Thousands of men and women are graduating from the University of Alabama on Saturday, but one of those graduates deserves a special salute for serving his country first.
Robert Brackbill is putting on his cap and gown for graduation, but before that he proudly wore the United States Army uniform for 20 years.
When he was 18, Brackbill knew he wasn’t ready for college. Instead, he joined the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
“I knew their mission was to jump out of perfectly good airplanes and I thought, you know what, this is going to be a life experience that I’m going to be able to enjoy and deal with,” Brackbill said.
During his 20 years of service, Brackbill spent four years in combat zones, including Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002 and Operation New Dawn in 2014. He said while he was away, he’d keep in contact with his wife and son through Skype as often as possible.
But Brackbill said after four years of college, he’s just getting started.
“Military members are very goal-oriented, so I have mine laid out,” he said. “As I reach them, I check them off and move on to the next one.”
Next is a master’s degree, then a management job with a great company, and then plenty of time to enjoy life with his family. Through it all, his top priority is instilling in his son all the things life has taught him.
“We don’t train for second place,” Brackbill said. “We win. I want him to have that kind of willpower and that kind of drive that will help him be successful in anything he wants to do in life.”