I’m always a little taken aback when people say, “Really? You were in the military?” As though there’s some specific guideline that dictates exactly what a military female looks like. And that clearly that isn’t me. Yes, I’m 5’1″ but I can shoot a mark dead center from 100 yards away with an M16 with a faulty sight gauge. Looks can be deceiving.
Honestly, I never planned to join the military. My goal was to go off to college. I worked my ass off throughout high school to maintain an impeccable GPA. I studied for months to get a high score on the SAT. And when I got accepted to all three schools I applied for, including UT, I was ecstatic. And exhausted. My hard work had finally paid off. But, my dad had other ideas – he refused to pay or sign my financial aid forms.
Yeah, he was a cheap bastard who never held a job. We got groceries only because his parents would drive five hours to our town and go shopping for us every two weeks or so. He had food stamps, but was embarrassed to use them. Yet he would not get a job. As a single father of three at the time, I just never understood. He wouldn’t let me get a job either. And he refused to let me move on with my life.
I won’t go into the details too much, but his oppressive parenting led me to get married at 18, subsequently file for divorce 10 months later, and join the military. I felt like I had no other options besides quite possibly running off and being homeless. After wrestling with the thought of joining the Marines, I came to my senses and quickly signed up for the Air Force. My recruiter was hot. And I could leave within a couple of weeks. I was sold.
At the military processing center in San Antonio, I went through a series of tests, both written and physical. I had wanted to be a cop. For some reason I thought I was a badass. But when it came time to sit down with the recruiter and discuss my options, he had other ideas. Apparently being a military cop is kind of sucky. Who knew? I just wanted to carry around a gun and be important.
He told me that my scores where high enough for me to pick any job I wanted. Anything. Wow. I was overwhelmed but luckily I had one goal: to leave as soon as possible. That certainly narrowed the field. I could leave the next day for dental hygienist school or wait a few days for space operations training. I hated teeth so the answer was pretty easy. When I left for basic training in San Antonio I never looked back.
While missing out on going to UT with all of my friends almost killed me, the Air Force lifted me up. It was challenging and we were all so young and owned so much responsibility. We worked hard and partied harder. I made lifelong friends there and met CW there. As I look back on those four years, I’m so incredibly glad that I chose that route. Even though sometimes I feel like it chose me. I got to serve and have fun and do meaningful work in the prime of my life. And if I had the chance to go back and do it all over again, I would jump at the chance.
While I don’t have a college football team to cheer for or rivalries to taunt people over, I have a community of veterans worldwide that is incredibly humbling to be a part of. So today, I want to thank the Air Force for letting me be a part of something so meaningful.