By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
GUYTON -- South Effingham wrestling coach Christopher Bringer doesn’t mind telling his story — a 25-year journey as a member of the United States Army.
He’ll celebrate Veterans Day on Thursday by wearing his Army Dress Uniform to his world history and economics classes and if a curious few inquire, he’ll share what he can about his life as a soldier.
“Kids will ask, ‘Have you shot anyone? Have you been shot at?’ ” Bringer said. “I have — both.”
He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring in 2017 and brings to teaching and coaching a no-nonsense style while blending honesty with straightforwardness.
“I have some bias because I’m the wrestling coach, but I am a true believer wrestling is a sport based on life,” Bringer said. “We have kids who are really, really good who lose and kids who aren’t so good who win and I think that’s just life in general.
“As much as I can coach, winning or losing falls on that individual. A person’s work ethic comes into play, his character comes into play. Wrestling exposes weaknesses in character. The kids who like to take Saturdays off and sleep in, you can see that immediately in a wrestling match. That’s what life is. Losing can be devastating. It can be personal and painful, but then it’s up to you to learn from it.”
Military life was a goal for Bringer as a teenager. He enlisted out of high school. After two years, he went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and earned a ROTC commission as an officer from Marquette University.
He was stationed at Fort Stewart for about nine years. He met his wife, Analynn, in Savannah in 2005 and has four boys.
He says he’s been all over the United States and had multiple deployments overseas, including stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’ve been in combat a lot and I’ve seen a lot of disturbing things,” Bringer said. “I guess that makes me appreciate pretty much every minute of every day. I walk around every day thinking how lucky I am to be alive and living in a place that doesn’t have the violence the Middle East has to deal with on a daily basis.”
Without being political or judgemental, he shared thoughts about the country’s recent pullout of Afghanistan.
“Whether we pulled out 10 years ago or 10 years from now, we would have been dealing with a very difficult situation regardless just because of the culture there,” Bringer said. “Afghanistan was a tough environment for us to be in and was very, very complicated. There’s a cultural difference in that part of the world that isn’t easy for us to work with. It isn’t easy to enforce people who just didn’t grow up like we do.”
Veterans Day is a remembrance for those who served. But it’s also a time to be grateful for what we have — a message Bringer wants his students to understand.
“We’re fortunate to live in a country where we have school systems that allow us to teach and learn like we do,” Bringer said. “We have a lot to be thankful for.”