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Once Is All It Takes

Once Is All It Takes


The night began innocently enough — just a group of friends celebrating our Army flight school graduation. We started with dinner and ordered a round of beers. I was driving that night and knew one beer wasn’t going to get me drunk. As we continued to eat, we ordered another round of beers. With a stomach full of food and two beers, I felt sober and drove everyone to our next location, where the celebration continued.

When the night finally ended, my buddy asked, “Are you OK to drive?” Despite the amount of alcohol I drank, I thought I felt fine and believed my blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was under the legal limit. I am embarrassed to say I was wrong, which I found out when I was pulled over by the local police and later arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

Prior to my arrest, I attended the mandatory safety briefs. For me and most of my classmates, briefs were just a check-the-block necessity to have our leaves and passes approved. I can tell you what my classmates were thinking during the brief — if they were even listening. It was either, “I am so lucky I didn’t get caught last weekend,” or, like myself, “I rarely go out, and when I do, I’m never the one driving.” Unfortunately, I am living proof that once is all it takes.

As many of us look to our peers for guidance, I am writing this to you, Soldier to Soldier. My hope is to inspire at least one other Soldier to not make the same decision I did when I chose to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.

I have the same dream as many of you. When I was 8 years old, I told my father, “Dad, I want to be an officer in the Army and fly helicopters.” As a 67J aeromedical evacuation officer, my path to flight school may have been slightly different than some aviators, but it was no less difficult. I took the same flight physical as everyone else, assembled a packet that was reviewed by a flight board and I waited anxiously for the results. When I received the phone call congratulating me on my acceptance, I thought I had finally achieved my childhood dream. That dream came to a screeching halt the night I drove intoxicated.

I am now facing a General Officer Memorandum of Record, which will most likely end my career. No more flight school, no more promotions and no more Army. As I write this, my future in the armed services is uncertain.

Although the end of your career may seem like the end of the world, DUIs can have more serious consequences. How many Soldiers do we have to lose to drunk driving? How many innocent family members do we have to lose after being hit by a drunk driver? I consider myself lucky that a police officer pulled me over before I wrapped my car around a tree or hit an innocent motorist driving the opposite direction. Could you bear the guilt of taking someone’s life?

There is also the organization as a whole to consider. I was chosen above my peers to fill a slot as a 67J. As a result of my mistake, there is the very real possibility I will be separated from the Army, and this slot will go unfilled. Consequently, there may be one less pilot available to evacuate a wounded Soldier.

Unfortunately, many of us try to subjectively judge our level of impairment without knowing exactly how a .08 BAC feels. I know now that if I had even the slightest doubt in my sobriety, I should have called a taxi and never subjected my friends to ride in my vehicle or risked my career. It didn’t matter whether I had one beer or 10 before getting behind the wheel. It wasn’t worth taking the chance.

While people might react differently to alcohol, we can’t use the excuse of not feeling drunk to justify a stupid mistake. Our careers, our lives and the lives of those around us are at risk and are worth far more than any taxi fare. As a Soldier, I can tell you from first-hand experience.

Did You Know?

On average, one person is killed about every 45 minutes in a drunk-driving crash, totaling more than 11,000 lives lost each year.

  • 20 August 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 302
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-4