Be cool. Be “Fonzie cool.” That is one of the top lessons a veteran combat medic in East Tennessee wants to pass on to his students whether they run on emergency missions in a military helicopter or a civilian ambulance.
“Fonzie” is the fictional character in sitcom Happy Days who was never rattled and rolled through life with a confidence that became a universal symbol for “cool.”
"I always talk about people being 'Fonzie cool.' If people are 'Fonzie cool,' nine times out of 10 you can work your way through. But if you get excited and you step off the helicopter with your hair on fire, you’re not helping anybody,” said Tennessee Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Tracy Banta.
Banta joined the military at age 18 and continues to serve in the Guard at the age of 45.
He also serves the role of instructor at Roane State Community College in addition to his ongoing duties as a combat flight medic.
In addition to our on camera interview about his experiences overseas and on the homefront, SFC Banta also answered the following questions about the impact the military has had on his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
"My father, he is the reason I am what I am today. He was a Military man, Christian and stood beside me in everything that I have done right, wrong or indifferent."
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
"Yes I do and I am humbled to be in this uniform and performing the job that the good lord has allowed me to perform."
3. How can people thank you for your service?
"I need no thanks, but ask for people to pray for the military, their families and its leaders to make the right decisions."
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
"By being in uniform beside them and lending a helping hand when a fellow service member or their family need help!"
5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
"I feel they are the same and honored to perform their duties and lay everything on the line for this country! I think every generation is different in how they see and do things but in the end they protect this country and complete whatever task is asked of them."
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
"The military shaped my life in the right direction and continues to shape it daily by doing the right thing. The values that are instilled in us at a young age in the military and beyond are very similar to that of your church."
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
"Yes my family has a strong military service history as most families in America. Growing up gave me a glimpse of what my life was to be seeing my father in the military at a young age. My dad always said, "I know giving you rides in those Army Jeeps and trucks when you were little played a big part in you joining the Army." He was right! My little brother and I served in the same unit for 16 years before he moved to Pennsylvania. We served together in the same Medevac unit in Afghanistan in 2012."
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
"Yes, I believe that a strong nation is a free nation but that doesn’t come without sacrifice and commitment."
9. How has your opinion of war changed?
"It is not something I want my kids to do or any kid for that manner! I would deploy 10 times over to not have the youth of today see war. Peace is a greater alternative."
10. How did your military experience shape your faith?
"It has made me stronger, I have never met an atheist in combat! On a deployment you know you are going into harm’s way and I always felt at peace because of faith and prayer!"
11. A question that was not asked, "Family? I couldn’t do my job without the support of my family, I have always said my wife had the hardest job in the military! Raising 3 boys while I was away, not only deployed but training throughout the years my families sacrifice along with the thousands of other families out their today and in the past. I know for us to do our job every day without hesitation we have to know that we have support at home whether it’s a spouse, parents or a significant other. If I had to give my secret of success in the military I would have to say my wife because without her I wouldn’t have accomplished the things that I have."