Choice of Army lands soldier on helicopter crew
On what seemed like an ordinary Tuesday morning Sept. 11, 2001, Jaimeson Bard was sitting in a freshman math class at Tonganoxie High School when he heard news that would change his life forever.
As he found out what was happening at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., Bard couldn’t help but wonder what was happening and how something like that could happen in his country.
It was at that point he decided once he was old enough, he would join the military to protect his family, friends and the country he loves.
“I thought I would make a difference for my country,” the now 22-year-old said about his decision.
For three years Bard has been a soldier in the U.S. Army.
When the time came for Bard to enlist, he went into a Kansas City, Kan., recruiting station with the full intention of joining the U.S. Marine Corps. As soon as he stepped into the Marine recruiter’s office, he was stopped and asked by the recruiter if he knew what two plus three was. When Bard correctly answered with five, he said the recruiter told him he was too smart for the Marines and told to go down to the Army.
“I thought that was the funniest thing ever,” Bard said about the incident. “To this day that is what keeps me motivated sometimes, just that little bit of humor.”
Bard says he thinks he made the right choice and is proud to serve in the Army.
He said that he had always been mechanically inclined and the results from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery backed up his beliefs. Bard qualified to work as a mechanic for light vehicles, the Blackhawk helicopter or Chinook helicopter. After a little research, he chose the Blackhawk for its speed and versatility.
In January 2008, Bard was deployed to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, Afghanistan, to serve as a crew chief on a Blackhawk.
“I love the job I’m in,” Bard said. “I love working on Blackhawks. I love flying in them; I love everything about them.”
A self-described hellraiser as a teen, Bard said he matured quickly in Afghanistan.
In his time there, he has seen incidents such as aircraft being shot down by enemy fire and two of his friends getting hit with shrapnel.
Bard himself was hit with shrapnel on his shoulder from a mortar that exploded near his Blackhawk when he was on the ground.
“We’ve had close calls,” he said “Way too close calls for my comfort.”
Although nobody in his unit has died, Bard said he has attended 37 fallen comrade ceremonies for U.S. and allied soldiers.
He said the ceremonies for fallen allied soldiers always affect him the most.
“You think of the U.S. as a stand-alone country, but when you’re out there and you see everyone in their different uniforms … it’s more comforting to know that you are not the only ones defending freedom not just for the U.S., but every country,” Bard said. “You don’t feel like you are out in the war by yourself.”
Bard returned from his first tour in Afghanistan just before Christmas in 2008. He said the feelings of finally being back home were bittersweet at first.
“It’s along the lines of feeling reassured that you are still here and still alive; that you’ve made it through something that not everybody else can experience,” he said. “Two or three days later you realize that not everybody that left home with you got to come back. It’s one of the most emotionally challenging things I’ve had to experience. You lose friends, you lose comrades you lose your brothers, but you still have your daily life you have to live.”
He said his time overseas has taught him how to view life differently. He has been doing a lot of things he’s always wanted to do, such as downhill mountain biking.
“You focus better on little things than on big things,” he said “You don’t realize how much little things matter until your meals consist of three — or sometimes two or one — cold meals a day.”
In March, Bard will be deployed to the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan for his second of three tours.
Although he isn’t sure what the mission or the political climate will be when he returns to Afghanistan, he said he would keep an optimistic view about it.
“All I’m doing is trying to protect my friends and family so when my kids grow up they’ll have a safe country to live in,” he said.