Spc. Ean Ulrich has yet to jump out of his first $65 million Hercules C-130 aircraft here at Fort Bragg, but he has played a $13 million violin before — a Stradivarius made in 1722.
Trained since the age of four to become a concert violinist, the Owatonna, Minn. native’s life took an abrupt turn in early 2012 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army infantry.
Ulrich said that his decision was faith-based and the result of many prayers.
“The reason I joined the Army is to help people,” said Ulrich, now a lanky paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team. It is better to fight those who endanger our way of life halfway around the world than at home, he said.
Ulrich’s musical chops were a gift from a mother who loved music and played the piano. In junior high, when his interest began flagging, a teacher not only rekindled his love for music, but inspired him to pursue music as a profession.
As a violinist, Ulrich has served in many leadership positions throughout his musical career, beginning with teaching music to high school students when he was still in junior high. Since then, he has led and maintained a quartet that has played in numerous venues, including more than 90 weddings.
A recruiter visiting the campus of Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where Ulrich was finishing up a degree in musical performance, sparked his interest in the Army.
“With my interest in teaching, he turned me onto the Special Forces and how they teach indigenous peoples,” said Ulrich.
“Other Soldiers don’t understand how I could turn down $60,000 or more and all that training to be a grunt,” he said. Nor did his mother, who drove him to the various music lessons and concerts. Nevertheless, Ulrich said both his parents are proud of his service.
Ironically, after only three weeks at Fort Bragg, Ulrich was already playing the violin for the Army — at a ball for his new unit, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who had recently returned from Afghanistan.
The Army draws people from all walks of life, and for the most part, his new battle buddies take Ulrich’s classical side in stride.
Special Forces did not work out, but Ulrich still has big aspirations for his Army career that include Ranger School and Officer Candidate School. The application process has already begun for both, he said.
In the meantime, he said he is looking forward to his first parachute jump as part of the 82nd Airborne Division. His first three attempts were scratched due to weather and aircraft equipment issues.
“To some of these guys who have been around here for a while, it’s somewhat of a hassle, but I love it,” he said.