As a writer, it’s fascinating learning about people, especially those in theater and entertainment. But, my most treasured interviews have been listening to the life stories of servicemen and women that have selflessly given up their lives to defend ours.
Today I had the opportunity to talk with Jerry Della Salla, a successful actor in theater and film, but more important – a veteran, a hero. Here is a follow-up interview and rare glimpse into a man who went from the stage Off-Broadway to the war stage of Iraq (You can read part one of his interview, here.)
You’re a theater actor and all of the sudden 9/11 hit and you wanted to serve your country. You went to the New York Fire Department and were turned down because of your age as you said previously. So, how did you proceed and determine to go into the military?
I went in as means of a process of elimination because they said I was too old. So, the other option was join the military. I probably could’ve joined the NYPD but it wasn’t on my mind. And that’s what got me into the army – I went in one year after 9/11 to basic training.
How was that adjustment? You went from being in Off Broadway Theater to boot camp.
It was pretty extreme as far as a culture shock. I did my basic and my advanced individual training in South Carolina at Fort Jackson. In the sticks, in the south, for five months – and I never left during that time. When I was done, I came back to the 306th MP BN – Military Police Battalion. When I got out of training in April of ‘03 we were on an eight or nine month rotation to deploy, so our battle roster was being forged while I was away. Next thing I know, a year after my training in October 2004, I got my orders and got sent to Fort Dix with my military police outfit and started our 60 day training mobilization for deployment.
When you joined, did you have it in your mind you’d eventually deploy?
It was being known to me even though I was green to the military that units like mine, which had just come back from a deployment when I got attached to them, are always going to rotate out in a ten to twelve month period. So, you go in for a year, come out and someone takes your place. Then you go back out a year later. And that’s how it was from the beginning of the war in ‘03 to literally like late ’09 when we started to downsize troop populations.
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