Westport is a great town, Will Hamer says.
But he knew he was sheltered from real life here. So though he was not sure what to do after high school — the first 2 years as a member of Staples’ Class of 2015, the last 2 at tiny Dublin School in New Hampshire — he knew he wanted to “experience America.”
Hamer headed to Michigan. Working there, he learned about the Army National Guard there. He enlisted as an infantryman.
Eventually Hamer returned to Connecticut. He sold ads for a radio station and Hearst Media, and opened Bean n’ Batter, a waffles/granola/coffee bar spot in Bridgeport.
A second location, in Stamford, was nearly ready when the pandemic hit. Instead, he closed his first shop. “I learned a lot,” he says. “Especially the importance of cash reserves.”
When he moved to Connecticut, he transferred to this state’s National Guard. He’s helped build hospitals in Stamford, Hartford, New York and Massachusetts. He’s delivered ventilators.
His unit did not go to Washington for the inauguration. “They sent the MPs,” he explains. “The infantry doesn’t do crowd control.”
Now he’s preparing for a deployment overseas.
He can’t say where or when he goes, or even what he’ll be doing. But, he notes, “the army National Guard does everything. We’re trained for combat, but it’s also about winning the hearts and minds of local people. We help them build schools and hospitals. We make sure their livestock is healthy too.”
So what’s ahead? “They tell us to be prepared, but have no expectations,” he says. “We’ve trained forever for this. We’re super-ready.”
Many of his fellow Guardsmen — and people who join the military generally — do it for job training. “When you come out as a mechanic, a truck driver, a medic or whatever, you’re really well trained,” he notes.
Others join to get college paid for — and get paid while serving.
Hamer joined “to meet new people.” He was not disappointed. He “fell in love with the people who make our country run.”
He mentions “teachers who work with kids, single mothers on the night shift, welders who build bridges. Those are the people I’m proud to represent.”
Hamer says, “I wanted to do something to help. Whatever you do in the military is helpful.”
He knows only one other Westporter in the National Guard. He wishes more young people would consider joining.
And after he returns from overseas?
“I want to buy a house with a VA loan, and start a family,” he says. “And thanks to the military, everyone in my family will get healthcare.”
If that’s not enough to make someone think about the Guard or the military, there’s this: “Half price Chipotle. The discounts are very cool!”