Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
The Army trains some of the most effective and lethal infantry Soldiers in the world in preparation for deploying them to combat zones overseas. However, despite the extensive training those Soldiers go through, some enjoy the comforts of having a good luck charm giving them a little something extra to ensure they come home safely.
Staff Sgt. Perry Maynor, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, carries a green crayon, given to him by his daughter, in the ankle pocket of his uniform as his good luck charm.
“It’s the first thing my daughter gave to me when I left for (my third) tour,” Maynor said. “As I was walking out of the car … she was crying and she was coloring, and she gave it to me and I just put it in my pocket. Every single time we went outside the wire it was in my pocket.”
These charms that Soldiers carry can be anything from crayons and ribbons, to religious medallions and even tattoos.
It seems that they all serve the same purpose, and that’s making the Soldiers feel better about whatever situations they find themselves in.
“It makes me feel better,” said Sgt. Donald Williams, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg. “It puts your mind someplace else. Keeps your mind off some of the things you have to do and gives you something to look at and remember.”
All the men in his Family have gotten a shamrock or a cloverleaf tattoo somewhere on their bodies, Williams said. He got his done prior to joining the Army, knowing that he would soon be fighting overseas.
“I notice everything that I wear over in Iraq somehow gets damaged or broken or ripped up,” said Williams. “So if it’s on my body, unless it gets hit, I’m good.”
Some Soldiers, like Sgt. Jonathan Farr, also with 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., have had their lucky charms handed down from prior generations, or have had them since their childhood.
“My grandfather bought it in Germany when he was in the Army, and he carried it through the war and … his whole Army career,” Farr said, talking about a medallion that now belongs to him. “The day I was leaving for boot camp … he gave me (the medallion). That was the last time I saw him. He passed away while
I was in basic. It just makes me feel more comfortable I guess. I feel like if that’s with me, then he’s with me.”
Another item that never leaves Farr is a ribbon, one that used to be pink but has faded over the years, that he wore to the funeral of one of his friends who passed away when Farr was 15.
“He had red hair and we called him pinky,” Farr said. “At his funeral … we all wore it on our shirts. Ever since then I always carried it with me. He always had my back when we were kids; he still has my back now.”
It’s not that these Soldiers don’t feel confident in their abilities to carry out their mission without their charms, some just like the comfort of having the items with them.
“I don’t think I need one, it’s just something good to have,” said Sgt. Blaise Kulp, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg.
“I feel that I can do what I need to do just fine but … just a little thing that I’ll feel it on my neck, or I’ll look at it when I take my (body armor) off or shirt off; it’ll remind me that I’m here for a reason, and I’ll go home for a reason.”
Kulp wears St. Christopher and St. Michael pendants around his neck during his tours overseas as a way to keep him in touch with his faith and to help remind him that he’s just passing through this time in his life.
“I kind of look at it more as, not going from point A to point B,” Kulp said, “but like traveling through life.
It’s just something to keep in touch with faith and then (St. Christopher) in particular just to keep me in the mindset of just get from here to home.”
1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., has been ramping up in preparations for its next deployment by conducting live-fire ranges, first aid and language classes and military operations in urban terrain training, according to Kulp.
Lucky charms or not, these Soldiers have the utmost confidence in their unit and their Soldiers’ ability to do their job and come home alive.
“My squad is awesome,” Williams said, “they’re gonna do their job, they’re gonna do what they’re told and they’re gonna do what needs to be done.”
“These guys, we see them train and it’s like, if you were the enemy, you can’t beat that,” Maynor said, speaking of his unit’s training and efficiency.
“I would say by far, if I had to go over with anyone, it would be (with Company A, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg.)”