Mike MacLeod enlisted in the Army at age 41 to become a combat correspondent, serving five years and tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. His recently published book, "The Brave Ones: A Memoir of Hope, Pride, and Military Service" recounts the lives and deeds of those with whom he served. He lives with his wife of 25 years in Bozeman, Montana.
Face it, there’s no way to enter the battlefield with more derring-do than as part of a mass-tactical parachute drop on a moonless night, striking terror in the hearts of the enemy. As a German officer wrote in World War II, “American parachutists...devils in baggy pants...are less than a hundred meters from my outpost line. I can't sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere..."
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
Everyone served with that grumpy, old, gray-haired specialist or buck sergeant who had already lived a full life as a civilian by the time the Twin Towers came down and he enlisted. His age, experience, and willingness to openly criticize arcane military procedure were just plain annoying to many of his peers and junior leaders. But give “gramps” his due. He was happier to serve with you than he let on. At least I was. As a 41-year-old enlistee who deployed twice with the 82nd Airborne Division, here’s what I came to understand.