Whenever Syracuse native Robert Braun, 42, sits in airport, he notices two things: first, any man or woman dressed in uniform. Second, just how incredibly young they are.
"I was their age and thought I was old and knew everything," said Braun, who now lives in Baldwinsville. "Because that's what you do when you're 18, 19, 20, or 22. And then when you get older you realize you really weren't that intelligent at that age because you didn't have any wisdom. You may be book smart but you didn't have the lifetime experience."
It's hard for Braun to see these young adults in uniform because at one time, he was a 19-year-old newly enlisted United States Marine, and someone who wasn't sure what exactly he wanted to do with his life. He had spent two semesters at a community college before he realized that school was not the right path for him at the time.
"It never came to a point where I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do. I don't know how anyone can figure that out when they're 18 or 20. So I decided I liked the military," Braun said.
And with that thought, Braun enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps, forgoing the typical college experience in exchange for a military one.
From boot camp to Baghdad
Braun's boot camp experience was like any other: an enduring, miserable three months of getting acclimated to life in the military. "After a while, it fades how bad it was," he said with a laugh. "I mean, you're giving up a lot, you know...but it's three months of your life and you're done."
He still has pictures from his stationing in Okinawa, Japan, or in Switzerland where he trained in the freezing cold, in case he was ever deployed to such a climate. But six years after he had enlisted, Braun found out he was stationed to somewhere quite opposite to that of a snowy, mountain range.