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.