OSSINING, N.Y. -- Drew Young, who graduated from Ossining High School, has served his country in the Army for more than 30 years.
Young is currently deployed in East Africa about 100 miles from Somalia. This is Young's sixth combat deployment. He was recently awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his service as a Senior Counterintelligence Officer in the Horn of Africa.
Young got commissioned into ROTC after graduating from Ossining. He served in the Persian Gulf War and has been to Iraq three times and Afghanistan twice. This is his second deployment to Africa.
"I was drawn in by a strong sense of patriotism and service," Young said. "It was a calling. A lot of people on my mom's side served in World War II and Vietnam."
After graduating from SUNY Binghamton, Young was initially in combat arms before going into the intelligence field, where he wound up at The Pentagon.
"In my first few months at the Pentagon, I got lost so many times," Young said. "It has the second largest parking lot. Being there was awe-inspiring. It was a really cool experience."
Serving in the Gulf War involved a lot of intense ground fighting. Young admits when he joined ROTC, the likelihood of going to war at the time was pretty slim.
"I've done it six times now," Yong said. "You never really know what you're getting into until you sign up."
Young was working in New York City as an intelligence officer on Sept. 11 and was one of the first deployments into Afghanistan after the attacks.
"I saw the death and destruction firsthand," Young said. "It drove my desire to continue to serve."
When it comes to fighting a war, Young said he relies on his training, comparing it to driving a high-performance sports car or skiing on a steep mountain.
"You're doing something that's on the line between somewhat exhilarating with a degree of uncertainty," Young said. "The more you train, the better off you are. You can eliminate the variables. You fall on back your train and count on the guys on your left and right."
Young said there is a sense of brotherhood that exists among his fellow soldiers, especially when they are away from home.
"You're dealing with a common adversary," Young said. "Everyone has good days and bad days and you are there for each other on the good and the bad."
The toughest part of serving overseas is being away from his wife and children. Young, who lives in Virginia, has one child who is a freshman at Virginia Tech and another is a sophomore in high school.
"I've missed his entire freshman year," Young said. "When I am home, I make sure I am completely home and engaged with my family. I make sure I make the best of my time at home."
In Africa, Young serves as an intelligence officer, determining what threats exist and helping to combat organizations like Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda while also trying to prevent Somali piracy.
"Africa is a beautiful place," Young said. "The people are amazing and the animals are phenomenal. You see elephants and hippopotamuses and gazelles. It's like no other place in the world."