Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran starts podcast
Billy Riddle fought for his country and now brings entertainment to the Appalachian community
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ) -It’s a small town, in a small room, but big things are happening in Rocky Mount, Virginia. A group of close buds sits around the table talking about all things Appalachia.
The man behind the mic is Billy Riddle; a kid who grew up in Franklin County but fought for his country in Iraq. “I just picked up a brochure one day. I was just bored and in college and I wanted to try something different,” said Riddle.
At the time, Riddle was playing college football as a defensive lineman at Emory and Henry College. Overnight he went from a football lineman to a United States Army National Guardsman in the 10 32nd Transportation Unit out of Gate City, Virginia.
One month after signing his contract, 9/11 happened. “I got a bang on my door by one of my buddies, he said ‘Y’all boys wake up you’re going to war!’ I turned on the TV and there was the first building burning and shortly after, a plane hit the second one.”
Riddle spent one year in Iraq escorting supplies. Riddle says he is shocked that he and his fellow soldiers made it back safe from Iraq. “It’s insane because of the amount of time we spent outside the wire. Also, we weren’t your 82nd Airborne, clean cut, 18- to 20-year-old super soldiers. We were a bunch of rag tag National Guard guys from 18 to 60 years old, out of shape, drinking beer, no idea what we were doing over there or why.”
Even though he and his battle buddies made it out of Iraq, coming back ended up being a much tougher fight. Riddle said many came home only to battle suicide, mental health, and substance abuse problems.
“You’re essentially dumping these people right back into a world that they haven’t been a part of for a year. They never transition back. The camaraderie you have over there, they just miss it so much, that they’ll torcher themselves trying to get it again. You go over there and battle that kind of stuff and come here where it’s peaceful and break down,” explained Riddle.
Community. That’s been key for Riddle. Except this time, he has stepped off the battlefield in Iraq and onto a platform with some of his best friends. It’s called The Appalachian Podcast.
On this day Riddle is interviewing the head football coach of Ferrum College. “We’ve talked to local authors, historians, we’ve even had CMA nominated singer, a racing legend Satch Worley, Winston Cup Champion Bobby Labonte, former NASCAR driver Harvey Saddler, Senator Bill Stanley, Smart Tour Director Chris Williams, hockey player Travis Armstrong with the Railyard Dogs.”
In his home you’ll find a degree in political science, a wife and two kids, and military memorabilia. Whether it’s on a military base, or in a podcast, Riddle thrives on a tight knit community.
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