Saturday, April 24, 2004

Private Benjamin

I've been asked many times before why I joined the Army. I've never really offered up much of an answer because it seems it was just something that happened. A comment on an earlier entry that was made by ScreaminRemo made me think that it would be good for me to explore who I was and what I was doing when I enlisted in the Army. His comment was: "Please don't forget that the men and women serving in our Armed Forces chose to participate because they believe in the concept of freedom."  The reason it made me think more about this is because I really don't think I joined because I believed in the concept of freedom. Don't get me wrong. I definitely do but it wasn't some patriotic demonstration that catapulted my life in that direction.


It was one month after my 17th birthday that I enlisted in the Army. I was still a senior in high school. My mom had to sign authorization papers for me to be able to enlist. It was 1984. I enlisted in the delayed entry program so I wouldn't have to leave for basic training until after graduation the following spring. All my life it was expected that I would go to college. I'm not really sure where the expectations came from but that's what I geared my high school studies towards.  I took all the typical academic classes and had dreams of going to UCLA or some other place far-far away from home.


By the time I reached my senior year in high school, I was bored with school. I had moved so much in the past year that I just wanted to break free and have a good time. And, boy did I! I was THE partying queen! I skipped classes as much as I possibly could without getting in trouble. I had reached my limit pretty quickly. One day they were giving the ASVAB test on campus. And, I thought it would be a greatway to get out of class. A couple of weeks later, the results came in and I hadpassed all of the components and even scored quite high on some of them. Don't ask me how I did it, since some of those components were things like Mechanics and Engineering, as if I knew anything about that stuff. Not! Shortly after that, the Army recruiter started calling my house. He wanted to show me what the Army had to offer. I figured what would it really hurt to listen to him. In addition, it was probably another ploy to get out of class.


The recruiter asked me what I wanted out of life. Being a 17 year old, that's a pretty daunting question. Don't all 17 year olds want it all! I told the recruiter that I wanted an education, money, and to see the world. Don't you know, he showed me exactly how the Army could do that for me, and quite convincingly - obviously. Although the expectation to go to college was always there, the means to pay for it was never explained to me. As such, I faced a very uncertain future once graduation came. The Army presented me with a very convincing argument of how I could BE ALL YOU CAN BE and then some.


I graduated high school and had a month of fun before it was time to head off to basic training. The picture of me in shorts was taken the night before I left for basic. It was at the hotel that they had you stay at before departure from the MEPS station.  I see that picture and think wow I was so young and I look scared!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was the youngest person in my platoon at basic. Luckily, I usually get along pretty well and didn't get much hazing for it. I think my height probably has something to do with that since I was (and am) 5' 10".  I wish I could say it was all smooth sailing for me but there was the issue I had with push-ups.  I ended up staying at Fort Jackson for 6 months. Back then, the length of basic training was only 2 months long.  I would write letters to my mom saying that I was the only soldier who made a career out of basic training. But, I had something to prove. Many didn't think I could make it. I remember my brothers calling me Private Benjamin. I was determined to not be a quitter. Life up to that point had taught me how to be a survivor and I would.  Lucky for me, I was liked by my superiors and eventually got a waiver to go to AIT and continue my training and progression to permanent party. But, that is a story for another day.

What this all amounts to is that I wasn't thinking of kicking commie butt (the enemy of the time period) or anything quite as patriotic as serving my country out of duty to the land that afforded me the freedoms I so enjoyed.  I was 17. Do 17 year olds have the ability to think of such complex concepts?  It was purely for selfish reasons that I enlisted. And, the Army sold me on those very points. They didn't try to coerce me into doing what was my patriotic duty. They showed me how I could earn money for college; even get some education out of the way while I was in. They told me about all the money I could make and that I would get to see the world, if only I signed on the dotted line. And, I did.


A lot has changed since those days. After 9/11, a surge of patriotism has motivated many to join the military out of patriotic duties. A fine, admirable example is exemplified by that of Pat Tillman. I believe there are many more heroes like him serving in our armed forces.  In my book, they are all heroes.  Those who make the military a career should be honored as well. They, and their families, sacrifice so much for our country and in a time like this they sacrifice even more. However, many of them are there because like me they joined to get something more out of life. They bought the recruiters bill of goods.  Those who choose the life of the military do so for many reasons.  Yes, one of those reasons may be that they believe in the concept of freedom. But, I don't think any of them make the choice to join the military so they can die. No one chooses to die.


With that said, I would like to make my views clear on the current matter at hand.  I support the troops, their families, the American public, and our nation 100%. I support our involvement in Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism. As a matter of fact, I don't think we are doing enough of the right stuff to fight on that front. I even supported our first entry into Iraq back in the 90's when I could have easily been called back to duty had it lasted much longer than it did.  However, I did not support this current attack on Iraq.  Yet, I also realize that we cannot just pull up stakes now that we have destabilized that nation.  If we did, we would leave that region of the world in a much more precarious state than it already was.


What I don't support is a president who lied to the American public in order to serve his own personal agenda and continues to lie to us. His lies are costly! People are dieing because of his lies. Our focus is off the war on terrorism and we are beginning to get bogged down into something that won't disappear that easily. This to me is a basis for impeachment, not whether or not some guy lied about whether he diddled an intern or not.




screaminremo303 said...

'Nuff said.  

karensull12 said...'re so young in these pictures...and you do look a little intimidated.  What 17 year old wouldn't?  And I agree that no 17-20 year old joins the military to fight for freedom.  There is usually an underlying reason, like the one you described, or they are looking to escape something, or they are searching to find themselves.  Thanks for telling us your story.

lisbnjvi said...

Phew!  WOW!  What a great read Robbie, and you lived it!  My eyes were glued to the screen for the entire thing!  I did not know that you had joined the Army at such a tender young age (I haven't been reading as long as some of your regulars).  I am in awe over here!  You look so young in the pics, so sweet and innocent, but that's because you were!  You made your point perfectly clear and I applaud you!  BRAVA!!!
Hugs and love, Lisa

slowmotionlife said...

Interesting entry, Robbie.  Almost unbelievable, knowing you as we do, to think of you in the uniform.  But you're such a strong woman, it really isn't that surprising once one has had time to consider it.  This last photo of you - beautiful!

I think you're right that a lot of kids are mislead into thinking that the army will be all benefits and no pain.  Their youth and naive nature is taken advantage of on some counts, I think.  Unfortunate.  In time of war, this seems all the more wrong.

Like you, I support the troops and our nation.  But I don't necessarily agree with all the decisions that have been made on our behalf.  And because this is a free country, I don't have to.  ::smile::

indigosunmoon said...

Very insightful entry Robbie!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!   -Connie

uberdude333 said...

wow! powerful stuff..I too believe this is turning into a quagmire..and the quacks and pundits that never served have the  nads to tell people the don't agree with this "excursion" in Iraq unpatriotic..but it's not about those Losers it's about our troops and how we're gonna get them home..alive and well


deabvt said...

Robbie, that was a wonderful post....No one has said it better....You`ve really captured what many of us feel!   Great Work.

donah42 said...

Great entry!

lamove04 said...

Very thought-provoking, Robbie, & what great photos! Innocence pre-uniform and innocence IN uniform, it looks like. I'm sure you were a different person for having gone through it.

My opinions on serving our country, joining the military voluntarily, fighting in wars which are just vs. unjust, are complicated. I support our troops. I'm glad there are people who feel called to serve. But War is Hell. So I can't comprehend why anyone in their right mind would want to go anywhere near it. Maybe if someone suddenly dropped a bomb on my family & friends, I'd change my mind though. :-/   --Albert  PS: No teen slang, as requested, LOL.

stephweiss said...

I'm with you Robbie. I think it's great that we have great benefits for those who serve, but I also think it's awful that the recruiters use 'pay for educaton!" as an enticement to 'serve'. Some recruiter convinces young people to sell their souls by preying on their youth & innocence. When pimps do this to young, confused runaways, we arrest them.

The stories that I have read about people torn between family & military service (e.g., the kids are sick or don't have anywhere to go while mommy/daddy are in Iraq) have all been these sorts of folks. They thought they were going to get a 'free ride' but now they actually have to do what they promised, and they <insert whiny toddler voice here> don't wanna. Not surprisingly, lots of us taxpayers are unsympathetic.

I'd go, really. I'm at a point in my life... I looked into it just over a year ago. But I'm too old, at 42, to join the US military. Probably best. I don't think I could do the pushups, either.

ggal3133 said...

Beautifully written :)

txsguinan said...

Well said, Robbie, and from someone with an interesting insider's perspective (and, may I respectfully add, someone who made one hot soldier babe!) ... :)

freeepeace said...

Robbie, it amazes me that you write your entries as you go.  No planning, no notepad, just your heart and mind.  Beautifully written.  That first picture of you - wow, such a baby, entering the Army!  And wow, you in uniform! Hot Dawg! ;)  Looking forward to that "story for another day."

kathlyna22 said...

Robbie, I am in awe of anyone who is so self-less to serve, I don't think I am brave enough to, and goodness you looked so young!
This really is such a great entry, thanks for writing it!

krobbie67 said...

REMO: Probably too much said. I can say too much sometimes. Thanks for reading! And, thanks for leaving a comment that provoked my thoughts to write this entry.

KAREN: Thanks Karen. I agree. It really was a great experience though. I made some wonderful friendships along the way.

LISA: I’m not so sure how innocent I was but yeah I was definitely young! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading it.

SLO: All true. I swear! That last photo was taken the following morning after arriving to the Reception Station. I got in at the wee hours of the night and was told that they would let me sleep in as a result. Yeah right! Someone woke me up and said I had to be some place or another in 15 minutes to get that picture taken. I still had smeared mascara under my eyes.

CONNIE: Thanks, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it.

UBERDUDE: Exactly!

VINCE: I’m glad to hear that. Thank you!

DONAH42: Happy Birthday! Ummm, I mean thanks! ;-)

krobbie67 said...

LAMOVE04: I think War is Hell too! I wrote in an earlier entry that I really don’t understand the concept of war. It seems to be a game where the last man standing wins. So why can’t any other game replace it, say Chess, and whoever wins is the victor. That way, no one dies.

STEPHWEISS: Can you blame them for whining if they didn’t fully understand the repercussions of enlisting? It’s very costly! You should always way the costs before doing something but if you don’t fully understand the costs, how can you.

GGAL: Thanks! Coming from someone who is sacrificing that means so very much!

TXGUINAN: Hot soldier babe? :::blushing::: Thanks! Of course, this perspective is only mine. There are definitely so many others. I can’t speak for everyone.

FREEE: I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I was a senior, my English teacher asked me to compete in this scholastic program that they had in Texas called UIL. I competed in the category called “Ready Writing” They gave you a topic and you had a certain time limit in which to write an essay. I think that has helped me hone my skills of writing off the top of my head.

KATHLEEN: I don’t think my motivation was selfless but there are many who do it without their well-being in mind. Thanks!

babyshark28 said...


A little peek into what makes you, you. gotta love that....
and you know..I can't get over how much you look like my mom, I mean.  Not exactly, just it's just similiar.  Not that your as old as my mom, It's I have seen my mom air force picture.  and it looks almost the same. that puts you in good standing I would like to say :)

ckays1967 said...

Thank you for my freedom in America!!!

I appreciate your duty!!

And I respect you!


mlraminiak said...

The people out there who scream about national guard and young military being aware of the costs when they signed on the dotted line...I believe they call them "chicken hawks..."  I was a member of the anti-Viet Nam generation.  Never have been able to understand the military mindset or the lust for war that takes over some people.  This is exactly what Bush was counting on when he pushed this country into the war in Iraq...that Joe Average American's post-9/11 bloodlust would be strong enough to carry him into any conflict with any Arab nation that he chose.  And people STILL believe that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror...never mind that the two bear absolutely no relation to one another.

Long-winded response...sorry.  You DO look snappy in that uniform, though.  Not knocking your decision--or anyone else's--to serve.  I just wish they didn't have to  die at the whim of a lying idiot.  Lisa  :-]

krobbie67 said...

LISA: I don’t understand the concept of war either. No problem with the long response. I appreciate that you would take the time to express your views on the matter and agree with you whole-heartedly.

CHRISTINE: I’m not sure I am responsible for your freedom. However thank you, nonetheless.

BABYSHARK: I take it as a great compliment that you would think I looked like your mother. She’s an amazing woman from what I have read on your journal.

andreakingme said...

Great Entry, Robbie. I love how you explained why you joined and I love the photos, too. You make so much sense. ;-)

krobbie67 said...

ANDREA: Thank you! The formatting got weird when I saved it but I'm glad you like it. :-)

bridgetteleigh75 said...

I hate to say this...I'm afraid I'll sound unpatriotic, but I truly hope Parker has no desire to enter the military.  

I have the utmost respect for those who choose to do so.  However, the thought of possibly losing my son because of a president who has a personal agenda or lunatic terrorists makes me sick to my stomach.

krobbie67 said...

BRIDGETT: Let us hope by the time Parker is old enough, humanity will come to its collective senses and realize war is not the answer. :-) ---Robbie