Do you remember Tim James?
I do. He played for Miami back with the 'Canes were a member of the Big East, and he was pretty damn good. As a senior, he averaged 18.4 ppg and 8.2 rpg en route to third team AP all-american honors. He ended up being a first round pick of the Miami Heat and played three years in the NBA before heading overseas to places like Turkey, Israel, and Japan.
James earned over $2 million in his NBA career, made a healthy living while playing overseas, and graduated from Miami. He isn't broke, and he isn't uneducated. He has options.
So what is he doing these days?
He is a soldier serving in Iraq. And he went there by choice.
From the Miami Herald:
As he traveled all over the globe playing his beloved game, seeing a world he never thought he'd see growing up poor in Miami, he didn't learn to merely value or appreciate America's freedoms. He decided he wanted to fight to protect them, too. ...Great story, and definitely worth the read.
James isn't running through the sand avoiding unrelenting machine-gun fire. This isn't Pat Tillman, though it is about the closest thing sports has seen since the late Tillman left the football Arizona Cardinals. James isn't someone who craves a fire fight. He just wants to help. He is on an air base in an area his captain describes as "dusty, barren and isolated."
His remaining 11 months in Iraq should go by without him ever having to go beyond the airfield's wires. James hasn't heard enemy fire in his month there.
He works 12-hour shifts every day, with one day off every two weeks. He has trained to throw grenades and lay down mines, but what he's doing these days is helping fuel planes and helicopters. It is, in the words of his captain, "one of the least appreciated jobs and one of the most important. One of the hardest-working units we have -- easily."