Third-generation Paratrooper Deploys
(December 28, 2009)
Army Sgt. 1st Class John Bushnell, deployed to Camp Ramadi, Iraq, represents the third generation of his family to serve in combat with the 82nd Airborne Division.
||CAMP RAMADI, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2009 – In the dew-laden predawn
darkness of June 6, 1944, Everton Bushnell jumped into
Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France, with the two-year-old 82nd
Airborne Division. Twenty-five years later, his son,
Ellsworth Bushnell, fought with the “All Americans” in
Vietnam and spent six months as a prisoner of war.
And in September of this year, Army Sgt. 1st Class John
Bushnell became the third generation of Bushnells to wear
the All American patch to a war zone when he deployed to
Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Special
Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade.
For the military intelligence electronic repair specialist,
it has been the golden chalice of his 13-year Army career.
Its attainment marked the fulfillment of a family tradition
that at times seemed like the prize of an Indiana Jones
Bushnell knows what it's like to part of a small unit, cut
off from the main body.
“It's called recruiting,” he joked. |
“Where I spent the last 45 months on recruiting duty, most
people had never seen an active-duty soldier in their lives.
In the Army, they teach you how to work with people during
seven weeks of recruiting training, but when you get out
there on your own and are no longer surrounded by other
soldiers, it's completely different,” he said.
Bushnell proved to be an exceptional recruiter, earning his
gold badge and recruiting ring while bringing an average of
5.6 new soldiers into the Army every month, nearly three
times the standard of two. Yet, having deployed as a
paratrooper with the 1st Corps Support Command to Iraq in
2003-04, the four hours of daily “cold calling” from a
recruiting office left him unfulfilled.
Most of Bushnell's complaining about wanting to deploy again
fell on the kindred ears of other recruiters. But one day, a
man standing in a Canton, Ohio, unemployment office
overheard his bellyaching to be deployed again. The man
turned out to be then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. Three months
later, Bushnell received a flag that had been flown over the
Capitol and a letter from DeWine thanking him for his
service. But no orders off the recruiting outpost.
What he did enjoy as a recruiter was the visits by local
veterans. One day, he recalled, an older man came into his
office asking for a couple of key chains. The Army-branded
merchandise was supposed to be given to high school
students, but Bushnell saved much of it for the vets.
“Are you a veteran, sir?” Bushnell asked.
“Yeah, I was in Vietnam. I was infantry,” said the man, a
Mr. Luco. He was also part of the veteran biker group,
Rolling Thunder. Bushnell gave him the key chains and
thanked him for his service.
“No, thank you for what you all are doing,” Luco replied.
“It's much harder than what we did.”
“No sir, I wouldn't be in this uniform if it weren't for
what your generation did,” Bushnell told the man. “We've
just picked up where you guys left off.”
Then the vet told Bushnell a story. His grandfather had
given his father a silver dollar to carry for luck in the
Korean War. His father passed that same coin to him before
he shipped to Vietnam. One night, Luco said, the Viet Cong
encamped around his unit, pinning the soldiers in a swamp
for two and a half weeks. He rubbed that coin the entire
time, he said.
Bushnell loaded Luco down with T-shirts, coffee mugs and
other promotional items, nearly bringing the man to tears.
“This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” the
Two hours later, Luco reappeared, this time dressed in his
biker's garb. “I just wanted you to see how we dressed, and
to thank you again,” he said, but when he shook Bushnell's
hand, he passed off that silver-dollar coin.
“It took every bit of discipline that I had not to break
down in that office,” Bushnell said.
The first time he was “coined,” Bushnell was a young
specialist. His children were conducting airborne operations
from the back of the family van in the post exchange parking
lot on Fort Bragg, N.C.
Army Lt. Gen. Dan McNeil, commander of 18th Airborne Corps,
suddenly appeared. “Tell me, specialist,” he asked Bushnell,
“do these young paratroopers plan to join the Army?”
Bushnell hadn't joined the army himself until the age of 27.
Raised on a 300-acre farm, he followed the rodeo circuit for
a while after high school. Eventually, he married his high
school sweetheart, Jenni, and took up trucking. In 1993, he
heard the call to serve.
After basic training at Fort Knox, Ky., he served in South
Korea, Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Bragg, though with the
20th Engineering Brigade and 1st Corps Support Command –
never with the 82nd. In spite of his constant pleading, the
family tradition seemed to elude him.
For his indefinite re-enlistment – the one obligating his
service to retirement – Bushnell traveled to his hometown of
Tallmadge, Ohio, named for Revolutionary War Maj. Benjamin
Tallmadge. While on recruiting duty, Bushnell was asked to
present a new memorial in his hometown square to those who
had fallen in combat since the Revolutionary War. It was a
“I told them, I don't want a bonus. Just get me to [the
82nd],” he said.
In August 2009, Bushnell pinned on the rank of sergeant
first class as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.
“It was a proud moment,” he said, “but what I remember most
was putting the AA patch on my shoulder in 82nd Replacement
in the Hall of Heroes. Holy cow,” I remember thinking, “I am
Don't unpack, they told him. In his career specialty of
repairing anything that receives, transmits or stores
top-secret information, there were only two open slots in
the entire Army for his new pay grade. More than likely,
before the current deployment is over, Bushnell will receive
orders to Fort Huachuca, Ariz. In the meantime, he will
serve here as a platoon sergeant with Company B, 1st Brigade
Special Troops Battalion.
“I always wanted [a specialty] with top-secret clearance
that would give me a bigger picture of the Army,” Bushnell
said. The downside is that his rank and job restrict where
he is useful to the Army. Most of the Army's intelligence
equipment is covered under warranty should it break down, he
Bushnell's time with the 82nd will be but a brief
intersection. His time in service is greater than his
grandfather's and father's combined; neither spent more than
a few years with the division or the Army. To wear the patch
and to serve, and to be a part of the All American heritage,
always was his goal.
“Was coming to the 82nd a good move career-wise?” he asked.
“I don't know. But yes, it's been worth the fight to get
here. For the family tradition, for my personal motivation,
to just be a part of the greatest Army division in the world
– it fulfills a longstanding dream.”
Stay tuned for more Bushnell paratroopers. The kids are
approaching recruitment age.
Article and photo by Army Spc. Michael J. MacLeod
Multinational Force West with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade public affairs office
American Forces Press Service
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