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Student Vet’s Iraqi Rock Collection Fuels Interest in Geology

By Rienzi Gray
Hottytoddy.com intern
rdgray1@go.olemiss.edu

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. For student veteran Jamie King, he knew he needed a way to pay for school but he also wanted to give back to his community. After taking a break from his first stint in college, King decided to enlist in the United States Army.

“I knew I wanted to give back to a community that’s given me so much,” King said. “This just seemed like such an easy thing for me to do.”

Jamie King said during his stint in the Army he mostly focused on airfield seizures. “I had training on tactical mobility training where we learn to acquire and move heavy equipment,” he said. Photo provided.

From movies to the stories people hear on the news, many see the military as a very risky decision. However, King saw it as the perfect opportunity to do something meaningful for his community.

“The Air Force, they could fly, but I never landed with them.” King said. “We always jumped out.”

King’s next four years would be some of his best moments, he said. He reached a rank of Specialist Promotable and served as a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division 1st 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment Delta Company. which is an active duty, special force infantry unit that specializes in parachute assault operations and heavy weapons.

“We focused a lot on airfield seizures. I had training on tactical mobility training where we learn to acquire and move heavy equipment,” he said.

As a paratrooper, King would jump behind trucks and load them with heavy weapons to provide support by fire for other soldiers. He and his company would prepare raids to mobilize or immobilize airstrips in the event that ISIS or Da’esh were present in Iraq.

“I knew that if I got out [of the military], I would go back to finish what I’d started,” he said. “I wanted to stay in. I really did. I loved it.”

King suffered an unfortunate neck injury after a jump during one of his last stints in the military. He found it hard to accomplish some of the basic, physical demands required of his job. Upon having surgery, he decided it was best to not re-enlist and decided to come back to Ole Miss to finish his degree.

“While I was in Baghdad, things had gotten a little funky. During that, I saw a rock on the ground and decided to put it in my pocket.” King said. “When I left there, I had a small rock collection that was unfortunately taken by customs.”

Though customs took his rock collection, the rock that he found during his tour in Baghdad remained. During his first semester back at Ole Miss, King took this rock to one of his geology professors. The two built a connection on this rock, and King knew then that he wanted to be a geology major.

King poses with Tony the Landshark. Photo provided.

King praises Ole Miss for opening the doors to many passion projects of his. Through the Student Veteran Association (SVA), he is able to foster and recreate the same brotherhood that he found during his enlistment. Those who have served and are serving are able to find humor and conversation over commonalities that are not specific to one branch.

“Although hundreds of years have gone by, war is still the same,” King said. “The homecoming challenges are still the same. You’re bringing with you the memories of things you were forced or didn’t want to do.”

To combat some of those mental challenges, King is part of the veterans reading group where they are currently reading Homer’s “The Odyssey.” King and his group use the book to draw parallels between each other’s homecoming. He said he believes the group allows other veterans to talk about and understand sensitive subjects that they have never fully processed.

King is currently a junior geology major Ole Miss and was recently married. He plans to attend graduate school after obtaining his bachelor’s degree.


 

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