Story of a Veteran: Tim Laird


With Veteran’s Day having just passed, I would like to share the story of a veteran: Tim Laird. Laird is from Cairo, Illinois. He joined the army in November of 1991 at 18 years old, months after graduating high school. 

He was sent to basic training in Texas where he says, “life as I knew it, completely changed.” Basic training is precise and very taxing, mentally and physically. But, Laird excelled and quickly rose in the ranks, earning the title of “platoon guide.” This means he answered directly to the Drill Sargent and commanded a platoon underneath the Drill Sargent.

The army’s basic training lasts about 10 weeks. Laird recalls many fond memories, but also many difficult ones. One thing he remembers most was being given a location to get to and a red-lense flashlight. He recalls walking through pitch-black woods feeling like a “cow going to slaughter.” After walking for nearly 6 hours, “you could tell when you were getting close because of the sound.” He recalls the “horrific” sound of machine guns. Imagine crawling over 7-foot-tall walls and through mud while shots are being fired only feet over your head. They were “purposely trying to wear you out, but I wasn’t going to let myself get worn out that easily.”

Laird graduated basic training, earning the title of “Soldier of the Cycle” and the Army Achievement Medal. He then went to Advanced Individual Training (AIT). AIT is much like a trade school, where soldiers are taught the skills they need for their specific Army job. Laird learned his job of military police and was awarded the “Distinguished Honor Grad” when graduating.

He was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, and was soon sent to Mogadishu in mid-September of 1993. Mogadishu is the capital city of Somalia, a country on the East coast of Africa. They were sent here attached to the United Nations (UN) for peacekeeping. A rebel leader was causing a humanitarian crisis, eventually leading to the Battle of Mogadishu.

The Battle of Mogadishu lasted for 2 days in October of 1993 and was, in its most basic form, an attempt from the UN to capture the rebel leaders and the battle it led to. This mission failed, resulting in the infamous “Black Hawk Down.” Tim Laird was here to witness this event. He was sent in on the ground, “there was a surge of people screaming a foreign language that you didn’t understand and that looked at you like you were the enemy even though we were there to help them.” During this, Laird experienced many awful things and he lost some of his closest friends. H was fearful for his life, but made it even though “it didn’t seem like I was going to.”

It was 3 months until he was back into training and “getting my feet under me.” Laird went on to serve for another 9 years in Fort Hood, Texas and had some temporary duties. 

Tim Laird says he learned many things. He learned about friendships and like-relationships. He learned how important friendship is and how much they mean to you, especially when “your or your friends’ lives are in danger.” The disciple, tidiness, and drive are some of the things that stuck with him most and he still puts them into practice. “It’s taught me a lot about myself,” both during and after his service. 

Tim Laird said, “There are things that I’m gonna carry with me for the rest of my life. It taught me that there are things way bigger than myself.”