Sgt. 1st Class James Ezell

Sgt. 1st Class James Ezell grew up a country guy in Birmingham, Ala. While he loved the life it afforded -- wide open spaces, great opportunity for fishing-- he said he wanted to see other states, other countries.

At 17, Ezell raised his right hand and joined the Marine Corps. That service took him to Japan, a place that would become his favorite destination after more than 21 years in a career that saw him leave the Marines and enlist in the Army.

Originally, Ezell planned on doing only one stint in service, but it quickly became the only life he knew.

"I didn't have anything better to do with my life," said Ezell, now 38. "I kept raising my right hand and next thing you knew, here we go. It kind of creeped up on me," he said.

While the Marine Corps had its advantages, Ezell said he discovered he wanted to go airborne. Over the years, he has served as a mortarman and in artillery. Before back and ankle injuries landed him in Company A of the Warrior Transition Battalion, Ezell was assigned to the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.

"I want to return to duty," said Ezell, who has twice served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To quell his thirst for adrenaline, Ezell often rides his Harley Davidson or drives a Corvette.

"It's better to burn out than fade away," said Ezell, who also enjoys PT workouts alongside younger Soldiers.

"I like running with 18-year olds. It's like I'm 18 again."

Other hobbies include spending time with his two young children; Christian, 2, and Willow, 2 months old.

More than 7,000 miles and 21 years of service took Ezell from Birmingham to Japan, but when he goes back home, he said he is often surprised by other peoples' perception of him.

"I kind of look at other people who I went to high school with -- some of them are still stuck there, they never left the county,
never left the state. Joining the military brought me out of my shell. I've experienced a lot of things and everybody wants to know what I've done. But, I look at their wife and the three kids. I look at their stabilization and I love what they've got."

In retrospect, would Ezell still raise his hand to serve again?

"Yes," he said emphatically. "I love it too much."

Page last updated Fri November 2nd, 2012 at 11:53