From the lush green field inside Bryant-Denny Stadium to the dusty, barren landscape of Iraq.
For Hunter Bush, former walk-on defensive back at the University of Alabama from 2009-13, that was the transition.
Bush was a part of three national championship teams during his years at Alabama. It’s not glamorous, the life of a walk-on player, but Bush always sought to be a part of something bigger than himself. Those championship rings are forever mementos of that sacrifice.
Now the Wetumpka native is still part of a team, still giving of himself for the benefit of something greater. Only this time it’s as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in service of his country while stationed in Mosul, Iraq.
“It’s honestly one of the best things I can possibly think of that I could be doing with my life,” Bush said. “I get to be a part of a team that’s actually making a difference for everything. That’s the greatest part about it.”
He enlisted in September 2013, shortly after graduating from UA. His interest throughout his time in Tuscaloosa was always in medicine. He shadowed doctors, watched them work, and knew that’s what he wanted to do.
Serving as a combat medic, Bush now assists in the evacuation of wounded soldiers.
“I’ll load up the patients, make sure they’re ready to go and get them transported back to the bird (helicopter) to get them flown back to wherever our medical facilities are,” he said.
So far’s he’s been stationed in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Italy and Iraq. A simple mention of Iraq is enough to fill the mind with images of war and conflict. For Bush, who has been in the country since January, it’s a rush.
“It’s kind of the scariest, most exciting moment of your life,” Bush said. “It’s kind of an adrenaline rush most of the time. You get to be around people that you care about and you spend your day to day around them and they become a support system for you. Even when things get rough they’re there to watch out for you.
“(It’s) stressful, but considering the people I’m here with and how good they are at their jobs, it’s really not been that bad honestly. (It’s) a lot of highly-skilled people who know what they’re doing and they generally take care of us the best they can. They do a great job at it.”
Bush recently re-enlisted in the Army for an additional six years. He hopes to attend the military’s medical school and eventually practice cardiology.
Football is a game, but Bush’s five years in the Alabama football program did help prepare him for the highly-regimented life of a soldier.
“It did. Exponentially actually,” he said. “I got used to being on a schedule. I got used to getting up early, being expected to act like an adult and do the things I was supposed to do without people asking me to do it. It definitely prepared me for it.”
The stories from his gridiron days are popular fodder when he’s sitting around talking with his fellow soldiers.
“People talk to me about football all the time, and it was a big deal, especially back in Alabama to say I played football there,” Bush said. “For me, though, being in service to people is more important. I loved every minute of it, being at Alabama, but I’m fulfilling something bigger and being a part of something greater than myself now.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.