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How the Military Influenced My Life

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How The Military Influenced My Life

“How The Military Influenced My Life”

To really understand the significance of how the military shaped me into the person I am today, I must first reveal some insight into the person I was before I left for basic training. When I graduated high school in 1985 I was indestructible ready to take on anything that came my way. I had led a somewhat sheltered life in that my parents provided a warm loving environment for my siblings and myself. Yes we experienced the normal trials and tribulations as any other kid, but we really had no negative or significant emotional events growing up that directly effected our development. Rather it was the lack of these incidents that gave us a naive outlook on life and all the responsibilities it entails. This Cognitive development prior to my experiences in the military left me with a positive outlook on life and its possibilities yet, wholly unprepared for life in its reality.

As I stated earlier, when I graduated from High school, I didn’t have a care in the world. My biggest worry was where I wanted to play baseball, and where I was going out that weekend. I was given a car for graduation as well as a credit card for gas. After graduation I received a baseball scholarship and didn’t have to worry about how to pay for school. This along with other things that I had taken for granted led me to believe that the whole world was peachy with nothing negative that would affect me. The only trauma in my life was if a certain girl didn’t want to go out with me. This to me was a significant emotional event. Not only was I naive, I was somewhat jaded as well. I believe this was a result of the environment that I grew up in as a child. I moved to a different part of the country every two years from the time I started first grade until I started high school. I was exposed to a large variety of people and regional cultures in the country, but I was still ignorant of the harsh reality of life as though I walked through life with blinders on. After the first two years of college, I would receive a rude awakening in what life was all about.

If a person was to have interviewed me in the summer of 1985, the last thing I would have mentioned was the military. My focus was entirely on me and how much money I was going to make playing baseball for a living. The first year I was playing baseball I didn’t have to worry about anything but baseball. The academic side of the equation was easy. Most of the classes I took were scheduled by the baseball coach and weren’t exactly rocket science. The classes were a joke and I really didn’t have to put forth an effort to pass. It was the standard jock classes that you always here about, ”Underwater Basket Weaving” and such. I was just going through the motions in order to get what I wanted with no regard for anyone or anything else. I spent two years trying to assimilate the world into my own perspective without learning the big picture. The second year was a different matter all together.

The second semester of that year we picked our own classes. Me being the individual that I was enrolled in classes that I though I would like regardless of my ability. Needless to say I got myself in way over my head and lost my baseball scholarship at the end of the semester. So there I was at the end of two years of college and no idea how to proceed with the rest of my education on probation and at my own expense. I ended up spending the summer playing semi-pro ball in my last ditch effort not to grow up, and to follow my dream of playing baseball for a living. All I got out of it was a busted up knee and the realization that for every player like me there were a hundred that were better than me. I was left feeling angry and bitter and looking to place the blame somewhere. I then came to realize that the blame was with me. I then began looking for ways to pay for college in order to “educate” myself in the ways of the world.

In June of 1987 I was working a dead end job as a clerk in a 24-hour convenience store, killing time so to speak. I was also taking a course at a junior college just to say I was “in college”. On my way back from class I drove by and saw a National Guard Armory that had a self-propelled howitzer on display. I stopped in just to take a look and immediately struck up a conversation with one of the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) that was explaining the weapon to a bunch of new recruits that were present. It sounded interesting and challenging at the same time. He introduced me to a recruiter who explained all the jobs that they had at that unit and what I would need to do to join. He also explained all the benefits and when I would receive them. I don’t know why I didn’t sleep on it but my reaction was where do I sign. The only thing I was seeing was something new to do, as well as a way to pay for college. In less than two-weeks I was shipping of to Basic Training at Fort Bliss, Texas for an eye opening experience. As I stated earlier I had been raised in a warm nurturing environment, as a child with the only authority/discipline was a spanking if I had done something wrong as a child, or being grounded for a week if I came home late from curfew. These paled in comparison to what I was about to go through.

I reported for basic training full of “piss and vinegar” thinking that this was going to be a “cake walk”. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. While my attitude for dealing with being a new soldier was correct, lets just say my execution lacked some forethought on my part. As I stated earlier, my entire universe had rotated around what me as an individual and what my need were. I was stuck in the “What’s in it for me?” syndrome. While not completely selfish, I was far from being the “Good Samaritan” to the fullest extent. When I reported to basic I was blind to the concept of being part of a combined effort or a piece of a whole. Sure I had been active in team sports, but they paled in comparison to the camaraderie and teamwork required of soldiers. It was then that I fully realized that I was part of something bigger than myself. This also reinforced the theory that you are only as strong as your weakest link. I began to have a greater appreciation of other individuals and the struggles they went through growing up, some of which made my life look like a fairy tale. Each one of us in the platoon had different reasons for arriving at our shared moment in time. What we were to gain out of it was a sense of belonging that none of had experienced before. We were given a direction and focus for all the untapped energy that had been hidden inside us all along.

As a team we accomplished things that as individuals we would never have accomplished let alone attempted. Through this eight week process I began to reassess myself as a person and the world around me and realized that I was in no uncertain terms a “little bitty worm on a really big hook” It was an eye opening experience to say the least. At first I was overcome with various emotions all at once: anxiety, fear, excitement, insignificance, and finally calm. I realized that I was capable of accomplishing things that I never thought I would ever try. It challenged me mentally and physically. Another aspect of this was that I realized that everything that happened or everything I did had an impact on other individuals as well. I wasn’t just suffering the consequences or reaping the benefits alone. Sure I had heard teachers, pastors, youth ministers, and peers talk about action/reaction, truth or consequences, and reaping what I sow, but it never hit me how right they were until that moment in time. I think what rammed the point home was that everything we learned or failed to learn was a matter of life or death to other soldiers, civilians, etc. This had a profound affect on me as a person. This really reinforced what I had otherwise been playing “lip service” to what everyone had been saying all along. The military had such a profound effect on me that I decided to make a career out of it. There is no greater reward than to serve for a cause or something bigger than yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you are a civil servant, in the ministry, or just a volunteer for a charity or cause. It not only fills a void in an individuals life, selfless service helps others as well.

Since joining the military I have gone on to receive a commission as an Officer in the Army. I am currently a Company Commander with around 280 soldiers that I am directly responsible for. I hope to be promoted to Major within the next 18 months. It seems like yesterday that I was walking into that recruiter’s office just to ask questions. It is hard to believe it was 15 years ago. I am married and we are currently expecting our first child in May 2002. I hope to raise my children in the same atmosphere that I grew up in only I will leave them wide open to learn whatever they want to learn. I just hope that I will be able to help them understand the big picture earlier than I did. I hope I have the moral courage to have faith in God and family to help them along. In this unstable world we now live in it is going to take a lot of prayer, and faith to make it.

I know it sounds as though I have been rambling on about a hodgepodge of matters and experiences. The fault lies in my thought processing. It is the way I think. So please excuse me if I offend. This is just my way of explaining how I think and how I became the person I am.

What influenced me the most growing up? I could sit here and pontificate using long scientific terms and diagnosis to be politically correct or I can just be honest. I think it was a combination of natural Cognitive Development as a child. I am a product of my environment, parent, mentors, and peers. I received my Ethological Development from these sources as well. These merely laid the foundation for the person I was to become. Had these people not been present in my life, whether I agreed with them or not. I don’t think I would have been as receptive what I learned in the military. It was my experience in the military and having an open mind that proved to be the catalyst or trigger to my being the person that I am. I consider myself still growing and learning until I take my last breath. If any one person says that they know everything or are complacent in there existence, they obviously have no understanding of themselves or the “big picture”.

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