By RU contributor Rob
Last month I was booking a criminal into jail (I am a law enforcement officer) and noticed he was born in 1991, the same year I joined the Army. At the end of the night I was lying in bed, feeling a little old, reminiscing about what I have accomplished in the last 20 years, and the journey to where I currently am. How and why did I make those decisions back then that ultimately led me on my path of life?
Growing up in the military was the best life I could ever imagine. It may sound like child abuse, but I was curious when my dad taught me to spit-shine a pair of boots and excited when he would ask me to get a pair ready for his morning inspection. I loved getting my bedroom ready for a mock inspection, paying close detail to dusting the top of the doors and the radiator in our German apartment. I think it was probably about the 3rd grade when I first realized that the Army is where I would grow old, and had absolutely no qualms about it.
In high school, I had the opportunity to do things that most kids can’t even imagine, like taking an overnight train from Frankfurt to Berlin, through communist East Germany, and having to spend multiple nights in a hotel for a high school wrestling match or having to take a 15 hour bus ride to the Netherlands to play a football game. These are the events that mold and shape an impressionable young man. Not everything was about fun though, like taking a field trip to the Dachau – Nazi Concentration Camp to experience the horrors of sadistic men. When I came back to the states for my senior year of high school and retold those stories, kids just couldn’t comprehend the amount of coolness that I had experienced.
On August 20, 1991, I left Indianapolis for Ft. Benning to become a soldier. Everyone always says that basic training is the absolutely worst time in ones career, but I disagree. I already knew what was coming and was thrilled when I could predict what torturous event was coming next. Our battalion motto was “Play the Game” and I learned to play it well.
I know the big push in America is education. “You have to go to college, you will absolutely need a degree to get anywhere in life,” are comments I have heard over the years. I have gone to college, a random class here and there, but gone none-the-less. I am not trying to mock our education system, but in my opinion, college is over-rated. I learned more embracing the suck on a 25 mile road march in the middle of the night than I have ever learned in a classroom, and thankful that I did. Now I can honestly say that I am successful in just about everything I do, not because I know how, but because I have the testicular fortitude to see it through, a trait instilled by the NCO’s who made sure I utilized my fullest potential.
I left the army in 2003, not by choice but for medical reasons. After 12 years of being an active soldier and 17 being a dependant of one, the military remains in my blood. As I look back now, seeing how I deal with the daily conundrums of life, I realize that I am still a soldier and always will be, just no longer wearing the uniform. There is a new class of Americans that has emerged over the last 10 years, the Warrior Class. I consider myself to be a member of this class and can easily recognize those who share those traits as I do. To this, I have no regrets.
How has the military shaped your life?