“It’s Not How You Get There”
I never thought I would have joined the military 6 years ago at 18. National Guard was a compromise with my parents for not going to West Point. Having fun, graduating high school and partying in college seemed like the next logical step when I was eighteen. I worked so hard in high school, honors classes, extracurricular activities and sports. The last thing on my mind was the military. But, the compromise was also a civic duty. Like many other emigrants, my parents were able to prosper in this country. I felt it was my way of giving back.
That summer I went to basic training. The people I met from all walks of life from all over the country from small towns to large cities. Most of us were all kids eighteen to twenty. Majority of us looked at this summer as a really messed up version of summer camp. I didn’t think any of us would ever fight in war even though our instructors would train us daily for the possibility.
Times not under the watchful eyes of our instructors would be spent playing practical jokes on each and horse play. We would spend nights out in the field sleeping on tops of fire ant hills waking up with bite marks and spending the rest of the day miserable. Sometimes we would make the time interesting by throwing different bugs on each other and watching the person squirm from disgust. These childhood pranks got us by, but nothing could prepare us for the future.
Four years latter I finally got my call up to go serve. Desert Storm II had been playing across the television and I had wondered when it would be my turn to go. Some of the same friends from basic training either e-mailed me or called me to tell me of their call ups. Now it was me. I was the one telling them of the same fate they were cast into.
My unit left the summer of what would have been my junior year of college. Go figure they called us up in between semesters. Little was still known what the mission would be. Rumors ranged from going to Iraq to patrol cities, training up to attack Iran to the simple of mission of training others to go fight fluttered amongst everyone’s ears. The final orders came, go down to Death Valley for 2 years and train others to go to war. The mission came as a relief, but it would leave me separated from everyone by over 600 miles.
Training units came through every month heading to Iraq. Seventy percent of them were National Guard. We would simulate playing terrorists out in the field and tried to provide the closest environment to what they would see in Iraq. After the training runs, the units met to discuss improvements and mistakes made. It was here where I would see all of my old friends. An hour ago I was shooting at him with our laser tag gear and now we reminisced about all the foolish pranks pulled on each other years ago.
We looked at each other now, not as kids but as men. Some had gone to college, gotten married and had kids. Others were just like me, college students activated to fight a war. The days pulling pranks were over; our lives had a greater and significant meaning now. Each of us was training to fight for the values of this country. Regardless of what our thoughts were on the war, we were still carrying out a patriotic act.
I changed those 2 years out here. I realized that my foolish summer in basic training had translated now into training others to survive and come back home to their family and friends. It’s not how I got there that mattered it was what I had learned along the way.
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