After eight years of military service, Eli Brown, English teacher Arantxa Arriada’s boyfriend, is planning to retire from the army in February of next month and return to the United State. On Friday, October 5, Brown spent some of his weekend back with Arriada’s sophomore World Lit classes, discussing his experience in the services as a supplement to their current novel, “All Quiet On the Western Front.”
During his visit, Brown, 26 years old, proudly addressed the class in his army uniform jacket. First Brown discussed his extensive training, which ranged from helicopter rappelling and mountaineering to hand-to-hand combat training.
Then he opened the floor for questions about combat and responded to comments.
“Video games … some of them really are like combat,” Brown said. “Thing slow down, and you get angry if someone interrupts you. The only bad thing is that you don’t get a restart.”
Just after graduating from high school and beginning community college in 2000, Brown was young, bored and eager to “see the world.” On a whim Brown signed up for the army and has been representing his country ever since.
Brown, who has served on site in Iraq for the past 13 months, just recently returned to his base in Tennessee and is scheduled to continue service there until his return home early next year.
“[In Iraq], there isn’t really a defined enemy in uniform,” Brown said. “I don’t think of them as good or bad. They’re just guys defending their country.”
When asked whether he regrets his decision to sign up for the army, Brown admits that he didn’t realize what he was signing up for when he enlisted.
“It’s not like the commercials—it’s not a party. We have long hours and physically tiring days,” Brown said. “And then there are other times where all I have to do all day is sweep a floor.”
Soldiers receive excellent benefits, including expense-free college courses, full medical and dental coverage and post-retirement income that can really add up. However, in combat there are obvious costs and extreme dangers.
“It’s a big decision to make,” Brown said. “I’ve seen a lot of people who are pretty traumatized. In a way, you give up the civil liberties that you’re fighting for. You have no real freedom. I think that’s what I missed most about being home.”
Emotionally, he said he is a completely different person now. But many of the skills Brown obtained will have a positive effect on his future plans. He believes that the army has taught him to be more perceptive and efficient than he ever could have ever been after sitting in a school lecture hall.
“I’ve seen stuff and I’ve done stuff that most people don’t have to do,” Brown said. “My experience definitely made it easier to make a quick decision when something unexpected happens.”
When he returns home for good, Brown plans to taken some college courses and figure out what he’d like to do with the rest of his life. He wants to become a police officer or firefighter so he can completely utilize the skills he gained in the army.
Now that her boyfriend is back, Arriada feels like their relationship has been strengthened by the distance.
“So often we take our loved ones for granted, but with us, I don’t see that happening,” Arriada said. “Now that he’s back, I feel like I appreciate him more.”