Growing up in a small town my entire life, I had no idea what all was out there. I knew that I had to finish high school, go to college, and get a job. That was the pattern of everyone's life... that I knew of anyway.
Then one day, as I'm sitting in the hallway after our lunch period, I see this man standing at a table. He was dressed as a soldier, clean-cut, and professional. People were taking pencils and key chains and the guys were doing push ups to win a tshirt. Something about that uniform always said something to me. I can't really explain it, but something told me that I needed it some day.
"I could never enlist. I don't want to be deployed," I told this man. Then he started giving me all of this information about 100% tuition and how the National Guard is different than active duty. If we skip ahead a few months, we can cut to the chase and say he talked me into it.
When you enlist at 17 years old, you don't think about what your life is going to look like in six years. Free tuition? That sounds nice. GI Bill plus drill pay every month? Okay, you talked me into it. At 17 years old, all you think about is the benefits.
I went to basic training and for the first time in my life, I was exposed to other cultures and traditions of different nationalities and ethnicity. I never doubted for a second that I was accepting and willing to be diverse growing up. However, I never realized that I was never able to show that because of where I grew up. I learned so much about these people I've never met before. I learned that sometimes what I think is funny could be offensive to someone else. Going to basic training at 17 years old made me grow up.
So then what happens after that? I went to college, I did my drill weekends and two weeks of annual training in the summer. I was figuring out how these benefits work and getting frustrated when GoArmyEd was being a pain in the ass.
I wouldn't hesitate to say that I was completely selfish my first few years in the military. I was constantly asking myself, "What can the Army do for me," when I should have been asking myself, "What can I do for the Army?"
When you enlist at 17, your reasons for doing it will be completely different in six years. Here I am, on my fourth year, looking back at my attitude and thoughts I had about the military when I was younger. I never would've thought I would fall in love with Army as much as I have these past few months. The more years I'm in, the more I see it as a blessing rather than a burden.
To think it all started during lunch period my junior year of high school. I was blind to what all I was capable of. I was ignorant to think I had it all together and I had it all planned out. I was selfish to think the military owed me some kind of reward for raising my right hand and signing that line saying I swore to protect the constitution of the United States.
When you enlist at 17, you'll look back just a few years down the road at age 21. It doesn't seem like that long, but you have no idea how much my life has changed in those four years. I'm proud to say I serve the country I love. The benefits are nice and all, but in reality I just want to do what I can to keep this country so amazing and so free.
You see, to be in this military means to sacrifice. It means you have to be selfless and willing to accept that your life will look different than everyone else's. Doesn't sound like it's for you? Yeah... I thought the same thing once upon a time. Now I wouldn't trade this life for anything. It's part of who I am and what makes me the part of the 1% of America who can say the same thing.