My Caleb Campbell soapbox

May 14, 2008 |

So the Caleb Campbell story has taken on a life of its own.

His story is well documented as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, who   because of a clause that was created by the Army, had a chance to go play professional sports and was drafted by the Detroit Lions.

Campbell will have to serve his obligations as a recruiter in the Detroit area while he is with the Lions. Don’t think that recruiting is some cupcake job that Caleb is getting either. Try convincing some kid that it is in their best interest to join the military when all they see on TV is how soldiers are treated and the thousands of them that have lost their lives serving overseas.

Plus with recruiting, Caleb and his recruiting station will be required to meet a certain quota that is set for them as far as potential recruits for the Army.

Recruiting is a position in the Army that they are always trying to get soldiers to go to school for, and it is not an easy thing to do. You would be amazed at the number of soldiers who turn down a chance to go to recruiting school, because of all of the headaches that are involved with it.

I am by no means saying that it is more trying then serving overseas, so please don’t take it that way.
I served six and a half years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic, and just for the record, being a medic does not equal working in a hospital your whole career in the Army.

I served with the 1st Battalion 9th Infantry in Camp Hovey, South Korea…Manchu’s got the belt buckle for the 25 mile, 40-pound rucksack march to prove it.

I also served with the Big Red One armored battalion in Ft. Riley, Kansas, where one summer I was selected as a medic to spend the summer at West Point. West Point is one of the most breath taking places I have ever been, and trust me no one is going to West Point thinking they are headed to a life of pro sports.

Then due to an illness that my oldest son suffers from, I was reassigned for his medical needs to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., where I served for over four years. I never served overseas or in a combat zone, the only thing that came close to it was working in the WRAMC emergency room on 911 and responding to the attacks on the Pentagon.
I say all that to say that if I was Caleb Campbell, I would have done the same thing. Campbell is getting treated by some as if he is some horrible person because he had a chance to go play professional sports. Caleb has done nothing wrong in this situation.

If SFC Watson had come to me when I was in Ft. Riley, Kansas sleeping out in the field and said “Casey, I’ve seen you play basketball and I think you should have a chance to go play NBA basketball,” I would have asked, “Where do I sign up?”

Does that make me not support my country as much as the next guy?

I don’t see anyone all up in arms about the other 1,000 ways people can get out of the military, and trust me if you really want to get out, you can find a way out.

I came down on orders to go to Ft. Lewis Washington right after 911. I had to have 24 months of service left and I had something like 22 left, so I had the option of getting out of the Army or re-enlisting. I chose to get out, partly because I was recently married and did not want to move my family across the United States and partly because I was having serious knee issues after a incident in Korea, and partly because I had been offered a civilian job doing the same thing I was doing in the Army in the same part of the hospital for way more money.

Does that make me not loyal or a bad person?

I don’t think so; I have an honorable discharge from the military. There was a chance for me to get out and so I did.

I think that more people need to go serve in the military, even if it is just for two years. I always tell people that it was some of the best times of my entire life and would recommend it to anyone.

I am who I am today – or at least 90% of it — because of the time I spent in the Army. I still get emotional at times when I hear the Star Spangled Banner, because I know what that represents.

I feel for the families who get that knock on their door telling them their son, daughter, mother, father, brother, whomever has lost his or her life in combat. I know what it is like to watch as a fellow soldier is laid in the ground for paying the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
I think Caleb Campbell will help the Army with getting people to join.

Let’s be honest, the Army might lose 5 people over the next 10 years to a pro sport, but if they get 100 more to join, that is all that matters. Is it the smartest thing ever? Maybe not the smartest recruiting tool ever, but let’s be honest, the doors at the recruiting stations are probably not getting knocked down with people coming in to sign up.

I also do not doubt for one second that if things don’t work out for Caleb in the NFL, he will be all for continuing his service to the military.

Good luck Caleb, I am pulling for you.