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Special Delivery: Crossing Paths, Again

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Terrica Jones
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing

When Airman 1st Class Ryan Hayes, 916th Civil Engineer firefighter, was working a part time job while attending high school in Harnett County, he had no idea a busy night delivering pizza would lead to a military career thanks to Tech. Sgt. Christopher Perry, 916th Civil Engineer Flight Assistant Chief of Operations.

“It was a busy night, and I got a delivery to his house, and he was still in uniform, I guess it was right after a unit training assembly,” said Hayes. “So, I thanked him for his service and he came outside and talked to me for 10 minutes about joining the Air Force and all the good things about it.”

"We were talking, and he told me he was still in high school, and the military haphazardly got brought up in the conversation. I told him to look into the Air Force, contact a recruiter, and see what they can offer you,” said Perry.

“My brother is an officer in the Army and he has always pushed me to go, I just did not know which branch,” said Hayes.

The next month, Hayes spoke with an Air Force recruiter, but wasn’t keen on the jobs available at that time.

“Then the recruiter called me and said fire protection just opened up and I knew right there. I signed up and got my boot camp dates,” Hayes said.

During the chance conversation Perry and Hayes had months prior, Perry never mentioned he was a firefighter or even how he was a Reservist.  Almost a year later Perry and Hayes would cross paths again, and Perry would see first-hand the impact their chance conversation had on Hayes’ life.

Hayes reported to his first UTA in March of this year. After the newcomer’s orientation provided by the 916th Airman and Family Readiness Center, he was released to his unit where he finally met his fellow firefighters, to include Perry.

“When he showed up here, I didn’t even recognize him because it had been about a year and it blew my mind,” Perry said.  “We were talking about where we live and he goes, ‘I delivered a pizza to you a year ago. I was that young kid that you talked to, and you were telling me about the military.’”

“It was such a coincidence the way it happened, just one of those once in a lifetime type of stories,” said Perry.

“It's awesome to be able to work alongside one of the people who encouraged me to join the Air Force. A 10 minute conversation with a stranger lead me to start a new path for myself,” said Hayes. “I had no idea I would be working with him but, I'm grateful that I am. It gives me an opportunity to learn from and look up to someone who's already made a difference in my life,” he said.