TIMOTHY J. GAESTEL
Patriot, Chapter 1919
Timothy J. Gaestel
was born at
His father retired from the
Army at Fort Hood,
in 1988 and moved to the
Tim went through public schools
in Leander and graduated from
with the Class of 2001.
Tim is one of the earliest of today’s wounded
warriors to have joined America’s
war on terrorism.
In fact he would have been
inducted into the Army before the end of the day on 9/11 had the planes not
all been grounded that morning when the towers fell.
By the time his enlistment was
up, he was a Sergeant and a combat veteran of both
Still contending with the pain
from wounds sustained in
he is on course to graduate from
next year, becoming one of the earliest beneficiaries of the “Post 9/11 G.I.
Here is his story.
Shortly after graduation he determined to
enlist in the Army.
By coincidence he was all set
to be inducted into the service on 9/11, when events of that fateful day
upset his plans.
Tim describes it this way,
“I initially decided to join on August 12th.
It took me all month, and
several trips to San Antonio’s
Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) because I needed a medical
waiver (for a metal plate in my leg). My final day to leave was scheduled
for September 11, 2001.
On September 10th I took a bus
ride down to
and woke up the next morning at 4:00 AM, ready to start my journey.
I had already sworn in for my
first time when I looked up on the television and saw breaking news of the
first plane flying into the world trade center.
Then minutes later, sitting in
the MEPS waiting room, I watched as the second plane flew into the second
By the time the third plane
flew into the Pentagon the MEPS station was on lock down and all planes were
grounded nationwide. Even though we were going to Basic Training we couldn’t
leave because the planes weren’t going anywhere, so the staff sent us back
I repeated my trip from Austin
to San Antonio two more times before finally being given word that we would
be shipped out the following Monday. When Monday came, my original group of
twelve being sent to
had dropped to only three. The others decided not to join because 9/11
That’s how my date of entry
became September 16th instead of September11th, and that’s why I will always
remember where I was when 9/11 happened.
Private Gaestel went through Basic Training
followed by Advanced Individual Training in Artillery at
After qualifying as a Cannon
Crewmember in January 2002, he was sent to Fort Benning,
for Airborne training in February.
After earning his “jump wings,”
he arrived at his permanent duty station at Fort Bragg,
in March 2002 and was further assigned to C Battery, 1st Battalion, 319th
Field Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division.
But, he was not there very
Elements of the division, organized as Task
Force Panther, were deployed to Afghanistan
in August 2002 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
Tim’s unit was part of that
force and his C Battery was located at Forward Operating Base (FOB)
Six months later, the division
sent a replacement, Task Force Devil, that took over their mission and Tim’s
unit returned to Fort
in late February 2003, completing that deployment.
he would only be back at his home station for a short few months.
In August 2003 the 82nd Airborne Division
Headquarters with one Brigade Combat Team and supporting units deployed on
Operation Iraqi Freedom where they provided command and control and
conducted operations in and around Baghdad.
Tim’s 1-319 FA battalion was part of that
deployment, and he continues his story here,
in late August, crossed the border into
on September 11th and moved on up to our new home, FOB Chosin, and soon
began taking on security missions around
We did route security, escorted
convoys, and also secured and transported detainees, I remember having taken
some to Abu Gharib.
I was wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device
(IED) on September 21, 2003 during a mission on the road we called “ambush
alley,” which was very appropriately named.
was the gunner on top of a Humvee and we were at Al Iskadariyah, nearing the
end of ambush alley, when a loud and thunderous explosion went off.
felt a slap on my back and was jolted up against my weapon.
I didn’t think I was about to
die but I knew something had hit me really hard.
I reached around to feel my
back and when I pulled my hand back it was covered with blood.
My chief called and asked if I
was going to be okay or if I needed a medevac and I told him to just get
back to the Forward Operating Base.
I was on my knees with an M-4
at the ready as we drove back as fast as those Humvees can go. I felt fine
at first, but was losing a lot of blood (they told me later that I was white
as a ghost) and was beginning to go into shock by the time they got me to
the aid station.
was returned back to my unit exactly one month later and a week after that I
was back doing missions again.
Aside from that, I had observed something
interesting as we were on the way back to the FOB.
Black kites were being used to
and coalition forces were close enough to set off an IED.
A couple of missions before
this one I had seen a black kite flying in the air as we passed what was
later discovered as a IED.
On another mission after that I
saw another black kite flying as we passed through a town square, and again
we found an IED.
When I got hit the last thing I
saw as we sped away from the site was a black kite.
I told all that to my Command
Sergeant Major when he visited me in the medical tent at the FOB.
That was something that had not
been reported before and I later received an Army Commendation Medal for
The 82nd Airborne Division elements in
were replaced by 1st Marine Expeditionary Force units in early 2004.
SPC Gaestel was with his
battery when they returned to the United States
on February 28, 2004.
By late April 2004 the entire
82nd Airborne was back at
and all together again for the first time in two years.
Tim Gaestel served out the remainder of his
enlistment at Fort
In January 2005 he was promoted
to Sergeant and later that year he had another operation that successfully
removed the remaining IED fragments from his wound. However, damage to his
back remained and it would be permanent and painful. He says,
“I had always told myself that in four
years I was going to leave the Army and go to school, but after I made
Sergeant, life became better and less stressful.
I had tempting reenlistment
offers that were hard to turn down, but, in the end the pain in my back made
my decision for me.”
He was discharged September 16,
2005 and returned home to
Tim had contributed to the Montgomery Plan in
anticipation of attending college and he enrolled at
using those benefits.
opportunity to attend Austin
renewed my passion for learning. Another opportunity began in the Army that
developed during my time at ACC.
Andrew Carroll, writer and
editor of a book sponsored by the national Endowment of the Arts, had held
writing workshops at several military installations, including mine.
After working with him abroad,
Carroll contacted me with the news that my story would be included in the
book, “Operation Homecoming.”
Through this one event, I was
able to travel to Washington, D.C. for the book release, participate in a
book signing in the Library of Congress, and see my story published a second
time in the New Yorker Magazine.
I have also recently been
informed my story is being republished in a University creative writing text
These experiences taught me
that individual voices can make a difference.
I am grateful for my exposure
to the educational experiences of the book project and the community
Currently, Timothy is continuing his education
He is a recipient of this
year’s Purple Heart Scholarship and he has had the benefit of the new “Post
9/11 G.I. Bill” since it went into effect last August.
G.I. Bill is very impressive.
wish I was able to utilize it more
(the combination of the old Montgomery G.I. Bill and new “Post 9/11 G.I.
Bill” benefits cannot exceed 36 months),
but for future soldiers, getting a degree
will be a lot less stressful and allow the student to focus more on their
education instead of worrying about how to pay for it.
The new G.I. Bill also allows
soldiers who don’t want to use their benefits to pass them to their
children, which is amazing.
Luckily, I will still be able
to utilize Texas’
Hazelwood Act benefits and the scholarships that I have received.
I am really lucky to belong to
an organization like the Military Order of the Purple Heart that cares about
its members and beneficiaries.”
Tim expects to graduate in May 2011 and he looks forward to becoming
a teacher and a coach in high school. Chapter 1919 wishes him great success
and anticipates great things for him in the future, and this month
Patriot Timothy Gaestel.