To say that I was sheltered growing up would be quite the understatement. I was super awkward, didn't really know how to talk to people, and I really didn't act like a real human being. (I'd like to apologize to anyone who knew me from the time that I was five years old up until my senior year of high school.)
I grew up in a VERY Christian home. My grandmother raised my siblings on a healthy diet of homemade soup and Jesus, and for most of my life, that was all I knew. I can still recall the first time (at six years old) I asked someone if they knew who Jesus was and they said no. I was shocked. How could someone NOT know who Jesus was? It blew my mind that there was anyone in the world who didn't know who Jesus was.
From a young age, I knew I wanted to go into the Army. It was always something that was just there. My grandfather was in the Air Force and I'd like to think that had an influence on my want to serve in the military. My grandmother wanted me to follow my grandfather to the Air Force, but in the end, the Army won. I put it off a lot and even went months, almost years, without thinking about it. I was super focused on school and work, and the Army kind of took a backseat for a while.
During the summer of 2016, I was working at Taco Bell. I ended up meeting a National Guard recruiter and we spoke for a few minutes while she was waiting on her food. She gave me her card, which I gladly took, and she was on her way. I didn't really think much of it while I was at work, but when I got home, I felt this tugging at my heart. I searched through the backpack I left the card in and emailed her. It was late so I didn't really expect any kind of answer from her. I went to bed with high hopes for the morning ahead.
After a lot of back and forth emailing between the two of us, I ended up scheduling a meeting. In a matter of weeks, I had taken my ASVAB, gone to MEPS, successfully enlisted as a 25M in the Alabama National Guard, and was ready for my first drill. At MEPS, when the Sergeant who was processing my papers asked me when I wanted to ship for basic (as if I actually had a choice) I, of course, responded with "As soon as possible!" I guess he took me seriously because I shipped a little under two months later!
When I tell you that basic training is a scary place, I mean it. (And anyone who can say they weren't scared going into it is probably lying.) I remember sitting in Sunday school one Sunday morning and my Youth Pastor asked me to stay after class to talk to him. (Yes, it's just as bad hearing that in Sunday school as it is hearing it in real school!) He kind of fussed at me about being on my phone during class, I may have been playing Candy Crush and said I should pay attention since I was about to leave for basic training. He went on to explain how the military is a dark place, and he thought I could be a light in that dark place during my time there. I remember laughing about that comment when my sister got down the hall, but once I was actually at basic, I realized just how true that was.
On September 21, I left for Basic Training.
My heart was filled with more emotions than I had felt before, and I probably haven't felt many of them since.
Fear, excitement, joy, and sheer panic, to name a few. I hadn't been away from home for long periods, and jumping straight into almost three months away from family, friends, and the only home I'd known was a scary thing for me, but I faced it head-on.
Few people know about what happened while I was at basic training, but know it was the scariest moment of my life, and if I'm being honest, I let the fear I felt control me long after the event. I remember sitting in the barracks feeling like my whole world was crashing down around me, but I didn't have time to think about it. I had work and training to do. So I kept moving until I came home for Christmas. The second I had time to stop and reflect on my time at basic training so far, I felt everything from the first few weeks finally catch up with me, and I made some very stupid decisions. Decisions that could have meant consequences including losing my life.
When I got back to basic in January, I found that I would have days that were nearly impossible for me to make it through. It would take everything for me to get up in the morning after nights of not sleeping because of nightmares. Things went on like that for a while until a girl from another Battalion was transferred to the company I was in. We became friends almost instantly. We loved all of the same TV shows and movies and music. People even thought we were related. I remember confiding in her about many things and her helping me through them but I still felt this emptiness inside.
We were both on fireguard one night (because I pulled a double just so we'd get to do fireguard together, even though it meant an hour and a half less sleep.) It was a Saturday night and she randomly asked me if I wanted to go to church with her in the morning. I hadn't even thought about going to church since I had been at basic but without any hesitation, I said yes.
We went to church and I remember the Priest talking about God being our only source of comfort in the midst of pain. How we could try to lean on our Battle Buddies, but that would only bring so much comfort. That was the moment I realized that I had been seeking comfort in all of the wrong things in the quite dark time I was going through. They handed us all Bibles at the end of service and I remember from that moment on, I carried that Bible on me wherever we went. I read it in every spare moment I had.
To this day, I feel like my relationship with God was strengthened because of the bad things that happened. I was forced to ask Him every single day to help me through the day, and through that, I learned to not only rely on, but to trust in God, and to believe that no matter what happened, he would be right there to get me through it.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.