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By Mindy Crandall
Many Americans have stood tall, raised their right hands to their heart and recited the words to the Pledge of Allegiance.
To be honest, I am one of them who have said, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, many times, but never really understood the magnitude and power in which this oath was written or should be performed.
Our school systems today has banned the idea of letting students today show their patriotism, their love for their country and the founding principals in which it was formed, but it hasn’t been abolished all together. The Star Spangled Banner – the National Anthem is still performed before the start of most baseball games, America’s favorite past time. This is one form of patriotism that still exists. For this I am thankful.
I also know and am thankful that after sitting down with Bruce Evans, a semi-retired E7 First Class Sergeant, I have a new outlook on this ballad. When just thinking about freedom and liberty and the chords of commitment, I think of the soldiers who secure this concept.
There are many branches of military. The most common is the Army. Be All That You Can Be, the Army’s slogan personifies Bruce Evans.
He joined the Army in 1983, shortly after graduating from Ava High School. Bruce tried his hand at college, but quickly learned he wasn’t really the college type. His hopes were to learn how to run heavy equipment while serving one tour. It didn’t take long and he realized that this was the path in which he was to take and he was hooked.
After basic training, Evans was deployed to Panama for three years. During that time, he married Becky, his wife and became a father to son, Jake.
Bruce enjoyed bringing civilization to Panama. While there a road was constructed, local schools and hospitals were built and the people of Panama now began to see a whole new life.
Bruce left the Army and returned to his hometown for a year and a half in 1988. His father had been hurt and he knew he was needed at home, but he began to miss the Army life, and as his dad was doing better, he re-enlisted. This time, he was training to become a Green Beret.
The Green Beret is the United States Army Special Forces, recognized for their distinctive head gear. They have six primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue and counter terrorism. The first two emphasize language, cultural and training skills in working with foreign troops.
He finished his Green Beret schooling in Georgia shortly after Desert Storm broke out. Evans said, “To be a Green Beret, you must be stupid enough to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.” At first, he thought he missed his shot at going into Kuwait City, but later realized that wasn’t the case as he endured three trips there. While in that area, he linked up with foreign armies to train them for combat. Part of his schooling, consisted of learning how to read, write and speak the Arabic language. This allowed him to better understand the customs of the people and friendships were formed. They loved him there!
After leaving the Green Beret, Bruce went back into his unit and a week before his five year-old son’s Christmas, left for Somalia. This was always tough on the family, as there was nothing routine about being in the Army. You just get the call, jump on a plane and go.
For two years afterwards, Bruce became a drill sergeant. He had to help weed out the pack and search for boys and girls that truly wanted to be in the Army to protect their country.
Bruce said he was always commended for being a great drill sergeant and he contributes that to some things instilled in him at a young age by his parents. His mom always taught her family, opportunity. “Everyone had the same opportunity, there was no such thing as a man’s work or women’s work, we all had the same opportunity to wash dishes and take out the trash.” He used this same concept when doling out jobs among those in basic training.
If given a map, I don’t think there would be many places overseas that Bruce could say he hadn’t been. He did a demining mission in Jordan and was invited to a party at their captain’s house. Boiled goat on a bed of rice covered in custard sauce was the main entrée. He sat amongst the people and ate with his hands, as this was their custom. He also traveled to Honduras to help build an air field.
Bruce has been in the military for many years, but when asked to narrow down the one experience that meant the most, he responded, “It would have to be Uzbekistan in the year 2000.
I grew up thinking the Soviet Union was the bad guys. On this mission, I was there to train them. We were teaching them basic army operations as well as first aid. The most important command was to train their military in mountain operation. I knew that whatever I taught them, they were using to fight their own battle. Their lives rest in my hands, as I hoped I gave them the knowledge and ability to return home to their families safely.”
At times during the interview, I could see emotion and memories flash before Bruce. He is committed to our country. His faith and family are everything. When faced in the worst situations, like the time he had 13 machine guns pointed at him at an Islamic base camp in Somalia, he knows a choice is to be made – to survive or to go home to a better place. Bruce says, “You ask yourself, how big is your God?” I know the answer. Faith is a big part of living this life. Evans says, “I believe there are no atheists in a fox hole.” To me, that put it in perspective.
A soldier doesn’t fight because he hates the person in front of him, but because he loves the people behind him. No truer words could be said. Bruce and other soldiers continue to fight the battle in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they don’t bring the fight to American soil.
Since his retirement in 2005, Bruce has been deployed to Iraq and on two short missions in Afghanistan. The difference – he isn’t a soldier, but a contractor and has a little more say in when he leaves.
In all of this, Bruce has relied a lot on his wife, Becky. She has been his strength at times it didn’t seem possible. There has been only one instance when she questioned Bruce on his decision. Bruce wanted to train at Ranger school, but wasn’t able to after catching two strains of malaria while in Somalia. On his second attempt, he had two jaw teeth knocked out. They knew God was telling them something.
The family has definitely dealt with trials and hardships as their son, Jake, was injured in Afghanistan just shy of a year ago. A milestone has been accomplished knowing this couple has lasted 26 years.
When asked why you do it knowing it’s hard on the body and the marriage among other things, Bruce quickly quoted Merl Haggard, “If you don’t love it then leave it!” “I love my country. I could of stayed home and became a dumb farmer boy and fight for my families freedom here, or I can be there and fight for every families freedom.” To that I salute you!
As it seems the world today has gotten used to war and the loss of patriotism among the young and the importance of our pledge.
Take time to think of those who fight long and hard for our freedom. Think about their sacrifice, love and honor!