BY JACK SHORT - You wouldn’t think, to look at Chris and Heather McGill, that they could kill you six different ways with a toothpick.
Okay, that’s obviously an exaggeration, but until you get to know the McGills, who own and operate the Banyan Tree Pilates and Yoga Studio on East Railroad Avenue, you might never guess their impressive military background and record of service to their country, their kids and their community.
They met at Ft. Monmouth, N.J. as Operation Desert Storm was beginning in 1991. They were both in the Army Signal Corps, and had both gone through Airborne training.
“We both wound up in the same unit because they needed an officer to fill in while half the unit was overseas, so I got that job,” Heather said.
Yes, Heather was a platoon sergeant and, yes, she outranked him. No word on who outranks whom now, though.
In spite of this, and the fact that her father was a career Army man and Vietnam vet, she didn’t go into college thinking she’d join up, much less go to war. In her junior year at Niagra University, she said she wanted to connect with some fellow athletes. So, she poked her head out the door one morning to find out what the group of people in the hallway were doing. She found out they were ROTC nurses who gathered in the hall every morning at 5 to run. As she got to know them, she decided she might find military service rewarding. So, after earning her BA in English and Communication Science, she enlisted.
“I didn’t know I was going to go to war,” she said. “They literally switched out our green BDUs for the desert camouflage when I was in training.”
On her birthday that year, they went in to install permanent communications during a ceasefire.
After four years of service, she was thinking of moving on. Chris only had a year left when they met.
They had both done tours in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Chris said he was ready to move on and do something different. He had served six years working with border patrols and drug interdictions as part of a small, rapid deployment unit.
“He’s understating what he did in the military,” Heather said. “He can’t tell you everything, but he had a security clearance and he was put into these tiny little operations. It’s pretty neat.”
He had enlisted out of high school after growing up in Punta Gorda. He said he wanted to get out of the small town and see something different. He had a few choices based on aptitude tests and ended up choosing satellite communications.
Heather would have been bound for a desk job in Kansas and Chris for Korea.
Just after they left military service, their platoon sergeant set them up on a date. They were married in 1993 and moved to Florida where Chris had grown up.
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