WIMLINGTON, NC (WECT) - Twenty years after being deployed as a teenager, a local man is going back to school.
Bullet shells were some of Jerry Brown's first study materials. At 18, he learned how to march, take orders, and build bombs. Brown served in the Air Force for nearly two decades.
"I was in that territory where it could have flared up at any time," said Brown, former Assistant Element Chief US Air Force (1989-2007).
Now, he's back in North Carolina in a more traditional classroom at UNCW, and things his classmates see on a map, Brown sees in his mind.
"It does bring back memories of bein' there," said Brown.
The change from living near combat to living near campus hasn't been easy for Brown.
"I still like keeping a wall to my back so I know nobody is coming from behind me," said Brown. "I always keep an eye out, making sure nothings going on - it's just a habit."
He may be trained to fight, but now he's armed with pen and paper. He uses determination he learned from his old instructors who had no time for excuses.
"12 o'clock in the mornin' beatin on the dang gone door saying, 'get your clothes and go to work - war started,'" said Brown. "So you don't have that luxury of 'oh I'm tired.'"
Looking back at his first yearbook, and all the years of serving our country, Brown remembers the teenager who felt the whole future was ahead of him.
Brown is majoring in environmental studies and plans to graduate from UNCW in December 2010.