Face of Defense: Former ‘Idol’ Contestant Serves in Khost
By Army Maj. S. Justin Platt
Task Force Rakkasan
KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 12, 2010 Join the Marines and see the world? Check. Enlist in the Army to serve with the famous Rakkasan Brigade from the 101st Airborne Division? Check. Sing on American Idol? Check. Have a mother who’s a movie star? Check.
Army Pfc. Cody Anderson takes a pause from his duties in the brigade tactical operations center at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan’s Khost province. U.S. Army photo by Maj. S. Justin Platt
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Almost unbelievable, these events are part of the life story of Army Pfc. Cody Anderson, 25, a communications equipment operator for the 101st Airborne Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade, stationed at Forward Operating Base Salerno here.
As a member of the operations section for the brigade tactical operations center, Anderson’s primary duties include operating a variety of secure radio systems and managing information from the computer system that keeps Task Force Rakkasan up to date with the latest tactical information. But that’s just his day job.
Anderson also has other talents that reach far beyond typical ideas many people have of soldiers. He learned to sing at an early age, a credit to the creativity of his family when he was growing up in Hemet, Calif., just north of San Diego.
“I love to sing,” he said. “I come from a very talented family. My mom was an actress, and my dad sings - my siblings [too].
It’s no surprise that Anderson was a recording artist.
“A buddy and I came out with a CD about six years ago while I was going to school,” he said. “It wasn’t too big, but it did pretty well. I was into acoustic pop, you know, just me and a buddy and a guitar. We used to do little gigs and shows around Salt Lake [City].”
The CD, titled “The Assumptions That Will Fail Us,” was inspired by the duo’s challenges in “dealing with new emotions and new relationships -- stuff we hadn’t dealt with before,” Anderson said. “We were both getting over heartaches at 19 years old, so that phrase had to go along with love and relationships.”
In July 2008, Anderson and his sister, Jenna Anderson, tried out for “American Idol” when the hit TV show conducted auditions in Salt Lake City, but they didn’t get the “golden ticket” to Hollywood.
“I believe we did good, but as far as I know, we were not featured on the televised episode,” he said. “We weren’t featured guests, but my parents called me up screaming one day that they had seen us [on television],” he said. “I had already been kicked off, so I really wasn’t excited.”
But since his mother had been on television before, her joy was understandable. His mother, Dana (Kimmell) Anderson, became known while starring in the 1982 horror film “Friday the 13th, Part 3” as the person who killed Jason.
Though he’s a talented singer with an actress as a mother, Anderson decided to forgo a career as a performer to join the military. His desire to serve his country was so strong he joined the Marines at 17 while still in high school. He was medically discharged from the Marines after two and a half years, he said, but he knew his military service wasn’t complete.
“My obligation to the nation wasn’t fulfilled yet, so since the Marines weren’t accepting the prior service back, I tried for the Army,” he said. “I had nothing against the Army, and I was infantry in the Marines and I wanted to be infantry again.”
Between his service in the Marines and joining the Army, Anderson enrolled at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, but transferred to Brigham Young University after a year. He stayed in school for awhile, but the call to return to military service was hard to ignore, he said.
“It was really itching me that I needed to fulfill my obligation, and I kind of left before I finished [school],” he said. “But I’m going to go back and finish.” With about three more semesters to go before completing his bachelor’s degree, he added, he plans to return to school at Utah Valley University to study history, with an emphasis on American military history.
Anderson said his parents have been very supportive of his second military career as an infantryman, a fact that gives him strength as he reflects on his accomplishments so far. He doesn’t regret his time in the Marine Corps, he added, but sees his new job here with Task Force Rakkasan as a challenge he readily accepts.
“I never deployed with the Marine Corps, so that’s one of the reasons I’m [in Afghanistan] right now,” he said. “I still had a sense of duty that I needed to fulfill. I’m very grateful to be here. I feel like every person should serve their country, and so I gave up my cozy little lifestyle just so I can be here and contribute to this cause,” he said.