Jimmy is about 5′ 7″, and the first things you notice about him are his round bald head, his youthful smile, and his thick broad shoulders.
Jimmy was 17 when he entered in the Air Force.
Born in Salina, Kansas, in 1961, his father was a mechanical engineer in the automobile industry, and soon, his family’s path took them to Detroit, Michigan, and then later to Kansas City, Missouri, where he attended and finished high school- and then joined the military. He got out of boot camp in the top of his class, and ended up as a military policeman on an air force base in North Dakota, until he was promoted to an armory manager. His CO liked him, and asked him if he would like to train as an Army Ranger.
“Where is training at?”
With quick reflection on the cold winters of North Dakota, he answered “Sure.”
And like that, he was off to become a Ranger, attending jump school in the process and acquiring paratrooper wings.
His two-term career in the Air Force continued as he managed arms and munitions on an Army-Air Force post, and his daily duties demanded liaison with the Army guys on arms procurements, disbursements, and check-outs. The Air Force guys were mellow about the admin stuff, but the Army guys were grunts, used to recognizing chain-of-command authority and getting stuff done. So, after 8 years, he re-enlisted in the military as a soldier.
This tour took him to Kuwait and Iraq as a modern mortar man- a Stinger missile operator, where he was trained to use the infrared homing surface-to-air missile against enemy bogeys. With his arms training came a stint at an ari traffic controller school, where he learned how to identify aircraft by their WEFT- wings, engine, fuselage, and tail features- planes flown by friendlies and foes. He served for a stint on a security detail at an intelligence data center at an RAF airbase in England.
Jimmy saw his fair amount of experience as a combat vet in the field. After the first Gulf War, he received head trauma when he was struck by some falling equipment on his base, and after 15 years, he received a medical discharge.
After that, he had skills as a military man and a security officer, and the Middle East seemed a suitable place to use them at the time. Western oil firms were hiring security personnel to protect their fields in Iraq and Kuwait and Syria, and Jimmy earned in excess of $150,000 a year watching refineries and pipeline for a few years.
Jimmy’s injuries still bothered him, and he returned home to the states to be around his parents in Kansas City, and he ended up having two kids of his own: two daughters.
Jimmy’s life has seen its moments of deep pain. Beside his own experiences dealing with the after effects of being a soldier (Jimmy suffers from PTSD aside from his physical disabilities), Jimmy has felt the grief of losing two close to him.
When Jimmy was in his early twenties and home for a break from the military, he and his brother were sleeping in a barn on land owned by their parents in New Jersey- and somehow, the structure caught on fire. Jimmy got out of the building, and the last words he remembers his 16 year-old brother crying before he died in the fire were his name.
Several years ago, his 28 year-old daughter, who had dealt with depression heavily for most of her adult years, took her own life.
Jimmy is 56 now, and when his parents passed away in the Midwest, he decided to relocate, and New Mexico sounded ideal. With nearly 300 days of sunshine every year and many roads to indulge his love for motrocycling on, Jimmy had no reservations about coming west. Retired and on a lucked-into disability stipend from the armed forces, his material needs are pretty covered at this point in time. He loves to bike with his buddies. He loves to barbecue (“Kansas City style- you don’t find that much here in town”, he quips). He’s started taking photos now when he’s on the road and wanders into cool spots. He loves watching football. He’s also just bought a greenhouse so he can try his hand at gardening next summer. He tries to serve his buddies once in a while, fellow vets, at veteran centers and events. He just picked up a new Indian trike from a dealer in Ohio that will allow him to cycle with more peace- his head injury has begun to affect his sense of balance in recet years.
I asked Jimmy about jump school and his parachute training when he was becoming a Ranger- what was that like. “It was straight forward. You didn’t learn to do anything special- the procedure is meant to to be simple. You jump, you fall, and at the right time, you deploy your T-10 (parachute). These weren’t steerable like modern parachutists use. These chutes were like the ones you see guys in from the old movies. You jumped, you fell, and you opened, and hoped there weren’t trees under you.
“There were no casualties in our jump school program. The guys who do get killed usually didn’t listen when they were taught how to pack their chutes. The guys who get hurt are the ones who jump and keep their legs straight and don’t roll. When you are coming down hard, you learn how to fall to one side and roll to keep your legs from getting hurt. The guys who didn’t roll ended up getting hurt.”