Born up north, Veteran Paul Lynch and his family moved to Indiantown in 1980.
Lynch attended South Fork High School and graduated in 1988. His dad had already passed away, and his mother was working hard to support herself and her son.
Looking around trying to figure out what to do with himself, he decided to enter the military. “I’d always loved aviation,” he said. “I went into the military to work on helicopters.”
Back then, he explained, you had to score certain scores to go into particular fields. Luckily, his score was high enough to do what he wanted to do.
He turned 18, and the very next day was on a bus to Fort Dix, N.J. When he first got there, the temperature was similar to that of Florida, but when it came around to October, “it got brutally cold, and I was not used to it.”
After basic training, he was sent to Fort Eustis, Va., to learn to work on helicopters. He was there for a long time learning the trade. They started out with book training before moving on to the actual helicopters. “I think I was there four or five months before heading to Fort Hood."
Lynch was a crew chief assigned to an attack helicopter so any training the infantry did, he was expected to participate. His job was to maintain the helicopters which were flying a lot of missions. He did not get to fly with the helicopter but wherever it went, they took their truck and followed so they could be there to take care of any problems with the aircraft. He did get to fly in the helicopter a couple times during testing.
Around that time, Desert Storm and Desert Shield took place, and he was sent to Saudi Arabia, he explained.
The men flew there, but all the trucks, Humvees, helicopters, etc., were sent by ship. This took a long time, he said. Once they got to Damman, they had to unload everything and reassemble the helicopters. Everything was shrink-wrapped to help protect them.
The war had not really started yet, he said. "We went out to the desert to the middle of nowhere and set our tents up in the sand." They had to set up night guards because often Iraqi soldiers would walk into the camp carrying a white flag. “They didn’t want to be there. They knew what they were up against. They were put out there with no food, no nothing, just told to fight.” They did not have any trouble with the other side sneaking into camp. It was mainly the deserters they had to watch out for, but you never knew, he said. “At any time, insurgents could be coming. We had to be ready. We had to be alert.”
It was so hot there in the daytime that at night, the 60-70 degree weather seemed freezing to them. He remembers being on guard duty on top of a mountain and shivering uncontrollably. Some nights, he even used his chemical mask to keep the sand out of his eyes.
They were out in the middle of nowhere and were surprised to find the city of Riyadh just sitting out there in the desert. “It was kind of like going to Vegas,” he said. Riyadh is the capital and largest city in Saudi Arabia.
He was over there for a little over six months and said the people were very friendly for the most part.
When he got back to Texas, he found out his division was disbanding. It was a tank division, but they were a helicopter brigade providing support, he explained.
A new division was created in Fort Campbell, Ky. This one was an air assault division. He spent his last five years in the service there.
While in the Army, he went not only to Saudi Arabia, but also to Iraq and Kuwait, then to Germany for training. He also visited Belgium.
He took a lot of pride in the fact he had the same helicopter for most of his career. “When other crew chief’s helicopters were down, we would always rag them,” he laughed. “We had to be battle-ready and were proud to keep our helicopter ready.”
While in the service, Lynch was an extra in a movie called Firebirds but said you can’t see him. He was driving a truck. “We were 18, 19 years old. We thought it was so cool we were in a movie. They bought us lunch, and that was our pay,” he said.
In total, he served a little over eight years. He considered making it a career. He loved the camaraderie, but he was married with a baby and was gone a lot. “Our bags were always packed. We never knew when or where we were going. We were always on alert.”
“I wasn’t seeing my son and it made for a horrible marriage, so I just decided to get out.”
His wife’s family lived in Okeechobee, so they came here, and he has been here ever since. “When I first got out, I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I was lazy. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t work for like six months.” He had saved enough money that the family was OK financially, so he just stayed home with his family and enjoyed life. “I met up with old friends, went fishing, things like that.”
Eventually, he decided it was time to get a job. He found one working on helicopters in LaBelle but decided the commute was too much. He applied at Sikorsky Aircraft but did not get hired there. “They were not hiring at that time. All the government contracts were shutting down.”
He ended up working for Walmart for a short time. He then went into the automotive trade so he could bring home more money. He started out for Tires Plus and now works as the store manager at Total Roadside. He has been there for 10 years, working alongside his wife, Jennifer.
Lynch and his first wife have three sons. Jennifer has three girls and a boy from her first marriage. “Jennifer was my first love. I met her in grade school and have loved her ever since,” he said. The couple lost track of each other when he went into the service, and she moved to Okeechobee to finish up high school. He found her again on Facebook and they ended up together again.