This archived article was written by: Katrina Wood
Editor’s note: Eagle staff member, Sergeant Chris Palo, spent 10 years in three wars. As a veteran, the staff salutes him for his valor.
Palo’s loud, opinionated and loves talking about himself. Forget a nice long walk on the beach; he’s most comfortable at war.
Palo was one of the last people I ever saw myself becoming friends with. Where I’ll never swear, there isn’t a day he can’t make a sailor say, “Dang.” While I’ve only attempted skipping class once, he only goes when he feels like it.
When I have an opinion I usually keep it to myself; when Palo has an opinion, he makes sure everyone and their grandmother knows it. In layman’s terms, he and I are opposites in almost every sense of the word.
Though I didn’t officially meet him until joining beginning news-writing and newspaper production, the summer before fall semester, I facilitated a class he was in. It was a communications class and he sat on the front row, answering every question the professor asked and talking whenever he could.
While facilitating that class, I scrambled to turn on the microphone whenever he talked. I wondered, “Can’t he raise his hand?” He never held back when it came time to voice his opinion, and was regularly received with shocked looks and incredulous replies.
Admittedly, I also sent a few disbelieving stares in his direction. How could he be so bold? How could he be so willing to say something no one was going to agree with? And gosh dang it, how could he talk so much without bothering to raise his hand?
While in beginning news-writing and newspaper production, I learned a great deal about Palo. Beyond being loud and opinionated, he also enjoyed swearing, talking about himself and boasting about his goals and accomplishments.
Palo joined the Army on Oct. 7, 2003, his 19th birthday. In his 30 years, he has been to Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea. He was a chemical biological radiological and nuclear specialist in the Army, and became qualified with every weapon the United States, Canadian, German and South Korean armies had to offer.
On multiples occasions, he had either been injured or drunk to the point where he passed out and woke up in another country.
He’s majoring in physics and journalism, and his favorite Doctor on Doctor Who is the Tenth Doctor.
Other than a love for Doctor Who, I believed for a long time that Palo and I had nothing in common. He loved fighting and war, and I loved anything but. There was nothing we were ever going to agree about and that was that.
I held firm to this belief as long as I could, but as I learned time and time again with others, I realized that I had more in common with Palo than I originally thought.
Talking about his experiences in the Army, I learned of several of his antics, including his misadventures of waking in distant countries and a time he blew up a bridge (he swore it was his buddy’s fault, but he was the one who pulled the lever). Eventually, I questioned if it had been hard to dive into the Army life.
Palo’s response was swift and sure. Within the chaos of basic training and the desensitization it provided, he found no uncertainty. Instead, he found his calling. He found a place he was most comfortable; immediately, he discovered what he wanted to do.
It didn’t occur to me at first, but as I reflected upon our discussion, a realization struck me. Though he had found his in a far different place than mine, we had at one point in our lives discovered a common drive for our passions. We found a place we were most comfortable. While I found my calling with writing, he found his with war.
I’ll never be able to do what Palo has. I’ll never go to Afghanistan or Iraq, I’ll never wake up in another country from a drunken stupor and I’ll most certainly never blow up a bridge. I’ll never be like him. I won’t like the same things he does, and nothing will change that. But I can be like him in confidence and fighting for my goals.
I’ll fight for my dreams, and I’ll fight with as much vigor and fire as I can. Like Palo, I’ll do my best to do so fearlessly. I won’t back down and I won’t keep to myself. I’ll learn what I can from him, and I’ll be grateful he loves fighting so people like me don’t have to.