Kentuckians at War
Former UK Player says Experience Helped Shape War Discipline
The teamwork mentality required in football can ease a transition into the military. In the latest installment of our series of interviews based on the University of Kentucky’s oral history project, “From Combat to Kentucky,” WEKU’S Ron Smith focuses on a walk-on football player turned soldier…
A good soldier is not just someone who can shoot straight. It’s also the military postal worker who delivers a long awaited letter or care package. As Brandon Lawrence found out at a rural Army base in Iraq, delivering the mail is important as combat.
“The right box could erase a day of bad memories for any soldier,” said Lawrence.
Brandon Lawrence graduated from Hopkinsville High School, in the shadow of Fort Campbell, so he was used to seeing people in uniform. After graduation he wound up wearing another kind of uniform, the blue and white of a Kentucky Wildcat football player. As a walk-on, he had to pay his own way and after a year of college, his money ran out. So Lawrence left school and took on odd jobs. He was a janitor and made fast food boxes, all the while thinking about career possibilities, mostly with the military.
But just which branch of military was the question. So one day after work…
“I was like, “okay the Air Force is closed. Not really into the Navy. The Marine guys are busy. So I just looked in the Army recruiting office and I walked in and sat down and talked to a recruiter,” said Lawrence.
And walked out committed to the Army. Lawrence doesn’t lack confidence. He describes himself as physically tough and intelligent. But he signed up as a human resources specialist, a paper pusher. Not to avoid combat, but as a career move.
“I know some people who want to join the fight. They want to do infantry, be a tanker. I felt like it was a perfect career to start off in because there’s a lot of paperwork in the military. So I feel like if I understood the paperwork and how to get ahead, that’d really help me farther down in my career,” reasoned Lawrence.
But even a soldier with a desk job must endure physical training. Lawrence was familiar with the physical and mental toughness it takes to be a college football player. But becoming a soldier required another level of thinking.
“You know football is only wins and losses. But in the military, it’s all about saving lives,” said Lawrence.
Eventually Lawrence left Iraq and used the educational benefits he earned in the military to resume his studies at U.K. After the discipline of the Army, he has little patience with groaning classmates.
“A lot of people kind of complain about going to a one hour class or studying for a couple of hours, but to me, I kind of had the same mentality of there’s a mission, you know, being homework, projects, anything that has to get done on time, and in a good fashion, so whenever I had homework I got it done, made it to class, because on the active side, there is no missing meetings or missing training so I was always on time and did everything to a T,” said Lawrence.
The 23 year-old human/environmental sciences and psychology major says he has fun outside of class but doesn’t socialize. Lawrence insists he’s in Lexington to get an education. Like his duties in the Army, he considers it another mission, and one he vows to accomplish.