When Timothy Hernandez heard he could get paid to jump out of helicopters, he was sold.
So in 1994, straight out of high school, Hernandez enlisted in the U.S. Army and he hasn't stopped recruiting people to join him since.
Hernandez, a Hixson resident and Army captain, was selected recently to serve as one of about 100 Soldier Heroes at the 2011 All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
The bowl, set for Jan. 8, is being sponsored by the U.S. Army.
The Soldiers Heroes event showcases high school football players and band members from around the country. The Soldier Heroes, all Army recruiters who have won some sort of medal for valor, will serve as mentors to the students and talk about their experience in the armed forces.
"I've always enjoyed recruiting quality men and women into the armed forces. I believe in the all-volunteer force, and I believe that you have to recruit to continue that," Hernandez said in an interview.
During the All-American Bowl, "you're paired up with an athlete, and it's an opportunity for you to do some cross-talk with the athletes so they can learn about opportunities within the U.S. Army," he said.
During a 2008 tour in Afghanistan as an aviation platoon leader for a helicopter attack detachment, Hernandez led a group of soldiers to provide back-up for troops on the ground in a Taliban stronghold.
"They were being attacked by Taliban forces on the ground, and we'd been briefed that we might be needed for that mission, so we were prepared," the Apache helicopter pilot said. "When we got there, we continued to provide direct fire support to the forces on the ground."
In the end, the Taliban base was destroyed, the mission was deemed a success and Hernandez received an Air Medal for valor.
This is the first year the All-American Bowl will feature Soldier Heroes, and five from the Atlanta Recruiting Battalion were selected, battalion spokesman Jim Humphreys said.
"All of [those chosen] are recruiters, but not everybody receives a Bronze or Silver star or a Purple Heart," he said. "We were lucky enough to have had five selected from our battalion."
In November, Ooltewah High School senior Philip DePrimo was selected to play French horn in the marching band during half-time at the All-American Bowl. Ringgold High School band captain Evan Brock, 17, also was chosen to play tuba in the band.
Contact staff writer Kelli Gauthier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423 757-6249. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.