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Army veteran, two-time Purple Heart recipient searches for ‘new mission’ as a civilian

After a nearly 21-year career in the United States Army, First Sergeant Brian Hines retired in April 2024 and settled with his family in South Lyon, Michigan. Despite a highly decorated career and multiple combat deployments, the transition from the military to civilian life hasn’t been easy. 1SG Hines’ story is the latest in our ‘I Am a Veteran’ campaign.


In 2003, 21-year-old Brian Hines was working towards becoming an electrician near his home in Toccoa, Georgia. He recalls watching 24-hour news coverage of the war in Iraq kicking off and feeling a deep-seated urge to make a difference. He’d follow in his older brother’s footsteps and enlist in the US Army in September 2003. But unlike his brother, who joined as a cook, Hines would be an infantryman. He’d find himself in the Middle East just four months later.

“I got to my first duty station in Hawaii in January of 2004,” says Hines. “At the reception, they told us they were leaving for deployment in a few days and asked if we wanted to go. We said ‘Yeah, let’s go. That’s why we’re here.’ So that same month, we were in Iraq.”

Hines deployed to Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division's 1st of the 14th Infantry Regiment from January 2004 to February 2005. It was on this deployment he earned two Purple Heart medals for injuries sustained in combat, just one day after the other.

In November 2004, a stolen Iraqi police truck sped towards Hines’ position and refused orders to stop and slow down. The truck exploded in front of him, instantly killing five Iraqi security guards and injuring Hines and other men in his vehicle. Hines took shrapnel to his neck, back and mouth. He and the other injured members of his team did not get medical treatment until six hours later due to the fighting that followed the explosion.

“Everything was orange from all of the dust,” says Hines. “That’s when the whole city popped off and just like erupted. Everybody was taking fire. A couple hours later we were able to do an actual assessment and then I can remember seeing the hole in the ground that was like three feet deep. There was nothing left of that car.”

The very next day, Hines and his team would be out on another mission when their vehicle strike an IED.

“We only got maybe 100 meters in," says Hines. "I’m up on the gun and happened to look at the traffic circle and thought, ‘That’s a really great spot for an IED’. And when we were going through, 'BOOM'. It more or less destroyed our vehicle and blew up a water pipe in there that was underneath the ground. I took shrapnel to the body from that.”

“We were really lucky that nothing severe happened,” continues Hines. “We were fortunate that those were the only things that happened and we didn’t lose anybody on that deployment.”

Hines would deploy to Iraq again with the same unit from 2007 to 2009, and again from 2010 to 2011.

“These deployments taught me resilience and the importance of adaptability in the face of adversity,” says Hines. “Despite the challenges, I relished every moment as an infantryman. In those trenches, I discovered my true calling—to lead, inspire, and make a difference.”

He then deployed to Afghanistan in 2018 with the Security Forces Assistance Brigade.

“My specific team was in Kandahar and we were there to train, advise and assist the Afghan military unit that was out there,” says Hines. “We trained them and gave them the tools they needed to be successful. We just had to make sure that it was known to them that eventually we were going to leave and they would be left with the men to their left and their right.”

Hines would do one more deployment to Thailand in 2022 before eventually deciding to retire.

“After 21 years and all of the work, the experience, the jobs and bouncing around and moving around, I decided I’ve seen enough,” says Hines. “I was tired of moving, tired of missing out on the kids, tired of missing out watching them grow up. I was over not having stability and being told to go somewhere else every three years.”

Hines, his wife and three children would move to South Lyon, Michigan in August 2023, officially retiring from the Army in April 2024. Despite a decorated military career spanning two decades, like many service members, the transition to civilian life hasn’t been easy.

“It’s a different mission,” said Hines. “I’ve had a couple of job interviews, but they didn’t work out. I’m trying to find something now that gives me another purpose. After 21 years of service, it’s hard. There’s no sugarcoating it.”

“The hardest part is navigating all of these resources, trying to filter out all of the things that aren’t relevant to me,” continues Hines. “In a way you’re just kind of left out there to figure it out. No one else is going to do the things for you. It’s really up to you to navigate those resources.”

Hines says accessing the benefits and support promised to him has been frustrating. Delays and bureaucratic hurdles have left him feeling abandoned by the system he swore to defend.

“Despite all of that, I’m still proud to say I served,” says Hines. “My service may be over, but my commitment to serving my country and supporting fellow veterans will never waver.”


Veterans of any age or era — or their dependents — may qualify for benefits and resources, such as VA health care, mental health services and education and employment assistance. The MVAA serves as the central coordinating point for Michigan veterans to get connected to their benefits. Contact us at 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838) or visit our website at

If you're a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention 24/7/365. Call 988 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at