By Annie Pulley

“Always Ready, Always There” is the motto of the National Guard. These state armies are primarily tasked with protecting the homeland, but they also see foreign shores and combat. 

Spc. Jonathan Pulley, 23, serves in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. 

With a father who was in the Air Force, a brother in the Marines, and a brother in the National Guard, Pulley’s decision to serve was a natural one. Service has played a prominent role in his  life. 

Pulley explained that his mother modeled a life of service and ensured her children learned to serve too. Whether it be delivering meals to elderly community members or helping at church, Pulley grew up in an environment marked by service. 

At 14 Pulley knew that the military would be his preferred platform for service. At 18 he enlisted. The possibility of federal activation and combat deployment were always a part of the equation, Pulley explained. 

Between 2001 and 2016, 780,000 of the servicemen deployed overseas were from the National Guard. One out of six soldiers killed in Iraq came from National Guard units. 

Understanding the calculus, Pulley went through basic training and Airborne School from 2016 to 2017. 

In week three of Airborne School, students must successfully complete five jumps from airplanes flying at an altitude of 1,250 feet. Pulley’s first jump was marked less with fear and more with laughter. 

Moments before the first jump, Pulley witnessed a reluctant student forcibly pushed from the plane by the commanding sergeant. “I just walked right out of the plane, laughing my butt off all the way to the ground,” Pulley said. 

Pulley explained that jump three was far less amusing. After he jumped and relieved the pressure and pain caused by his heavy gear, Pulley realized he had drifted atop another student’s parachute.

Air swiftly rushed from under Pulley’s parachute, and it began to descend towards him. “I should be fine. I could be fine. There’s a chance of not being fine,” Pulley recalled his thought process. 

Pulley mustered his strength, ran the radius of the parachute, and dove off. He knew he was still falling too fast. 

Rather than deploying his secondary parachute, Pulley decided to endure the fall and save himself the trouble of gathering up the reserve parachute after the landing. “You know, let’s just see what happens. Because if worse came to worse, I wouldn’t have to do anything. They’d carry me out,” Pulley said. 

Though his helmet bore a clay stain from hitting the ground forcefully, Pulley walked away uninjured. He later earned his Airborne wings. 

With a story or two under his belt, Pulley is safely grounded nowadays. Service is still a primary focus in his life. 

While pursuing a degree in economics at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Pulley also works as a volunteer EMT, a youth ministries leader, an economic researcher and a monthly soldier.

Though jumping out of airplanes and serving in uniform may not fit into everyone’s life plan, anyone can learn how to serve, Pulley explained. “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. That’s a good place to start,” Pulley said.