When one grows up with the military, they get a much different life experience than the average American. My high school years were spent in Germany and AFN (Armed Forces Network) ran a special commercial for Americans living abroad. A commercial that I can still picture in my mind. That commercial taught me something that I have never forgotten … “You are a target”! At the time in Germany in some areas it was not safe to travel without several people in your group. Turkish immigrants were there for political asylum would often attack Americans. In the summer and fall, when most of the Fests happen, were the worst times. The terms used in those commercials … you are a terrorist target. Always be aware of your surroundings.
Now, for a 14 year old boy this was a bit scary. However, I learned to pay attention to the world around me. I became proficient in picking on the details of things around me. I learned to evaluate situations and be aware of those in the room or restaurant that could be a potential threat. I even used this skill to learn who the popular kids in high school were, learn their names, and use that information to make friends. I was able to make it through high school by making friends with those kids, in return for showing them deference they provided me some protection. And to be honest a brother a year younger and 6′ 2″ who wouldn’t let people touch me. I did deserve a few fights and maybe more than I even realize.
In my senior year of high school, I had a girlfriend that noticed my attention to detail and she would test me. As we would take her dog or kid sister on walks she ask me what things were around us. I would be able to point out details that escaped her. One experience I remember, there were some small white and blue flowers in the grass … she was surprised because she didn’t even see them.
So, as the years passed I became proficient, notice I didn’t say perfect, at finding ‘safe seating’ in restaurants and other places I frequented. My wife really noticed early on in our marriage when we went out to dinner at a Red Lobster and the design of the restaurant hid part of the dining room from my view. Then someone came in that pinged my radar. I became agitated and started bouncing my leg; we could not finish dinner and get out of there fast enough. While nothing happened that night and many will call me paranoid; I prefer to think that I am in tune with my surroundings.
Between those AFN commercials and Boy Scouts my path down the road to being aware and prepared. I started carrying a backpack with essentials back in those days. I also carried 2 or 3 knives depending on where I lived. I carried my Swiss Army knife, a Leatherman, and a switchblade. When I got back from the States, I had to stop carrying my switchblade and almost lost it once to the cops.
Today, I carry different things in my Every Day Carry (EDC) bag then what I carried as a teen and young adult. I have also learned a few things since then. I have made friends with good men and women who continue to teach and help me grow.