Marc Angle must have found himself in plenty of harrowing situations as a former football player at Ursuline High and West Point.
But nothing like this. Not war.
"You train all year for football season," said Dick Angle, Howland High's football coach and Marc's father. "It's the same thing in the Army. You train all your life and now it's game time.
"They want to be part of the game," he said. "They're really committed to getting this job done."
Serving his country
Marc Angle, the son of Dick and Bernadette Angle of Hubbard, is 27 years old. He is a captain and pilot of a Black Hawk helicopter, stationed in Germany but ready to make a move to Kuwait.
And he's among thousands of United States military personnel carrying out President Bush's campaign against Iraq.
"I worry every day that something bad can happen, and pray that it doesn't," Dick Angle said. "I hope this is short and sweet and that everybody comes back."
Marc Angle always had been an academically structured person. He relished the atmosphere and discipline of West Point, and focused his studies on aviation.
After graduating from West Point in 1999, he was given a three-year tour of duty in Germany. During that time, he also was involved in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Bosnia.
"The reality of war hits you on graduation day," Bernadette Angle said. "When they throw their hats up in the air, you realize the preparation is over and that they could really be involved."
Marc's missions are carried out in what his father describes as "an awesome piece of machinery."
The Black Hawk, Dick said, has room for four crew members, 10 soldiers and various pieces of equipment.
"It's their utility helicopter, and it's the most versatile," he said. "It's not as frightening to look at as the Apache, which is an unbelievable fighting machine. The Black Hawk is capable of fighting, but also transporting."
Marc's mission in Kuwait will be to provide air support for the 101st Armored Division. He will be involved in flying missions in the command center and on strategic locations of the enemy, Dick said.
Most of the details, however, are left out. Not even Marc's parents can know.
"Two things have kept me strong," Bernadette said.
"He was trained by the very best; he keeps telling me he's well-prepared," she said. "The other thing is my faith in God. Marc is my only son, and I have to believe God's going to bring him back to me."
Proud to be an American
No matter the circumstances, Dick and Bernadette offer support to their son and back the United States wholeheartedly.
"[President George W.] Bush has been good to the military, in giving them raises and improving living conditions," Dick said.
"At this stage, you can't be a Democrat or Republican, you have to be an American," he said. "You have to be behind the troops 150 percent."
That is why he and the Howland School District are running their own campaign -- "Operation Clean and Dry" -- to provide sunscreen, hand solution, toilet paper and soap to troops in need.
Meanwhile, Dick and Bernadette will continue to pray for their son and hope his skills, including those developed as an athlete, will lead him home.
"Any young man who has been involved in athletics has to make quick decisions and good decisions in game situations," Dick said.
"As a captain and pilot of a helicopter, a lot of decisions have to be made and steps have to be taken," he added. "The training as an athlete certainly helps that endeavor."
XBrian Richesson is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.