Brian Dillard is a U.S. Air Force veteran. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio, officially recognized as “Military City USA,” is home to three bases with nearly 296,000 military members – almost 20 percent of our city’s population. For Memorial Day, we asked several local military members – a reservist and two veterans – about their experience in the military and civilians’ misconceptions; how it shaped their education, career, and family lives; and how they spend the holiday honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Brian Dillard, 34, served 10 years active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a cybersecurity specialist. He was stationed in Nebraska, Great Britain, and South Korea, and did one tour in southern Iraq. He returned to San Antonio in 2009 and now works as a security analyst for a local cybersecurity firm.

Brian Dillard during his tour in southern Iraq in 2010. Credit: Courtesy / Brian Dillard
Rivard Report: Why did you join the military?

Brian Dillard: I failed one of my five college courses during my first semester at UTSA. After that, I decided I would let the military pay for the rest of my degree.

RR: Why did you leave the military?

BD: I wanted to be able to have input in the direction that my career and life would go. Toward the end of my time, I didn’t feel like I had a choice when it came to my career and I felt all of it was secondary to a rudimentary system of pushing/pulling personnel.

RR: Did you have family who served in the military before you?

BD: Yes. My Uncle Sherman Harper retired from the U.S. Navy, and my uncle Philip Branch served in the U.S. Army. Philip passed away before I was born, and Sherman passed away when I was a kid. Sherman was a major role model in my life and I think he would have been proud of me serving my country.

RR: Would you support your child enlisting in the military?

BD: I would prefer them not to, but if they chose to go that route, I would encourage them to go to college and earn a degree before joining. Being a non-commissioned officer was great, but I often felt that I missed out on a lot of potential leadership development by not serving as a commissioned officer, not to mention I would have loved to have gotten officers’ pay.

RR: Would you support a mandatory draft?

BD: No.

RR: How much attention do you pay to the politics in Washington, D.C.?

BD: National politics obviously play a large role when you’re in the military. I was very attentive to what was going on in D.C., so much so that before I left the military I got my bachelor’s degree in political science. I was lucky to have finished my term under a great president [Barack Obama]. I don’t know how I would feel if I were currently serving. When you’re deployed or serving somewhere like South Korea, you want to be assured that the people making the decisions up top are competent and level-headed.

RR: How would you describe the rapport between civilian and military populations in San Antonio?

BD: Our civilian population in San Antonio provides an enormous amount of support, respect, and gratitude. I can attest that it is appreciated by the service men and women that they interact with everyday.

RR: How does that rapport in other cities or countries compare to that of San Antonio?

BD: San Antonio is Military City, USA. There is no comparing to that. But when I was in other cities, they showed appreciation and respect for all of us. Even in foreign countries, we were always treated in a kind, warm, and welcome manner, but nowhere close to the feeling that San Antonians provide.

RR: What was the best part about being in the military?

BD: The travel. I was able to spend 10 years of my life experiencing other cultures all around the world. I truly miss that benefit.

RR: What was the hardest part about being in the military?

BD: The inability to make your own life decisions. The constant “hurry up and wait” routine also gets old.

RR: What do you wish civilians knew about the military?

BD: Every military member that you run into is an individual. We may be trained to operate in sync when needed, and we’ll always be a team, but we all have different religious beliefs, ideologies, and personal traits that may not fall in line with what civilians assume when they see a military member. Also, not all airmen fly planes.

RR: What is the biggest misconception civilians have about the military?

BD: That we all have a war-focused mindset. We’re prepared to be war-ready, but not all of us are war-hungry.

RR: How will you spend your Memorial Day?

BD: With friends and family, remembering those who weren’t able to make it back home, and treasuring the fact that I was blessed to make it back to see the folks I love.

Brian Dillard is an Eastside San Antonio native and homeowner in Dignowity Hill. He is the chief innovation officer for the City of San Antonio. He began his career in public service in 2018 as the city's...