Seven Years Enlisted

This month, I celebrated an important day in my life. Maybe the word celebrate is too strong. OK, I marked an important day in my life.

Seven years ago I left the protective, overbearing arms of my parents and nagging sounds of my pre-school aged sister to join the Army. I was barely legal and I was heading to basic training to learn how to kill people with my pinky (OK, no we really don’t learn how to do that… unfortunately). The funny thing is, if you know me, rolling around in the dirt is the last thing you would expect. The only mud I was ever interested in was used for my facials. But there I was, fresh out of high school, surrounded by people of all races and ages working to reach a common goal, which is to say, to survive all of that running and screaming drill sergeants.

Eventually, I did graduate basic training and Advanced Individual Training for my first military job. I moved overseas, which was an experience in itself.  It was hard enough understanding the heavy Southern accents of my drill sergeants and school instructors, now I had to understand a foreign language too! It was cultural overload for me.  But while leaving New York City for a European life where I traveled, practiced different languages and tasted different foods wasn’t the experience I expected, I was enjoyed the new adventure.

Fast-forward more than five years later and I am still wearing the military’s uniform.  Upon my college graduation, I give a tear-filled goodbye to fellow graduating seniors and their families, professors, my family and the local TV news station. I declare to everyone that I will use my influence in the military to be an inspiration to all that will come after me, especially young minority women. In college, I mentor young girls from the neighboring high school and I get such enjoyment from helping and guiding others. This maybe why I like being in the military.  I am a Sergeant, which means I am expected to lead by example.

Since I have been in position to lead, I have tried to be a model soldier for others to emulate without letting my race or gender influence or hinder my performance or perception by others.  Still, I’m not perfect. This past weekend on a mission I didn’t perform to my greatest potential. As a university-trained journalist and I was so excited to be on an assignment getting great video coverage that when I reviewed the tape, it was wack. I felt I had disappointed the people who depended on me to be a quality journalist and took it as a major blow to my ego.

But just when I was feeling low, I heard there was an skirmish earlier in the day where a few soldiers had died. Unfortunately in a combat zone, tragedy happens very often but at that moment hearing the news made me laugh. Here I was crying because I got shaky video that I can reshoot the next day and there were people, probably my age or younger, who won’t see tomorrow. It was definitely a reality check for me.

I have so much to live for. I know it sounds cliché but it’s real. In my graduating picture to be a broadcast journalist in the Army, I was the only minority student in my class.  I have always been proud to represent a small demographic and I’ve always been proud to be a mentor for those who come after me.  Every now and then I have second thoughts but what’s done is done.  The only thing I can do now is plan out my next move because I won’t be stationed in Afghanistan forever.

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