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..."
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.