Since childhood, Gerald Myers has wanted to be in the military.

Because his father was a regular army man and Vietnam veteran, and his mother was a nurse and a lieutenant in the U. S. Navy, he had to flip a coin to decide which branch of the service to join.

The army won out and he signed up a couple of days before Christmas in 1994.

Currently on leave after spending the past year in Afghanistan, Myers has not yet adjusted to “civilian” life and is still in battle mode.

“I’m afraid people think I’m rude because I’m staring at them,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out which one of them wants to kill me.”

A member of Charlie Company 1st/180th, Myers’ unit has spent more time in the field than most other units.

He talked about an “average” day in the field.

“We did what we called ‘shoot and scoot’ where we would fire our mortars then pack up everything and move, and then do it all over again,” he said. “It was a great idea. We never kept the same schedule, so it kept the Taliban from being able to pinpoint what we were going to do. The Taliban took off when they knew we were after them.”

Myers described the Taliban as “fair weather fighters,” saying they would attack at night or after a rainstorm, and then go into Pakistan to re-group.

“It’s just lucky that they never hit us,” said Myers. “We were getting shot at and two RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) went right over my head. They would have gotten us, except we were in a hole and they went over our heads.”

In addition to the daily grind of “shoot and scoot,” Myers’ unit has experienced the horrors of a 10-day firefight in the Pech Valley, also known as the “Valley of Death.”

“It’s a good name for it,” said Myers, who lost a good friend in the valley.

“When I saw them blow up the lieutenant’s vehicle, it was bad,” said Myers. “I cried for days.”

Fortunately, Myers’ unit captured the man who was responsible, and he ended up giving them information on Taliban activities in the area.

A personable man who is a loyal friend, Myers has made many friends in Afghanistan, soldiers and Afghanis alike.

One in particular was a young Afghani boy who suffered severe facial injuries after picking up an old Russian mine. Although Myers never learned the boys name, the two became fast friends.

“I loved that kid,” said Myers, fighting back tears. “He never asked for anything, and he always clung to us when we left.”

Sadly, the boy was placed in an orphanage for children whose parents had been killed by the Taliban, or whose parents were no longer able to care for them.

Myers wears a black engraved bracelet to honor another friend who died in combat. The bracelet reads, in part, “Sgt. Buddy “Doc” Hughie...KIA 19 Feb. 2007 Afghanistan, In memory of a great soldier, father and friend.”

“We heard that Doc was killed while helping a soldier who had been shot,” said Myers. “He ran up and tried to save this guy’s life and wound up getting shot. It was cold and rainy that night, and I just stood there crying. The soldiers in my unit were brothers, when one of us hurt, we all hurt.”

In contrast, however, Myers’ time spent in Afghanistan was sometimes enjoyable.

“On Christmas eve and Christmas day, we had a bonfire and had a great old time,” Myers recalled. “We talked about family, and everything but the military, and had a great Christmas dinner.”

After leaving Af-ghanistan, Myers spent time in Colorado Springs and two weeks at a leadership course at Camp Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska. He said the USO in Colorado and Alaska were there to thank soldiers for their service.

“They gave us McDonald’s hamburgers and sodas and we really appreciated it,” he said.

While Myers said army food was good, the hamburgers from McDonald’s were a special treat.

“There were two things we missed,” he said. “We really wished Afghanistan would get a McDonald’s and a Wal-Mart.”

While Myers and his fellow soldiers were treated well when they landed in Colorado Springs, it was a different situation when they landed at the Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) airport.

First, their flight was canceled.

“Then the airline people ignored us and wouldn’t even talk to us,” said Myers. “They refused to transfer our tickets to another airline, and said we would have to take another flight late that night.”

After waiting around the airport for their luggage to arrive, Myers and a friend rented a car and drove themselves home instead.

Myers still has his unused airline ticket, which he plans to give back to the army so they can get a refund.

Myers’ wife Stephanie is happy to have her husband home safely.

“It got to where I had to stop watching the news,” she said. “I would hear about soldiers being killed and I would try to e-mail him just to see if he was all right.”

While Stephanie had plenty to keep herself occupied while her husband was in Afghanistan, with three children, two grandchildren, work and school, she worried about him nonetheless, and is relieved to have him home, if only for a short time.

Step daughter Amber, 20, is also glad to have Myers home.

“I’m just glad he’s here and safe,” she said. “He’s the only dad I’ve ever known. And now he can get to know his two grandsons.”

But Myers may not be home for long.

“I’ll be home until the 45th goes to Iraq,” said Myers. “I have the option to stay or go. I’ll definitely go if they need me. There’s a lot of teens going, and they’re young and scared, and don’t know what they’re getting into. I can go with them and help them out. I want to make a difference. I want to help them go there strong, so they will come back home without losing a guy. I like the military and always will. It has taken care of me.”

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