People to Watch

Former Army Pilot Serves AnMed Life Flight

Sometimes people who grew up in Anderson leave Anderson. They see the world, explore, and become accomplished at something amazing. John Brushwood did this. And then he brought his skills and talents home to serve the people of Anderson. After graduating from Westside High School in 1999, Brushwood joined the Army. From there, he had a 22-year career serving our country that paved the way for him to serve as a pilot for AnMed Life Flight. providing life saving services for people in medical crisis. 

Originally, Brushwood only planned to spend 4 years in the Army, long enough to get money for college, get his degree, and start his career. But getting married and having a family to take care of can change the original plan, just as it did for Brushwood. So, he decided to stay in the Army because of his ability to quickly be promoted through the ranks. After spending 10 years as a mechanic, he was selected to be a pilot, a career he aspired to since childhood.

“I wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid,” says Brushwood. “My grandfather worked at the Anderson Flight Service station which is no longer there. As a young kid I would go out there when he was working and watch the radar scopes and watch the planes take off and I thought it was the coolest thing. That is how I became interested in being a pilot.”

During the 12 years that Brushwood flew in the Army, he had an array of memorable experiences. Brushwood recalls one particularly memorable moment. 

“I was in Afghanistan, it was the middle of the night, and I was flying with one other person who was a very good friend. We suddenly had to make a precautionary landing. The transmission in the aircraft failed and we had to put the aircraft on the ground as fast as we could, or we ran the risk of the transmission seizing in the air and turning the aircraft into a brick and falling out of the sky. We had to land our helicopter 25-30 miles away from the closest friendly base, meaning we were out in the middle of nowhere.  As we put the aircraft down, we began to see headlights flashing and coming toward us. At this point it was just the two of us against whatever or whoever was responsible for the lights. Fortunately, we were quickly picked up and taken to safety, but we later found out the lights coming toward us were Taliban insurgents who had taken over a family’s residence and they were there to find out where we were located so that they could harm us. But watching our unit pick us up and get us to safety and everything working out like it was supposed to was awe inspiring.” 

In addition to memorable moments, Brushwood’s military career took him to memorable places all over the country. The closest he ever lived to home was Alabama. His favorite place he got to live was in the Schofield Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii. 

“I liked it for all the obvious reasons. I love the weather. I’m not fond of cold weather and it’s not too hot or cold, and there is always a breeze all year round. Not to mention you have beaches, mountains, city, country, farmland, many different cultures and it’s a melting pot of different societies and I found it to be a great place,” says Brushwood. 

In June 2022, Brushwood retired from the military and came home to live in Anderson. His decision to move back was mostly because of family. All his family still lives here, and it had been 22 years since he lived anywhere near them, so he was ready to return. Brushwood is now a pilot with AnMed Life Flight and absolutely loves it. 

“I’m happy when I go home at the end of the day, and I feel like I’m giving back to my community. We do anything from high trauma car accidents, to strokes, heart attacks, falls, burns, boating accidents, and everything in between. Occasionally we have a shooting or stabbing. The EMS personnel who arrive on scene determine if a Life Flight helicopter is needed,” Brushwood says. 

As for the future, Brushwood doesn’t think he’ll be doing anything different from what he does now. 

“I am completely happy doing what I’m doing. I told my mom when I retired from the Army that if I was ever able to be a pilot with Life Flight, I would probably never leave that job. I’m a man of my word so I’ll probably never leave. I work with great people who are the best at what they do. They’ve been welcoming and I really enjoy who I work with, where I work, and what I do.”

When asked what the number one lesson serving in the military taught him, Brushwood immediately said, “Never give up.”

“Never give up is the life lesson the military taught me. The Army, the military in general, requires you to have resilience. You’ll have good days; you’ll have bad days. You can’t give up on yourself or your team. It’s about getting back up the next day and moving forward. I’ve taken that into my civilian life. Just keep pushing yourself to be better tomorrow.”

After seeing the world and experiencing things many of us have only seen on tv, Brushwood decided that Anderson is still the place he wanted to be and we are fortunate that he decided to bring what the world has taught him, home.