Staff Sgt. Eric O’Brien of Bettendorf has learned the value of being part of a team while serving in the Army, and will have a chance to relay those lessons to young people while being honored at Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl game.
The game, which will be played in San Antonio, is an all-star game for high school football players and marching band members. The 66 soldiers who will be honored were nominated by their units to represent the Army at the game, said Capt. Chad Elston, a spokesman for the game.
O’Brien, 37, is a 1993 graduate of Bettendorf High School. His parents, Skip and Terry O’Brien, and brothers, Ryan Bales and Matt Newton, still live in Bettendorf.
O’Brien attended community college for one year before enlisting in the Army in 1994. He left the Army in 1998, only to re-enlist in 2001.
“I missed the pressed clothes and spit-shined shoes,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview.
The country’s long involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted
in the Army looking for professional soldiers and placing an emphasis on furthering soldiers’ civilian education, O’Brien said.
O’Brien is a cavalry scout stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and is a graduate of jump school and will start ranger school later this year. He has been deployed overseas five times and received a Purple Heart after being wounded while serving in Iraq in 2006.
O’Brien said he was serving with the 101st Airborne Division when he was recovering from his wounds and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. He underwent speech therapy and physical therapy for more than a year, traveling to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., twice a week.
The importance of perseverance and being part of team are some of the things O’Brien said he hopes to impart to the players and band members he will be teamed with during various pre-game events this week.
O’Brien said he was asked by his unit members if he would be interested in representing them.
“I just thought it would be a great experience to meet these young men,” he said.
The game kicks off at noon Saturday and will be broadcast on NBC.