Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Travis Bickford, who served a year in Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Travis Bickford joined the service at age 17 as a way to escape his home state of Maine. He was a talented high school runner who later received a tryout invitation for the Army World Class Athlete Program.
Bickford chose the Army because of his family: his grandfather is in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame, and both his father and uncle served in the Army.
Bickford attended boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia. He enjoyed his time there because of his drill sergeants. He was also already in good shape, providing him with an edge for the physically demanding tasks. Bickford put on 25 pounds of muscle while at boot camp.
Following his training in Georgia, Bickford served in Germany before returning to the U.S. and joining the National Guard. He activated while attending college at the University of Maine. Bickford deployed for a year of service in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While overseas, Bickford saw combat on his forward operating base at Camp Victory Army Base in Iraq. He often monitored the surrounding area’s activity from a 70-foot tower that was subject to rocket-propelled grenade attacks. One of Bickford’s most memorable experiences was when he and his best friend were hanging out, and the sky began to light up with fire. They put on their gear and ran out of the barracks, only to discover that the noise and lights were celebratory fireworks—Baghdad had beaten Syria in a soccer match.
After leaving as sergeant on Sept. 9, 2006, Bickford returned home to Maine before spending three weeks in New York City. He then took summer courses before finishing his final semester at the University of Maine and earning a degree in history. Upon graduation, he left Maine to live with his best friend in Lowell, Massachusetts, and worked as a substitute teacher. He continued his education by pursuing a master’s degree at Brown University in history teacher education.
In August 2009, Bickford went to Manama, Bahrain, and taught a seventh grade English course, as well as the English language to adults.
After returning to the states, he worked for City Year in Boston, managing AmeriCorps volunteers. He then served for three years as the project director of the Veterans History Project Student Edition at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, before becoming the associate director of military and Veteran affairs of William James College in Newton, Massachusetts.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Katherine Berman
Editor: Katie Wang, Julia Pack, Amanda Baker
Fact checker: Lia Sansoucy
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr