Why we serve: US Army Spc. Adama Blackthorn stranger than fiction: Entrepreneur, Pagan priest, soldi
Spc. Adama Blackthorn, a multi-system operator in the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Tactical Operations Center (TOC), poses for a photo outside of the Task Force Dragon Headquarters, Oct. 5, 2012.
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Story by: 4IBCT Commander Henry A. Arnold III
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Everyone has a past, but some people have stories that read like fiction. Adama Blackthorn can be described as a humble, kind, giving and witty person. One thing that people wouldn't place in the same narrative is evil.
"The hardest thing about telling my story, is telling my story," said Blackthorn.
Blackthorn, now serving as a specialist, is currently deployed to Afghanistan working as an intricate systems maintainer in the Tactical Operations Center for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
"I'm a command post of the future, blue force tracker and radio telephone operator in our TOC. It's really amazing the amount of information that flows between those systems," said Blackthorn.
Leading up to the military, Blackthorn's life is what most people would describe as unusual. He was previously a combat medic in the Washington National Guard in 2000. But the chapter prior to his enlistment is where things get dark.
"I was a professional bouncer, night club security and armed personal guard. I've worked Sturgis, an annual motorcycle rally held in Sturgis, S.D.," he said. "I literally did everything necessary to get you out of my environment. That's how I go the nickname 'Evil'."
"The most interesting thing about me, I would say, is that I lived completely off the grid for 10 years. No credit card, no phone, no home of record. Some people would say I was a homeless person, but I had a job all the time. I always had the ability to do what I wanted; I've traveled across the U.S., Europe and Canada," Blackthorn said.
"I was just never tied to anything, so it gave me the opportunity to see society and life in a different light," he said. "It was great because I could literally jump on a bike or car that I owned at the time and just leave. I wasn't stuck anywhere. If I wanted to leave Dallas and go to New Orleans, I'd just pack up and go."
"It was amazing because I met so many people from so many walks of life, people who were dirt poor or had more money than they knew what to do with. It was nice. I spoke to those people and learned things," Blackthorn said.
"I literally lived the 'American Dream' without restrictions, which was really cool," he said. "Living in that fashion gave me an appreciation of what I have, what I've acquired, what I do and don't need."
"It makes life for me less stressful, as my spouse likes to say 'It's only but a moment.' You have that one minute moment where you could do something. It's nice to be able to live without regret. It's nice to be able to look at a situation and say 'I've done that'," he said.
During that era of Blackthorn's life, he learned a lot from the various people he came across, especially an entrepreneur that frequented the scene in which he worked. He taught Blackthorn that you could start a business with little start-up cost, if done right.
"I think we're doing pretty good, for a small mom and pop business," said Blackthorn. "We started our business in 2007 for less than 300 dollars."
Surprisingly the business that Blackthorn speaks of is homemade candles.
"It's funny, because my daughter was the one that got us started. She was in the girl scouts and she wanted to do something different for her craft project," said Blackthorn.
"Any given weekend we can make from a couple of hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars, and it's something that we do at home," he said. "When my wife and I first started the research for the business, we wanted to do something that was extremely green, completely American-made and viable for when my kids decide they wanted to pick it up."
"Eventually it turned into the Blackthorn Candle Company. It's funny, a lot of my friends wouldn't peg me as a candle maker," he added. "I used these candles to learn my community."
"This product is produced out of my home; you don't have to worry about if it was made in a sweat shop in a third world country. You meet the owner, my wife, kids and some of my friends," he said.
"I thoroughly enjoy my job; I come home from a long day of work and pour candles. It's relaxing, so I don't see it as a hassle. When you do something that you've come to love, it's an indescribable feeling to do it," said Blackthorn.
His all-natural candles also play a role in his faith -- the Earth-based Pagan religion.
"I've been a practicing Pagan for almost two decades, and it's very fulfilling," said Blackthorn.
"My belief system is that, if we don't take care of the environment we live in it won't take care of us. I've gotten to see the level of waste and nonchalant use of resources," Blackthorn said.
"I think making my candles adds to the spiritual effect for me. Its lead me on a path of where I was to where I am now. It's brought me to a place of personal enjoyment and enlightenment," said Blackthorn.
"I grew up Southern Baptist and my family is all Christian. They wanted me to become a pastor. I kind of am, but as a Pagan," said Blackthorn. "I get a lot more fulfilment doing that because I get to help soldiers, civilians and people of different faiths."
"There is a large Pagan, Wiccan community in the military. The reason why people don't realize we're there is because the faith had to go underground," he said. "There were a lot of people who never understood it and used it as a pariah."
"The military is about giving everyone the opportunity to practice their spiritual beliefs. I stepped forward as a Pagan minister and said, 'I hear there is a need for a Pagan, Wiccan representative and I'm willing to do it'," said Blackthorn.
He serves as the brigade's distinguished faith group leader. It hasn't been until recent years that the Pagan faith has been acknowledged by the U.S. military as a religion.
He presented the brigade chaplain and the unit ministry team with a 40 page slide presentation on the Wiccan and Pagan religion. The Wiccan and Pagan faith is broad and covers multiple religious beliefs from Buddhism to Native American traditions.
"A lot of people believe [our religion is] what books and movies have portrayed our faith to be, especially the famous TV show 'Charmed', or it's witches flying on brooms or dancing in front of fire," said Blackthorn. "That's not the case."
He says that the way the Pagan society is a way to look at yourself with no excuses, no lies, and accepting yourself the way you are.
"That's one of the things I love about being a Pagan, because it's taught me a lot about myself," he said.
He's believes that being a Pagan has helped him in dealing with the things most people overreact to and that his faith has allowed him to come to grips with the bad things only last 'but of a moment.'
"In truth, everything I do is based around my belief system. How I interact with people, how I go about my day, is all based around my faith," said Blackthorn.
His strength in his faith has led him to become a very profitable businessman.
"It lays weight because I'm leaving knowledge for my children, as they get older they can make their own way in life. That's an education that many parents don't pass on to their children," he said.
"I want my children to be strong, independent and maintain their integrity, even when the world may not understand them," he added.
He also re-joined the military to fulfill a promise to his father-in-law, whose dying wish was that one of his children join the military and fight for the freedom that many take for granted.
"His sons weren't able to continue his legacy and I promised that I would do time in service to honor him. Once again this goes back to my faith, honoring our elders, the people who have laid the path for us," said Blackthorn.
"I do believe that everything comes full circle," said Blackthorn.
His candle company orders have spread all over the world. He is continuing to honor his father-in-law with his military service and live his life by his faith. His outlook on life is bright.
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