men and women, and although some of them are no longer with us today, I’ll never forget any of them.
The military has been good to me, and is a part of who I am today; however, it hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies. Day one in the Army was a kick in the gut, and it still tests me to this day. My first day in basic training really made me wonder what was so bad about my simple little home-town. Ever since I left, I have been crossing off days on the calendar till I got to come back to the mountains where I grew up, and escape the Army lifestyle for a couple of weeks. I can attest to the saying “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, probably better than most.
As much as the isolation of our town, the harsh weather, and the fact that literally everyone is aware of your business can get on everyone’s nerves, Walden is truly an amazing place. My time in the Army has taught me the value of two of the most important things in the world; time, and relationships with people. Walden has given me the best of both of those commodities. The special community of Walden is like none other. The teachers and staff of school truly dedicate their lives to the kids. I am proud to say I am still friends with nearly all the teachers I had growing up, and I always look forward to seeing them when I come home. The coaches teach valuable lessons in every single sport offered at our school. Roy Gollobith and his legendary wrestling practices helped make it so I could accomplish all my physical and mental challenges in the Army. (even 25 mile marches with a 40-pound bag on my back left me less sore than the first practice of the season) I keep in touch with nearly all my classmates and still consider them all dear friends. The local paper man Matt Shuler still mails me a copy of the Jackson County Star every week so I can keep up with the local happenings. I wouldn’t trade the relationships with the people of my hometown for anything in the world.
Time is the other precious thing I have learned to appreciate. Time spent can’t be given back, so I really try and appreciate every moment. Every moment spent in Walden or with its wonderful people is a blessing.
This Memorial Day I ask you all to keep all the brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice to this nation in your thoughts. I also ask everyone to keep my brothers and I in your prayers and we set off to Afghanistan in the upcoming months (only slightly sugar-coating it) to preform violent actions against evil people, and serve our great country. I look forward to coming back to Walden, and I know thoughts of home will make the months’ over-seas fly by. The desert heat might even make me miss the snow a little bit.
P.S: I have to give a special Thank You to Jamie for the opportunity to write something outside the norm of my military language (mostly consisting of acronyms and profanity)
Tough is what I would use to describe Derrick. Since a young age that is what he's been. From the playground to the wrestling mat I've witnessed this strong trait that has led him to excel at whatever he was working for. This tough mindset and exterior shouldn't fool you though. This young man has incredible compassion and heart. It's a true honor and privilege to know Derrick and I'm so thankful to know it is servicemen such as he that are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom. Today I celebrate that freedom and pay respect to all service men and women that put their lives on the line and are not only tough, but compassionate and willing to protect.