Local college basketball coach enlists in National Guard

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

It's a love for America and the freedoms we have that inspired one local college basketball coach to make a decision to serve our country.

Union College basketball coach Sean Gillespie has traveled the nation and the world coaching hoops. But it's a duty Gillespie now has off the court that caught the attention of many this Veterans Day.

"The life lessons you pull from it - loyalty, teamwork, commitment - all those kinds of things," said Gillespie.

Gillespie has coached basketball at Union College since 2009.

"My dad was full-time military, so I've been around it, moved around, been part of that process," said Gillespie.

But this self-admitted military brat wanted to do something else - ever since America was attacked on September 11, 2001.

"I was home sick from work in Orlando, Florida - laying in bed you know, had a fever. I had the news on and saw it all play out on television, and it affected me in a big way," said Gillespie.

Gillespie toyed with entering the National Guard for a decade, but with a wife, two young girls, and a coaching career - It never seemed like an option.

When Gillespie found out there was a cutoff age for enlisting, that decision got a little bit easier.

"I didn't want to look back at 45 or 50 years old and regret not trying or making an attempt to do it when it was too late," said Gillespie.

So in January of this year, at 42, he enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard.

He prepared his coaching staff for his initial absence. Gillespie went to basic training in April and dropped 40 pounds but came back ready to serve.

"When I stood in front of my sergeant and raised my right hand, there was some emotion," said Gillespie.

Now on this Veterans Day, he said he is hopeful for what the future brings.

"The guys that are overseas right now are the real heroes in my mind," said Gillespie.

He also wants others with that same desire to know that age is no barrier when it comes to fighting for freedom.

Gillespie's unit out of Middlesboro is in Iraq right now, but he did not go because he was at basic training when they were first deployed.

He said he will be ready to go when he gets that call.

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