Courtland native loves life as a soldier

Published 12:13 pm Saturday, May 23, 2009

COURTLAND—Frank Land II has always wanted to be a military man.

In fact, he loves the lifestyle so much, he has served in two branches — first in the U.S. Marine Corps and now in the Army.

The Southampton Academy graduate, who will be 27 Saturday, first joined the service in 2002.

“It’s something that I always wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to do my part. I got in and loved it, and I’m still there.”

It was clear from the beginning that he showed military prowess.

Land was plucked right out of his first job schooling for an elite group assignment guarding then President George W. Bush. The 63-member detail — also known as HMX1 — secured areas for Air Force One to land, saluted the president as part of their Honor Guard duties and traveled with him.

“Wherever he went, we went,” Land said with a chuckle. “I have been to 48 of the 50 states and to seven countries with him.” Alaska and Montana were the two he missed.

Land said he immediately missed the life when he decided to slow things down and get out of the Marine Corps.

“I enjoyed the first few months but then I couldn’t wait to get back in it,” he said. “It’s a very stable and secure future. I think every young man should serve his country for at least two years.”

Land said he decided to reenlist — this time as a military policeman in the Army. The Navy and Air Force weren’t an option.

“I wanted to keep my feet on the ground,” he said. “I wanted to be in the mix.”

He joined Feb. 27, 2008. Two months later, he was sent to Iraq. He is now deployed to Baghdad helping to train Iraqi police to take over when troops are removed from the country.

Land, who has returned to his hometown of Courtland for a brief leave from his duties in Iraq, will spend Memorial Day with his mom and dad, Frank and Sherri Land.

“It feels great to be home; I miss this place so much.”

This Memorial Day he won’t forget the men in his unit who died in combat. Land serves with 160 in his unit and is a team leader who works directly with 12 soldiers.

“I lost two guys,” he said, looking at a black metal bracelet bearing the names of the men who died in combat.

He doesn’t want to talk further about the painful losses, but does say Memorial Day gives him a chance to pay his respects.

“It gives you a time to sit back and reflect on those who have done their duty and given the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

The young father of a three-year-old son said he doesn’t fear for his own life while he’s at war.

“My life is up there with God,” he said. “When it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.”