I wrote this story as a feature for a friends blog, but I've decided to share it here also to give you a little more insight on my background. It was actually pretty personal and extremely difficult to write the last part, and please keep in mind the funeral pictures are real not just random images from google.
If you've already read the first post this one is still worth a look.
A small town country kid who believed in the American Dream is where it all began for me. They said you could do anything and be whatever you want to be as you worked hard and put your mind to it. For me however that all seemed far fetched. All I knew was the small town of Ettrick, located in the southern most part of Chesterfield County, Virginia. The population back in the earlier days of my childhood was right around 1200, most of which was comprised of college students at Virginia State University, so contact with the outside world was limited. Home computers and the Internet weren't apart of my home until years later. I was raised by my Mother, the very best mother anyone could've asked for. We may not have had a lot of money, but what I did have was love and a supporting family which would take me a very long way.
|Science Museum Display|
My mother noticed I took to things that move, more so than most children. I'll admit trains were the first thing that peeked my interest since I use to walk to the train tracks about a quarter mile away from my house and watch the long CSX trains go by, and the AMTRAK Superliner from New York blaze through on the way to Florida. So for Christmas one year I received a model train set which quickly became my favorite new toy. At least until I took a field trip to the Science Museum on Broad Street in Richmond, VA. There I saw what looked like a weird but fascinating model of a person in an all white suit with boots and a bubble helmet. We were in the part of the museum dedicated to Space Flight, and here is where my curiosity for things that flew began to peek. I'd always gazed up into the sky and watch low flying airplanes on their way into what was called Byrd Field, which is now known as Richmond International Airport, with the same fascination that I had for watching the trains. That day I made up my mind that I would either be an Astronaut or I would fly. And my mother, being the great mom that she is, didn't laugh or tell me I couldn't do it. She did just the opposite and told me that I could. I remember it as if it was yesterday. The next day after school we went to the library and she checked out a video about spaceflight (it told the story of the shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope with Astronaut Story Musgrave) and some books about airplanes. It was the best week ever, as I re-watched the film over and over. The next week got better as I received a book titled "Aircraft of the World" with cutouts of different type of aircraft which can be seen in the post titled "Standing Tall and Looking Good" on my blog. (standingtalll.blogspot.com) Eventually I received my own library card and began to dive into anything that was related to flying. At the time I was only probably in the 3rd or 4th grade. That's when we knew I was going to grow up and be a little different. I studied hard and made good grades all the way up until high school.
|CSX Train on the tracks in Ettrick|
Fast Forward to the end of high school. I still loved aviation, and still wanted to fly more than anything. I had a descent GPA, and had some options for colleges. However I chose the military. You're probably thinking Air Force right? Well not quite. The Air Force had a waiting list at the time and I wanted to get out and live and experience things on my own and have my college paid for so that my Mom would not have that burden. So at only 17 years old I enlisted in the United States Army on an initial contract that obligated me to 4 years of service doing network communications . In hindsight it's one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I've been to many different parts of the world that I thought I would have never seen. My first duty station was in Seoul, South Korea, where I would live for one year. At the ripe age of 18 it was a magnificent experience that I will never forget. I then went on to live in Seattle for some years, and now in Killeen, TX. Amsterdam, Portugal, Kuwait, Qatar, Germany and some other places have been visited throughout my travels in this career as well. One of the more interesting things I did get to see was the inside of Saddam Hussein's Al Faw Palace. He was a sick man but I must admit he had a beautiful home.
|Inside Al Faw Palace|
|Above the Rotunda in Saddam's Palace|
|Palace from the front gate, located in Baghdad, Iraq|
However, like most things in life, it hasn't been all fun and games. I've given 24 months of my life in support of the war on terrorism. 12 months in Iraq and another 12 months in Afghanistan all within a three year time period. People come and go for various reasons in the military, but the one that hurts the most is when you know they are never coming back. I've lost friends to combat injuries as well as suicides. The impact on the families is immense and I've seen it first hand. I will never forget those people that we have lost. To me you will always be more than a number displayed briefly on CNN with the death toll.
|Mountain Patrol in Afghanistan|
|RIP SPC Sarina Butcher|
|RIP SGT Lamar Johnson|
Keep in mind I said I do network communications. It's a job I can say that I enjoy but it isn't flying. Throughout the years the urge to take to the skies just wouldn't go away. Near the end of my first enlistment I was all set to get out of the Army and pursue my dream of becoming a pilot. My paperwork was all signed and ready to go and I was going to head of to what was then known as the "Delta Connection Academy", but I let the nay-sayers in the Army convince me that the economy was too bad and I ended up staying in. Shame on me and my mother let it be known that I didn't make the choice to stay in for the right reasons. It was a year after that decision where I found myself on a camp along the mountain tops in Afghanistan wishing I never signed up for more time.
Which lead me to where I am today. Today I'm back home in Texas safe and in one piece with just over 15 months remaining on my contract. I am currently enrolled in the Aviation Science program at Central Texas College pursuing my dream which is ironically enough being paid for due to my service in the Army by way of the VA. I will be going from my PPL to Commercial Pilots License at CTC, and then transferring to Texas A&M University to complete my bachelors degree and Multi-Engine License as well as CFI, CFI-I, and MEI certifications without spending a dime out of my own pocket. Another reason joining was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I took the controls of an airplane for the first time on the 30th of May 2013, and haven't looked back since. My instructor is great, the fellow students at the school are great as well, and through the Internet I've met many helpful and genuine people. My mother and family are still very supportive as is my beautiful Fiancee. This time there's nothing anybody can say to be to stand in my way.I'm definitely going to enjoy this ride and it's only just beginning. My name is Justin Campbell and this has been "My Story"