My name is Brent Lake, I was born in Stow Ohio, surrounded by an incredible family. I stayed there for 18 years, went to private, then public school until high school graduation. I lived in Stow with my mom and dad, older sister, younger sister, and younger brother while enjoying a relatively easy life.
I spent my high school years earning my letters in soccer, football, track, and wrestling; however, I went on to become a state champion in soccer. Overall, my formative years were a great experience.
At times, it was easy to see a path where I could have skewed in a destructive way, but since I was a child, I wanted somehow knew I wanted to be a warrior. I’m not completely sure it is the same way that most people envision they want to be soldiers, but I knew immediately I wanted to be on the tip of the spear.
Initially, I saw myself as a pilot, but my eyes ensured that I was unfit for that. Looking forward, I was aware of the Ranger Battalion and decided that was a good fit for me. In my mind, they had an excellent cut of soldiers, and I would be honored to be a part of that.
Immediately, after high school, I joined up, finished basic training with the army as an honor graduate and had the highest physical training score in the company. From this point, I went to a four-week course to jump out of planes and proceeded to RASP, the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. In a program where an 80% fallout was considered normal, I excelled. Upon completion of RASP, I was deployed within four weeks as a boot on the ground in Afghanistan.
Less than a year later, training in Afghanistan, was certainly an incredible change from the life I enjoyed in suburban Ohio. As far as my first mission was concerned, it was equivalent to drinking water out of a hostile fire hose, we didn’t shoot or capture anyone, but it could be described as something like organized chaos, or as very few people would relate “kind of crazy”. I remember heading there from the USA, landing in Germany, and then heading directly to Afghanistan. Picture this: you leave the US and land in a country with all the weaponry, as a new guy, with a directive to kill.
On arrival, I was assistant gunner to our machine gunner. Right off the bat, our team leader was hit, and I found myself with a new title, Team Leader. I remember this being incredibly crazy, a leader in special operations with less than a year and a half experience of fighting. We complete something close to 100 missions in 107 days. Our missions? Kill or capture, almost exclusively at night. High-Value Targets, in
and out of helicopters mission in and mission out.
In my first contact in combat, we had troops in contact, the enemy was not typically coordinated, but this was an exception. They pushed to flank us, pushing us into what we knew as a minefield, in order to stop their flank, I ran through a wire and found myself understanding I was dead. Thankfully I was not.
I remember the first time I got shot at, walking to hit a building, suddenly RPG fire and bullets started snapping over our heads. I wasn’t quite sure what the snaps were but then my friend assured me they were bullets flying over our heads. This was an intro to my multiple deployments in the middle east.
The first time I met Tristan was during my first BASE jump in Pennsylvania. That man is a solid individual, he is amazing, cares about people, has been through a lot of rough things and I feel that we bonded over some of the pain we have experienced. I get what he feels, and he gets what I feel. I feel we relate through our experience, BASE jumping, and the desire to have a normal life and family afterward. We have talked about his brother and his struggle with his suicide, which coincides with my experience regarding my close friends taking their own lives. While my brother hasn’t taken his life, I have held friends whilst they have died and had friends leave this earth because of their experiences. One of my closest friends was shot in the sciatic nerve and had a plan to kill himself with Vicodin and Jameson.
Another just plain killed himself because he couldn’t handle it. To put it plainly, veteran suicide is a problem. The reason I am here is that I care about the men and women, I fought battle with those who can’t take it back, which puts us in a place of not being able to do anything about it. In the military, there is a culture that promotes not letting weakness show through, but when you’re out, that does not exist.
I’ve fallen 60-ft out of a helicopter, myself and my fellow soldiers have been blown up at more than one
point, and I can attest that I am not the same as I once was due to battle. Whether it is memory loss,
recall, or just plain my brain doesn’t work as well, the point is I returned from war and I looked for
snipers, planned my exit strategies, and had to navigate the incredible indescribable things I experienced
in war. Anything I can do to support finding opportunities to lift our veteran society up makes 22 Jumps
a special mission to me.