When you talk about a career after military service, oftentimes the conversation veers toward opening a small business, going back to school for a degree or entering the corporate world.
But for a select few, it can mean more of the same — and sometimes a lot more than they'd ever bargained for.
That's what happened to Bill Fulton when he left the Army after an accident blew out his knees. Not satisfied that his days of working with soldiers would be over, Fulton started a military surplus business in the wilds of Alaska.
Bill Fulton in front of his surplus store, Drop Zone, where he recruited his team of fugitive hunters. (All photos from Blood of Patriots)
And he had no idea just how wild it would eventually get.
Dubbed the "Drop Zone," Fulton's store in Anchorage eventually became a kind of sanctuary for fellow vets — sharpshooting hippies, crew-cutted fundamentalists, PTSD sufferers — all seeking purpose and direction.
But the Last Frontier is vast wilderness, the perfect refuge for fugitives, and the perfect place for vets itching for a mission. So Fulton and his crew formed a fugitive recovery business, nabbing bad guys for law enforcement across the state. In the end, more than 400 fugitives would meet Fulton and company on the wrong end of a gun.
Maybe it was the dark or the cold or the isolation, but Alaska provided a never-ending stream of violent felons, meth cookers, heroin dealers, and thieves. For Fulton and his fellow vets, reminding these fugitives they weren't above the law, and going out with guns in hands to bust bad guys was way more therapeutic than laying on a couch talking about the war.
The desolation of the Alaskan frontier was a perfect haven for those trying to avoid justice. What they didn't bank on was Bill Fulton and his crew of fugitive hunters.
It's this action-packed story of daring do that makes up the bulk of Fulton's new book, "Blood of Patriots: How I took down an anti-government military with beer, bounty hunting and badassery."
From tiptoeing through cracking snow on a bust to confiscating a fugitive's handgun from the place "where the sun don't shine," Fulton and his crew had their share of adventure. But it all came to a head when the FBI asked the Army vet to go undercover to blow the lid off of a separatist leader and his band of crooks.
That's when his raid focused on a small house in Wasilla, Alaska, home of 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. What he found there was a lot more than Fulton and his band had bargained for.
In Alaska, you don't go knocking on a fugitive's door without your 1911.
But "Blood of Patriots" is about a lot more than guns and glory, it's about a team of men who came together in the remotest corner of the U.S. to bring justice to those who avoided it. Guys like "Suicide," who had an "act first and think later" mentality.
And "Clay Aiken," who got his country-singer handle from his Southern drawl. Everyone loved Clay and trusted him with their lives—but not their women.
The ironically-named and always mopey "Sunshine" spread his Eeyore vibe wherever he went. The Big Mexican was both, and came to snowy Alaska from East LA via the military.
And then there was "Gunny," a six-foot-four brick sh@thouse of a man, who stood in a doorway like a solar eclipse, with thick, black, coiled tribal tattoos creeping up his neck and out the bottom of his black leather trench-coat sleeves.
Gunny was a former Marine who worked for a three-letter government organization he wouldn't name, disappearing for months on special ops missions to parts unknown.
"Blood of Patriots" is the kind of adventure story that makes you wonder if fact really is stranger than fiction, but it also reminds you that some of our fighting men and women carry on the call long after their military service ends.
Bill Fulton's "Blood of Patriots" is set for formal release Sept. 19 and will be available at book stores across the country an via Amazon.com.