It was 2004, and the U.S. had recently begun combat operations in Iraq.

The initiative to overthrow a dictator accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction further divided America's military power across Asia, in what would become the longest period of ground operations since Vietnam.

"The country had just gone to war with Iraq, and Brandon had just started a family," said his father, Philip Mims. "In my estimation, we had done our part as far as active military participation was concerned."

The now retired Sgt. 1st Class Philip Mims, a Persian Gulf War veteran, admitted to selfishly acting on his paternal instincts of keeping his son from the harm he knew war could bring.

After all, why wouldn't he?

Their Family's military lineage is easily traced to WWII, and it is rumored to date as far back as the African American Cavalry Scouts (Buffalo Soldiers) of the late 1800s.

Over the decades, nine members of the Mims Family had served and fought for their country, so by many people's estimation, Philip Mims might have been right to prevent his son's entrance into military service.

Despite his father's requests, Mims' desire to serve his country was greater.

Mims enlisted in the Army in 2006 as a cannon crew member, and he currently serves as a platoon sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI).

Since he began his enlistment, Mims has been stationed in Germany and Fort Drum, served as a drill sergeant, completed three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earned the Purple Heart Medal for injuries he suffered in combat during his first deployment.

But to fully understand why he would separate from his wife and newborn son to later march off to war, one must first understand the series of events that brought him to his decision to enlist.

Unbeknownst to Mims, his military training started at birth.

"When Brandon was born, I was an infantry fire team leader," Philip Mims said. "He learned at a very young age that once the order had been given, you executed to the best of your ability."
He explained that his son learned the task, condition and standards associated with everything he was told to do.

Through early guidance, Mims learned the importance of trusting his father and executing his intent without hesitation.

"One of the things that my children constantly heard from me was 'I'm not going to tell you anything wrong, and I will never ask you to do anything that you are incapable of doing,'" Philip Mims explained.

Mims' direct parenting methods mirrored his military leadership style, and that is something his son uses today to train and mentor his artillerymen.

"He is very direct," Brandon Mims said of his father. "Honestly I think that is the best style of military leadership one can have. There are no gray areas; it's white or black. That way, everyone knows the standard and knows what to expect."

Mims' exposure to military life deepened during his father's reassignment as an Army recruiter.

"When (Brandon) was a toddler, I was a recruiter, and he spent a lot of time in my recruiting station," Philip Mims said. "My social circle consisted of military people, so the parents of all of his playmates were military. His uncles were all in the military, so Family gatherings were like a formation."

But, as military life sometimes does, it created distance between Mims' parents that eventually led to their separation.

From that point on, Mims was predominantly raised by his mother, and he spent his formative years playing Army and football in the backyards of Clovis, N.M., with the other neighborhood children.

Mims described his childhood as nurturing despite his parents' divorce; his Family remained close-knit and their attitude was still very military-oriented.

"Being in the military is tough," Mims explained. "My parents were divorced, and my Dad was in the Army, so he was always doing his 'Hooah, Hooah thing.'"

Within their unique family dynamic, there was Ruby C. Dudley, Mims' grandmother, who lived just down the street.

She was the Family's central point of strength, and she provided the home base where everyone seemed to gravitate during the holidays.

"Every time they went on leave (vacation), my father and uncles would come back to Grandma's house," Mims said. "They would scoop me up, and we'd have a good time."
Mims' father described Dudley's support over the years as a source of inspiration.

"Over the years, she has endured the deployments, separations and hardships that go along with being the daughter, wife, mother and grandmother of Soldiers, and (she) has always supported the career decisions of her men," Philip Mims said. "She has been the rock and steadying influence that has allowed each of us to pursue our dreams and achieve our goals in life."

It was around the age of 12 that Brandon Mims' affection for football had grown to near obsession; his dream was not to join the military but to someday play in the pros.

"I started as the quarterback for our flag football team in kindergarten, then I moved to fullback," Mims explained. "Then everyone else kept getting faster, and I ended up playing center."

Mims felt no emotional attachment to the positions he played, as he's always considered himself a team player.

"I've always been a team player. I may not always play the position I wanted, but that makes me work hard to play the position I want," he said.

But his obsession did not come without cost. As his love for the game grew, his scholastic achievements shrank.

"Starting off, I wasn't that good academically, but come seventh grade, I really turned around," he explained. "That's when I noticed you need good grades to play football. From then on out I was an A and B student."

It was around the same time that Mims began to notice his Family was not like the other people in his life.

While he was not oblivious to the fact that his father and uncles served in the military, he became more in tune with this reality.

"I noticed that once a year I would see my uncles on a regular basis," he said. "They would always wear hats of the units they are in, all of them wore watches and they always had some sort of military attire to them. Even the way they talked, they just stood out from the 'normal' people, like my teachers."

It was the combination of grades, love for football and his understanding of his Family's tradition of serving in the military that set the ball in motion for Mims' late enlistment.

Mims eventually tried out for the football team at the University of North Texas, but he quickly discovered his dreams of playing in the National Football League were not realistic.

"I was too short and a little too slow," Mims explained. "So I powerlifted while I was in college."

His affection for academics and powerlifting were fleeting, as Mims dropped out after one semester to pursue a nine-to-five job.

"When I got to college, I didn't do so well," he said. "That's when I started thinking that I actually need to do something for me to get money, a good job and a career."

It was 2004 now, and he found his career at the big box construction store didn't complement the lifestyle he wanted for his wife and newborn son.

"They were taking more out for insurance than anything," Mims said. "Then I was like I need to have a good career so I can support this family the way I want to."

That's when Mims reflected on his Family's military service and remembered how well the Army had taken care of them.

"That's when I talked to the recruiter, and from there I've been lovin' it," Mims said.

While Mims' father at first was hesitant of his son's enlistment, in hindsight he finds it to be of no real surprise.

Over the years, Mims has maintained his marriage, and two new additions have joined his Family.

He said he would be proud if they decided to carry on their Family's tradition of military service.
Mims has a new dream of someday earning the rank of sergeant major and outranking all of his

Family Members so that he may put them at parade rest.

That is something his father says he'll do, but only once.