Draft Thanks Father, Brother for Military Service

June 21, 2009

Draft Thanks Father, Brother for Military Service
Draft Thanks Father, Brother for Military Service

America’s servicemen and servicewomen have always had a special place in the heart of Rams linebacker Chris Draft. He does everything he can to thank the people that are keeping the country safe, and there’s a very special reason for that: his family.

Every year on Memorial Day, Chris makes a special point to say thank you to his father, Tony, and brother, Tony II, as they both served in the American military, keeping the country safe. Tony Draft served three years of active duty in the Marines at the end of the Vietnam War. Tony Draft II spent four years as a Naval aviation electrician, sailing around the globe and protecting America in the Persian Gulf.

Memorial Day will have a special place in Chris’ heart, as well as the hearts of his father and brother.
“You may have a good understanding and a good appreciation, but you don’t really know unless you’re right there in the fire,” Tony Draft said. “We’re never going to forget, because there are people giving their lives. We have to thank them for doing that.”

Although both Draft men had experiences they will never forget, they both had different motivating factors for joining and succeeding in their military service. For Tony, the ability to lead drove him to enter the service before his draft number was called.

“My biggest thought about being in the service was just the fact that I had a lottery number coming out of high school,” Tony Draft said. “That made me decide that if I’m going to go, I’m going to go as a leader, not as a follower.”

Tony made the decision to enlist, knowing that he would also receive the opportunity to go to college. His education was uninterrupted by military service, which he remains thankful for.

“They never came and got me out of college, and to be perfectly honest, I was happy about that,” Tony Draft said. “I know it’s a privilege and an honor to serve and die for your country, but if you don’t have to go, that’s another privilege.”

Tony did have to spend three years on active duty after college, which he spent working in communications in the Marines. His goal was to enter his duty and come out an officer, which is exactly what he did. In just three short years, Tony Draft was named a Captain.

“It was a good learning and leadership opportunity for me and a good door-opener in the private sector, because I did have the military service,” Tony said. “It meant a lot. It was a privilege and an honor, but it also gave me opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been an officer.”

Tony Draft II was about 20 years behind his father, but came out of his military service with many new friends and experiences he will never forget. He entered the service through aviation mechanic school and spent four years following the Gulf War working on F-14 Tomcats while sailing all over the world.

“I got to see a lot of exciting places, like Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia,” Tony II said. “We were the first to go (to Malaysia) in 10 years. It was very exciting serving as the ambassadors after we had patched things up over the last 10 years or so.”

For Tony II, though, his experience centered on the people that he met. Taking a cue from Chris, Tony II participated in sports during his time in the Navy. He played basketball with a group of servicemen. Every place they stopped, they would play basketball games against teams in that area.

“It was fun to actually go out and see the people we came in contact with,” Tony II said. “It was almost like we were a semi-pro team that came in, just playing ball against some of the other teams.”

Playing basketball with the Navy gave Tony II the opportunity to become friends with men and women he wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.

“A lot of us became very close,” Tony II said. “You get close to officers and other people that you wouldn’t really have been able to get close to otherwise. We just really kind of bridged that boundary a little bit. Sports kind of do that, bring people together that otherwise wouldn’t have been that close.”

Tony II maintains several of those relationships to this day, staying in touch with people currently serving overseas through social networking websites like Facebook. He was also a part of another serviceman’s wedding and talks with him on a regular basis.

Tony II even met Gillian, the woman that would later become his wife, while they both served in the Navy.
“It’s things like that you just don’t forget,” Tony II said. “Those are the kind of relationships you build (through the military).”

Chris Draft’s family is a big part of why he’s been so successful. They remain a very influential part of his life to this day, which is why it’s important to him to thank them for not only their time in the military, but for being there for him.

“I think it’s amazing that he has the opportunity to do things that other people dream about,” Tony Draft II said. “He really understands that he can touch as many lives as possible, and I really commend him on his drive. It takes a special person, and I’m really proud of him.”