Second in a series about AJ Littrell.
For almost 18 years now, military life and family life have been just about one and the same for biker enthusiast AJ Littrell. Looking at life after high school in 1995, AJ had one pressing concern: he needed a job. As he did in many other ways, he took his cue from his father, Del, one of the partners of Twisted Audio who had been in the Air Force during the Vietnam era. So AJ went down to the recruiting office to see what the different branches of the armed services had to offer.
After getting some information, his decision came pretty easily when the Marine Corps was the first service to follow up on his visit with a phone call. Along with their interest, “I liked the uniform,” he said. That was all it took for him to decide “this is what I wanted to do. I have no regrets.”
Still in the mode of his dad, he went in “wanting do something in aviation,” he said. So they put him in a helicopter unit. He has achieved the rank of Gunnery Sergeant and became a mechanic and crew chief for Huey and Cobra helicopters. It proved to be a perfect fit for his inclinations and, it turned out, for his marital prospects.
In 1999, AJ met another Marine named Wendy who, lo and behold, was also a Huey and Cobra mechanic. They were married in 2000. It wasn’t long after that their training for military action became real when Wendy saw deployment in the post- 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, serving with the24th Marine Expeditionary Unit HMM-365 that captured the Kandahar Airport.
Returning from her deployment in 2002, Wendy had enough time stateside with AJ to have their first child in 2003, a girl they named Skylar. But soon it was AJ’s turn for deployment to Afghanistan in 2004. Then in 2007 parenting became a little trickier as their deployments overlapped, with Wendy serving in Iraq from March to September, and AJ serving from July 2007 to February 2008 in a MEU Float deployment with HMM-261 to the Mediterranean, where his ship became part of the relief effort to Bangladesh after the tsunami struck there.
Things stayed busy for a while after that as another daughter, Emma, was born in 2009 in the midst of two more deployments to Iraq by AJ. All in all, his time overseas earned AJ two Air Medals, Navy Commendation Medal, and a Combat Action Ribbon.
Now AJ and Wendy are part of a reserve unit currently stationed in Ft. Dix, New Jersey, where AJ is the Flight Line Division Chief and Wendy is the Quality Division Chief. He continues to be a Marine through and through. “I like the respect and I love my job,” says AJ.
I’ve flown cross country so many times from North Carolina to California that I can’t remember.”
As a Marine who has been in a combat zone, AJ also has tremendous respect for those who came before, especially those from the Vietnam era like his father. He recalls watching his dad at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., remembering his comrades in arms who didn’t come home. “Seeing my dad down by that wall, I have a lot of respect for him, as the type of guy who made the sacrifice.”
His father never talked much about his time in the service, at least not until recently. “He’s talked about it more since I’ve been in the Marines,” said AJ, who noted that his father returned home at a time when many people had soured on the military and veterans suffered the repercussions of that. “Now that’s all turned around, but it’s still hard for guys like him to talk about it.”
Also during their time as working parents with small children in various day care centers, they became aware of how important such care was for young children and how it was important it was to have a stimulating environment for children to learn and grow in. Wendy started to pursue a degree in early childhood development, and with their retirement dates coming up in 2015 and 2017, they have begun to think about starting a day care or learning center of their own.
For now, most of AJ’s spare time consists of hanging out with his military pals, his family and the South Jersey Nam Knights Motorcycle Club. The SJNK is a military and law enforcement motorcycle club that supports all fallen police officers and all military veterans. Skylar and Wendy share in the club activities too. With his family and military so tightly connected, there have been plenty of “good and meaningful” times for AJ to reflect on. It’s all part of the same cloth that has wrapped his life in a fulfilling adventure he wouldn’t trade for anything.
Next: Bike club buds.