By Army Sgt. Andy Mehler
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 16, 2009 - In a world full of choices, Army Spc. Timothy Markle, with the 628th Aviation Support Battalion, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, took a few wrong turns before finding his focus, first in football, then in the military. Markle's upbringing was unstable and he mostly was raised by his grandmother, who remained a large influence for him until her death.
Despite his family's frequent relocations, Markle played defensive end at York Suburban High School in 2001 and York High School in 2002, both in Pennsylvania. But Markle also associated with a rough group in high school and began to lose focus. He spent more time on the streets and less time in school, and eventually dropped out. He felt he did not need an education and saw no real future for himself. He became lost, he said.
The turning point for Markle was when he returned to high school at Crispus Attucks Youth Build, a charter school for troubled teens in York, Pa. The school involves its students in charitable work and teaches personal responsibility and a strong work ethic. Markle worked with his classmates on home construction projects for the poor, which taught him a valuable and marketable trade. He remained in school and was awarded his high school diploma in 2004.
After a two-year stint in the Navy as an aviation ordnance specialist, working with F-18 fighter jets, Markle returned to York in 2006 when his grandmother died.
Missing football, he tried out for a position on the York Silver Bullets, a semi-professional football team, in 2007, and played one season. That structure and his military training, he said, kept him focused, on track and off the streets.
While still playing football, Markle decided to join the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2007. Enlisting in the Army meant he would have to leave football, but Markle liked the sense of community and structure that comes with a military life.
Markle chose to enlist as a water treatment specialist and now is part of Company A, 628th Aviation Support Battalion, deployed here where he works with fellow soldiers providing fuel for aircraft.
Markle said he has enjoyed his time in Iraq and feels he is part of something bigger by doing important work for his country. He plans to remain in the military, believing he's finally found the perfect fit. He said he would like to further his education and he hopes to be a pilot one day.
Markle's days of working on houses for his school have paid off, as well. He now works in his father's construction business, and has been getting his own business off the ground by attracting his own customers.
Now that his life is on track, Markle said he wants to assist young people facing the same challenges he did. At home, he visits Crispus Attucks Youth Build to talk with students and encourage them toward a better life. He has found the stability of home and renewed relationships with his parents, and the discipline and structure of the military he loves so much, he said. When he returned home on leave, Markle participated in the crime prevention program National Night Out, where he protected the streets he once saw as a hangout.
Markle said the military made him who he is today, and even now as he finds himself in the desert of Iraq, he says he wouldn't have it any other way.
(Army Sgt. Andy Mehler serves with 28th Combat Aviation Brigade public affairs.)