On Veterans Day, as you think about those who have served our country, you may think of the thousands of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. You may conjure up a stereotypical image of an elderly soldier who fought in Korea or Vietnam. You may think of someone who’s taken an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. Those are all valid images, but there are other examples, and one of those is Brandi Mayer.
On a recent day, Brandi agreed to be interviewed as she sat behind her desk at Fillmore Central High School in Harmony. Regarding her military service, she said she enlisted in the National Guard in March 2015, shortly after graduating from college. She added, “I’m on what’s called ‘six plus two,’ so I’m actively training with my unit for six years and then if they need me they can call me up if they need me for those two years… I’m enlisted as an E-4, so I’m not quite a sergeant. I’m eligible, but there’s not any (sergeant) slots open yet.”
When asked why she chose to join the National Guard, Brandi stated, “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was 14. I had originally thought of going Army full-time. I wanted to be a linguist. But then there were some hurdles,… and I was like, you know what, I’m just going to go teaching, and if the military life is for me, it’ll come about in a different way, and I just kind of put it in God’s hands, and sure enough, I was going to graduate in December…so I looked at my routes again, and that’s where the National Guard came in.”
Speaking with a calm confidence and focus, Brandi went on, “We have to do the same initial training that all soldiers do. For the Army, that entails Basic Combat Training (BCT)and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), and that’s where we learn to do our individual jobs.” She explained that her specialty is aviation (helicopters), and that her basic training was at Fort Jackson, S. C., and Advanced Individual Training occurred at Fort Rucker, Ala.
Asked about a favorite story from training, she said that at boot camp, “We had a drill sergeant who wasn’t there the first two weeks. I injured myself on his first day back, and from that day on, I always had to prove myself to him!” She also explained that later, when the drill sergeant found out some in his platoon were in the Guard, he shouted at them, “Which one of you signed up to fight floods and not terrorists?” Brandi said when she raised her hand, the drill sergeant shouted at her, “Private Mayer, of all the soldiers in my platoon, YOU signed up to fight floods? I am thoroughly disappointed!” Brandi smiled as she recalled how much he wanted her to be “regular Army.”
Brandi said something most people don’t understand about the Guard is, “It’s more than ‘one weekend a month and two weeks in summer.’” She said as a team leader, she is communicating with her team throughout the month, and, “They are my second family, and they do take a lot of my time, and I don’t regret a single second!” Brandi was honored as Soldier of the Year 2016 for the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, and said going on to the statewide competition was a great learning experience, and a lot of fun.
Brandi’s main job is as a Spanish teacher at Fillmore Central School, where she teaches seventh grade through high school students. She’s in her second year here, having previously taught at Farmington and Medford schools. Regarding her teaching job here, she added, “I do really like being here at Fillmore Central…I like being able to know the students, more than just them coming into my classroom and then leaving,… to know their likes and dislikes, being able to go to their sporting events…”
As with many who serve in our military, national service runs in Brandi’s family. She pointed out with pride those who have served before her, including her grandfather Dick Mayer (Navy), step-grandfather James Miller (Army), step-father Tom Miller and uncle Tony Miller (MN National Guard), and cousins Nicole Miller and Benjamin Miller (Army Reserve).
Brandi has no plans to change her career path in the foreseeable future, stating, “I’m going to serve my full 20 (years). I plan on doing a full military career with the Guard.” Like many who have served, Brandi is very proud, but somewhat private about her service, as she explained, “It’s not something that I hide, but it’s not necessarily something that I broadcast either… Personally, I don’t really consider myself a veteran. I don’t feel that I’ve done enough to earn that title yet.” Despite her humility, it’s very clear that Brandi is a dedicated and proud member of our nation’s military ranks, and for that, she and all others who serve deserve our thanks.