Junior Eric Linde enlisted in the military, inspired by his father, Darren Linde. He leaves for basic training June 15, and, in the summer of 2016, he will go to advanced individual training. He will then join the same unit his father had been in -- the 818th Engineer Company.
"Watching my dad be in the military and do cool stuff inspired me to join,” Eric said. “I know almost the entire unit.”
One of the members of this unit is Jonathan Schmidt, who has served in the National Guard for nearly five years.
“As a kid, I was big into superheroes, and, as I grew up, I realized the true heroes are our nation’s protectors,” Schmidt said. “Darren was my squad leader; and, in layman's terms, he was directly in charge of 1st squad, which consisted of about 10 guys. So, he was the closest thing to a father figure we had over there.”
Morgan Axelson, another member of the 818th, has served for just over five years in the National Guard. Darren was also his squad leader in Afghanistan.
“The best thing about (Eric’s) father was how much joy he brought to everyone he came in contact with,” Axelson said. “He was always a good practical joker.”
Darren Linde had a sense of humor that made him the friend of many within his unit, according to those who served with him.
“I will never forget the fact that I was Darren’s only troop in his career that he had to think of some out-of-the-box physical training,” Schmidt said. “He once made me do dips in front of a class saying, ‘I'm PFC (Private First Class) Schmidt, and I'm adorable.’ Or making me do push-ups while singing every word to the song ‘Dancing Queen’ in the woods of Missouri.”
Darren Linde often talked about his children back home. Those who served with him remember his stories.
“Eric was Darren’s world; that's all he ever talked about,” Schmidt said. “And after we got home, I got to spend a lot of time with (Eric). His decision to join the Guard is honorable. I knew he was going to join, and there isn't a force in the world that would’ve been able to persuade him differently.”
Adrienne Linde, Eric's mother, recently accompanied her son on the Snowball Express in Dallas/Ft. Worth Dec. 11-15. Snowball is a charity that honors families who have lost service members.
“On Dec. 3, 2012, our lives imploded with the tragic news of Darren's death,” Adrienne said. “We have been through an emotional tornado and landed on our feet.”
Linde often reflects on his memories of his father.
“Well, there's not a ‘best’ thing, but what I miss the most [about my dad] is joking around and hearing his laugh,” Linde said.
Adrienne admits that Linde’s decision to join the military didn’t come as a shock.
“Darren and Eric were two peas in a pod,” Adrienne said. “You didn't see one without the other. Since Eric was a small boy, we have always known he would follow in his father’s footsteps.”
Linde has wanted to join for as long as he can remember. He has been anticipating what he will go through in training.
"[My dad's service has] helped me out a lot with the military already,” Linde said. “It's helped because I know what to expect. ...I will endure neverending challenges in the military.”
Indeed, the basic training he will participate in this summer will test his limits.
“Basic training is what we send all the new soldiers to,” Schmidt said. “It is where they learn all of the basic soldier skills like maintaining/shooting an M16 assault rifle, obstacle courses, gas chambers, etc. The biggest challenge with the military, especially for me, is the time I've had to be away from my family and friends. As a soldier, I knew I would have to be away a lot, and it’s just one of the sacrifices we have to make.”
As Axelson points out, there are other trials as well.
“In basic training there are obstacles you are faced with,” Axelson said. “The hardest part is learning to work with people you really know nothing about. You may also be pushed to physical challenges you might not be used to. There is also a high level of intensity at all times.”
Adrienne believes that her son will be able to handle the challenges.
“He is an amazing young man who is driven to succeed,” Adrienne said.
Linde is determined to follow through with his decision to join the military and other people in his life find inspiration from him.
"I think my decision impacted those around me in a positive way,” Linde said. “It inspired some of my friends to do the same."
Though Darren left big shoes to fill, Linde is willing to take them in his stride.
“I believe Eric will be a great soldier just like his father was,” Axelson said. “Our unit will suit him well.”
Axelson isn’t the only one who respects Linde. His father’s legacy will not be forgotten thanks to Linde’s resolve.
“Eric is going to be an outstanding soldier,” Schmidt said. “I see his dad in him more and more every day. He’s got the drive, confidence and determination to excel in anything he wants. He and his family are some of the strongest people I’ve ever met.”
The entire Linde family stands behind him, supporting his decisions for his future.
“Eric enlisting in the National Guard has made his sisters and me incredibly proud,” Adrienne said. “His Dad is beaming with pride as he begins the next chapter in his life.”
The summer of 2016 and Linde’s joining of 818th Engineer Company (Sapper) draws nearer; and Schmidt has plans for Linde.
“I have already told [Eric] that the roles have reversed,” Schmidt said. “Now I’m the sergeant and he’s the private, so he’ll learn the words to ‘Dancing Queen’ pretty soon.”