SHERIDAN — If you rifled through Billy Doran-Shifrar’s belongings, you most definitely would not find a five-year plan or a list of long-term goals.
The U.S. Army veteran likes to take life one day at a time, not worrying too much about the future until it’s staring him in the face.
That’s how Doran-Shifrar ended up in the military. Born and raised in the area, he enrolled at Sheridan College after graduating from Sheridan High School with the class of 2008.
But only partway through his first semester, Doran-Shifrar decided it was time to try something new.
“It just sounded interesting, pretty fun,” he said of the Army recruiter’s pitch. “Something new to do. It was a spur-of-the moment kind of deal. They just called me one day and the next day I joined.
“He called me up and said I could go shoot cannons, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll go do that.’ It was pretty random,” he added with a laugh.
Despite his family’s unease at the quick choice, Doran-Shifrar headed to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training in early 2009. Having already traveled around the United States, Europe and Mexico, he didn’t face too much culture shock going from the mountains to the plains.
And, as the “Airborne” tattoo on his left bicep hints, the Army kept up its end of the bargain when it promised cannons and something new and different.
“What we were trained to do was Airborne artillery,” he explained. “We’d fly behind lines with Blackhawks, shoot a few rounds and fly back out. We were more of an assault artillery. We’d be the first ones to hit.”
Doran-Shifrar was stationed in Kentucky. His unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, where it focused on base security. After all the training, the Middle East proved a mostly boring — albeit safe — trip.
Because operations were winding down in the area he served, Doran-Shifrar said he mainly stood near the artillery, ready to fire if given an order that rarely came.
“I thought it was like being in Rock Springs, Wyoming — really nothing to look at,” he said of Afghanistan. “I didn’t think it was too terribly bad. It wasn’t like what most people thought, like a desert or anything. It was in the mountains, so it was pretty cold. Just like being here, it was really cold in the winter and hot in the summer.”
Even with the down time, Doran-Shifrar’s job took a toll on his body. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, which has resulted in four surgeries, with another three scheduled for this winter.
He spent a total of three years in the Army and then served in the National Guard after he got out. Since that time, he moved back to Sheridan and again started taking classes at Sheridan College.
Doran-Shifrar, a full-time student going for an associate degree in computer-aided design, commonly referred to as CAD, would like to someday work for a local engineering firm — at least that’s the plan today.
“I’ve changed my degree probably like six times,” he laughed. “I’ve been here awhile.”
Whatever he decides on, the 26-year-old is sure of a few things. He knows he wants a job that’s easy on the knees. He knows he’ll be getting married to his girlfriend in 2016. And he knows the couple will make their home here in Sheridan. Doran-Shifrar loves the small town, especially considering he has family here and plenty of opportunities to hunt, camp and fish.
“Everywhere I’ve been, it just never compared to Sheridan, I haven’t thought,” he said. “Because I love the mountains and I love wintertime, and you don’t really get that experience too many other places.”
Reminiscing, Doran-Shifrar is quick to point out he only served in the Army for three years. But the time certainly made an impact on his life, from not being able to snowboard to the GI Bill covering his education.
But if you see the shaggy hair and beard and the injured knee and assume he regrets his military service, you’d be way off base.
“Looking back on it, it was great. I loved it,” he said. “Everything about it was good. I got to do some things that I’ll never get to do again.”