Captain Nathan Edward Brookshire is currently an active duty commissioned officer with the US Army. He has served for 21 years with multiple deployments to numerous combat zones.
It was a disarming moment when, poised with my notebook, I set out to interview him. Looking to sketch a profile of a military man, I planned to ask about his education and some background notes, perhaps about his family. What I discovered was that he was part of a more complex matrix of people and programs that motivate and develop the men and women of America’s armed forces.
Like many ordinary folks, most of my knowledge of service men and women comes not from personal experience but from popular culture—movies, books and carefully clipped news videos and media reportage.
Reality naturally points to armed forces personnel as members of the larger society we all share. It stands to reason that they would reflect the diverse origins, opinions and potential of America’s general population.
“Nate” Brookshire is young enough to be rooted in contemporary culture. He is steeped these days in social media and outreach to bring attention to issues close to the daily life of a military man. He is especially concerned with the challenges returning soldiers face and their individual success at reintegration to life as we’ve all lived while they deployed.
Before exploring how he came to be active on this ‘front’, here’s a pop culture snap shot:
The David Letterman Top 10 List style summary of scintillating facts about Nathan Brookshire
1) Is a passionate Elvis fan
2) Guarded and met President Clinton during his visit to Bosnia in 1997
3) Met President Bush, shortly after the President had a shoe thrown at him
4) Got to Fly an F-16 on a training mission
5) Has 7 beautiful children and 1 new grandchild
6) Is a Kentucky Colonel
7) Was in a Stryker Rollover in Mosul Iraq that caused a mild head injury
8) His father is a Vietnam vet who served on PCF 94
9) Has 21 Years of Service and entered into the Army at age 18 as a Private.
10) Is a descendant of the Mannering Brookshire branch of the family who ventured to Kentucky. The family tree includes Texas Ranger CPT Nathan Brookshire who founded Brookshire, Texas.
Deep roots of service
Brookshire always understood that he would serve his country.
“My Dad was a Vietnam Veteran. James Brookshire is listed on the crew roster of the PCF 94 (the Swift Boat that garnered attention during the Kerry / Bush Campaign). My Dad retired from the Naval Reserve after 27 years as a Chief Boatswains mate. Although he is private about his service, I do know that seeing my Dad in his uniform inspired me.”
Brookshire originally joined the Coast Guard at the persistence of his father. “Then I went to see an Air Force Recruiter.”
As it happens, that service representative was not in his office. Brookshire engaged in conversation with an Army Recruiter who convinced the young man of the merits of being a “COP” at age 18.
“On the front porch of the family home,” says Brookshire, “My Dad signed the papers.”
“He wasn’t too wild about having me join the Army. I shipped off to Basic Training in August 1990 as Private Brookshire. I don’t think I even considered any other options…. besides the choice of services.”
“I have been to a lot of places. Seen a lot of things. Witnessed people be holy on the mountaintop and be down and laughing with the rest in the valley—above all, I have tried to be a “Good” Soldier. There is no greater honor than to be entrusted with the lives of the sons and daughters of one’s nation; it is a lifelong passion.”
I turned the page to cover the issues listed on my notepad. It struck me that here was one soldier, no doubt like many, with deep experience and in continued development. This before reaching 40—posited by some to be the brink of a man’s age of reason.
Brookshire has written extensively on Army issues. His first book, a novel co-authored with Marius Tecoanta is Hidden Wounds: A Soldier’s Burden.