5th December, 2002
Tomorrow is the last day of school before Christmas break. And after that I’ve only got a few days in January to take some tests and I’ll officially be done with high school. I’ve got an A in English and a B in Earth Science so far. And even the “punishment” of having to help the janitors in the morning has turned out to be pretty awesome. They all like me, so they don’t make me do pointless stuff and have even given me a set of keys to the school in order to get around and finish some projects they needed done. I have explored just about every room in the entire school, including places that I don’t think anyone has set foot in for years. It is kind of funny how they ban me from school computers for getting in to something I am not supposed to be in, and yet I end up with keys to the entire school.
School ending for break also means that college is ending soon as well, and that turns in to no hours at work for me. I was scheduled for five hours for the entire week this upcoming week. I’m considering just not even going. It is a waste of gas for me to drive to work when I’m only going to be there for a couple hours a day. I had wanted to keep my job throughout the months that I’m not in school before I leave for basic training, but at this rate it is pretty pointless to even bother.
Speaking of the Army, the DEP program has this list that you can complete before you leave and if you finish all of it you get promoted from an E-1 to an E-2. I am about half way done with all of it, most of which is just learning and reciting the basic Army knowledge that you have to know. Stuff like learning the phonetic alphabet and learning all the ranks. I have been excited about leaving ever since the day I enlisted, so I have learned all of that stuff on my own and got signed off on them already. My recruiter has been helping me out with the other stuff, and I can tell that he helps his recruits that are going to be in the Infantry a lot more than the people who aren’t. He invites the few future Infantrymen out to lunches and we go over the different things that we have to learn, and he gives up tips and what to look out for while we are in basic training. I know that those recruiters are pretty friendly and helpful to people when they are trying to get them signed up, but it is pretty cool to have one who is still cool with us even after we swear in. The only parts I have left to do in order to get promoted is the PT test, the drill and ceremony stuff, and a few other minor things like learning how to read a map and hand signals. The PT test is going to be the hardest part for me. I can run pretty well, but my push-ups and sit ups still need a lot of work. I’m hoping I am at least able to do the minimum before I leave in June.
19th November, 2002
I last spoke of wanting to leave Indiana already and break free from this life I’m currently living. Those feelings just became a whole lot stronger after today. The girl I’ve liked for months now, who I thought at least liked me back enough to be more than good friends, decided to date some other guy today. I guess I’m not really surprised, stuff like that usually happens to me when it comes to girls. It upset me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it doesn’t even really matter. I’m leaving anyway, so whatever happens to me between now and then is just incidental.
I have been a little more outgoing otherwise though, and joined a laser tag league. It sounds pretty nerdy, but it is a lot of fun and gives me something to do on Friday and Saturday nights. I’ve made friends with some of the other players, and it’s a good stress reliever getting to run around all night trying to win the games. I also decided to bleach my hair blonde with some of my mom’s stuff she uses. Not completely sure why, but figured that since now would be the last chance I had, I may as well. Call it being rebellious I suppose; or as rebellious as I’ll get, anyway.
For my English research paper, we got to pick one movie based off a true life event to write about. I chose one of my favorite movies of all time: A Bridge Too Far. Which is based off of a battle in World War 2 called Operation Market Garden. It was the largest airborne operation in history, and was the Allies ambitious plan to end the war before Christmas of that year. It was ultimately a failure, and was the largest defeat at the hands of Nazi Germany for the Allies during the entire war. It basically called for U.S. and British Paratrooper forces to jump and secure different sections of bridges leading to Arnhem and crossing the Rhine River in to Germany. Once the bridges were secured, an Allied led Tank division would follow in behind and drive on to Berlin.
What the Allies didn’t account for was the Nazi SS Panzer Division on the other side of the bridge in Arnhem; and also that the Germans were willing to blow up the bridges leading to Arnhem, cutting of the remaining Allied forces from getting to the airborne units. What always got to me in the story though, was how brave the British Paratroopers were in fighting off the German assault in Arnhem. They realized rather quickly that the support units were not going to arrive on time, if at all and yet they continued to fight the Nazi troops in the city. They eventually had to surrender, but earned the respect of the Germans. It is one more case of Infantry soldiers going above and beyond to complete the mission and protect each other at all costs. It seemed hopeless, but those men kept on fighting to the very end. And though it was a failure, they still honored each other in the process and eventually saw the end of the war and Nazi lead Germany. The paper is like twelve pages long already and I still have a bunch to go.
21st October, 2002
Remember the last entry when I said that I had crippling shyness? Well, unfortunately, it struck again last night. I went out with that girl I had mentioned I liked, Melanie, and her friends to the Haunted Castle. Her mom lives right down the road from it, so after driving to her house, we all walked from her addition to the haunted house. It’s bad enough trying to be myself and talk to her, let alone when it is her and all of her friends who already known each other having fun. I was nervous most of the night, and hardly said much of anything to anyone besides her. And the Haunted Castle was the same as it has been since I was a little kid, so that was kind of waste of time too. But at least at the end of the night, she and I got to talk a little bit by my car. She gave me a hug before I left, which was nice. Hopefully she doesn’t hold the fact that I’m shy against me too much, I’m better than I use to be at least.
I guess it doesn’t really matter much anyway, since I’ll be leaving next year and it would be doubtful that I’d even see her again after that. I guess the last thing that I’d really want would be to start my first official relationship and then have to end it so soon after it began. But in the meantime, it is still fun to be interested in someone and the prospect of them liking me back is different and exciting. And regardless of what actually happens between us, the fact that I have someone to talk to and hang out with has been great. She comes in to visit me at work sometimes, like I mentioned, and we’ll spend an hour just talking about whatever as I stock the produce. It really makes the time fly by, and you can’t really go wrong getting paid to flirt with a cute girl, right?
Speaking of work, they have really been cutting my hours back ever since school started; I work about three or four hours a day at the most. In the summer time, I was working five to six days and working eight hour days. My assistant manager already warned me that once the college semester ends, they are going to be getting back a few college girls part time. I took that as me losing even more hours than I already have. Maybe I should try and find something else to do for the last ten months or so I have left of being a civilian. It would probably be better than barely working and only making enough extra money to pay for the gas it takes to drive to school and to work. It has only been three months and I already want to leave for basic training. I don’t know how I’m going to put up with all this until June. I am not looking forward to it; that much I know.
16th October, 2002
It’s been over a month since I last updated my journal, but mostly because there has not been much of anything interesting going on in my life. I’m just plugging my way through those awfully boring classes and getting as many hours at work as I can. Speaking of those classes, I actually just got kicked out of the two computer classes today. In the first one, Computer Programming, I had completely finished my entire work for the semester already and was bored. So I started “programming” my way in to the schools system using the coding they had taught us in the class. I basically was able to gain entry in to the teacher’s database and e-mail. So being as disinterested and bored of that class as I was, I decided to have a little fun and emailed one of the teachers that I wasn’t too fond of last year. Only, I was logged in as the school principle at the time, and the e-mail consisted of a firing notice. I told the teacher that she had until the end of the day to clear out her desk.
Obviously, she figured out that it wasn’t the principle that was firing her, and they traced the e-mail to my period. One of the freshmen that sat around me, a snooty faced girl, told the teacher that it was me. Now, normally I may have been nervous or worried about getting caught and getting in trouble, but I honestly didn’t care. What was the worst they could do to me? I had a meeting with the principle who basically asked me why I did it, which I was honest about. I told him that I had finished all of my work and was bored out of my mind and not challenged enough by the class or any of my classes. He surprisingly understood this, and instead of suspending me or worse, he just removed me from my two computer classes and banned me from using school computers. And because those two classes were my first two in the morning, I would have to become an assistant to the janitors for the first half of the day. Cleaning up the school, changing light bulbs, and whatever else they needed me to do. I got off pretty easy, I think.
Besides all of that going on, work has been pretty slow. I like it there; I basically work alone after school and can go at my own pace. The only problem is that my hours have been getting cut back a little because they keep hiring more people. Another bright spot is that I’ve been talking to a girl that I met during lunch period, who also lives around my work and comes in once in a while. Besides my crippling shyness, she seems to actually enjoy talking to me. Hopefully that will lead to something more, as I’ve never really had a girlfriend or even gone a real date. I leave for the Army next summer, and I’d feel sort of lame if I’ve never even kissed a girl before I go to train on how to kill people. We shall see though. It has never really worked out for me in those regards before, but maybe this time it will be different. She is a cool girl, and she is good looking. She invited me to go to one of the local haunted houses with her and some of her friends this next weekend, so that should be pretty fun. I may even say a word or two around her.
2nd September, 2002
School officially started back up today. As much as I miss the summer, and being able to sleep in on days that I worked late, I’m not so annoyed by it this year. I’ve got something more important to look forward to, and I know that I only have to do this for another three and a half months and I’ll be done. That still hasn’t completely rid my feelings of being bored with the entire process though. I’ve always been disinterested in school and have always felt like it wasn’t challenging enough. I’ve never gotten good grades, just average, but not because I’m an average minded person, but rather because I’ve never felt the need or desire to extend myself past their own simple standards.
Why would I work harder than I had to just because they make it so easy to be average? I’ve always made sure to pass most of my classes, mostly in order just to play baseball without getting shit because of bad grades from the coaches. I have literally four more classes left and none of them seem all that hard or interesting; Senior English, Earth Science, and then two computer classes. One of the two friends I had at this school last year transferred, so it’s down to just the one, and she and I don’t even have any classes together. This kind of sucks, but not much I can do about that.
Since I’m graduating early, I won’t even be able to play baseball this year I found out. They said last year before I agreed to take those summer courses to finish early that it wouldn’t be a problem. But now they are saying that if I don’t have any courses in the spring time, I won’t be considered an active student and won’t be allowed to play. I’m not going to take classes just to play baseball. Maybe I would have if I didn’t have the Army stuff going on, but it seems like baseball just isn’t as important to me anymore. And for good reason, I think. It’s not important at all.
I want to make the most of my last year as a civilian, but I also want to be as prepared as I can be when June comes around. And trying to fit baseball, work, school, and the DEP program in to half a year isn’t something that seems all that appealing to me. So I’m going to talk to Coach Bryce about it tomorrow and let him know that I don’t plan on playing my final season. I doubt he’ll be too happy about it, since even last year as a Junior I had some colleges interested in me playing for them. He’s probably going to try and talk me in to playing and get me to consider going to one of those colleges, but I’ve already sworn in to the Army and there is no way I’d back out now just for more school.
18th August, 2002
Somebody at one of the DEP meetings this week asked me “Why did you join? Was it because of 9/11? That’s why I quit college and signed up; to go fight the people responsible for killing so many innocent Americans.” And it made me realize that I hadn’t even really taken in consideration the current situation the United States was in. Terrorists had flown two planes in to the World Trade Center buildings, which completely destroyed both and killed thousands. Because of that the United States started a war with the Taliban in Afghanistan last year. The Taliban weren’t responsible, but they supported the group that was, Al-Qaida.
I wasn’t sure what to make of that statement though. Was he joining out of revenge? Or was it because of the overwhelming pride that swept the nation following the attacks? I didn’t join for either of those reasons. It never even really occurred to me before tonight. I joined because it was something that I always thought I wanted to do as a kid, and because I cannot stand being stuck in the same place for the rest of my life, doing meaningless jobs with no purpose. I hate living in this state, and I hate feeling trapped. This was my best chance to break free and experience a new life full of adventure and excitement.
Going to Afghanistan to fight terrorists wasn’t something I had ever considered. But I signed up to be an Infantryman, and our main purpose is to be the fighting force of the Army. And I know that it is a good possibility that I could end up over there, especially since I’ll be joining the 10th Mountain Division. Honestly, I wouldn’t have joined if it didn’t mean doing my job no matter what. I would gladly volunteer to go overseas and fight. The key part of experiencing a new life is doing things that are challenging. My Infantry training is going to be a challenge, just like being a new guy in my unit will be a challenge, just like going to fight in Afghanistan would be a challenge. It’s not something that I am afraid of doing.
If I find myself in a war overseas, I will do what I can in order to make sure that my fellow Infantrymen come home safely and fight with honor. Just like those men in Somalia kept fighting for their brothers against the worst odds imaginable. I said before that I wanted to be part of something so deep rooted and if that happens to be fighting the war on terror, then so be it. I’m doing this to better myself as an individual and that can only happen if I face challenges head on. I could have signed up for a nice, easy, cushion job in which I’d never see the front lines, but I chose to be an 11 Bravo. I chose to be the tip of the spear.
I’ve learned that the Army calls the Infantry the “Queen of Battle”. They do so because the Infantry are the most important piece on the board, and all the other jobs main purpose is to support us. Even though I’m not actually an Infantryman until I finish my training, I’m starting to already feel that sense of pride.
30th July, 2002
So as of today, a long day I might add, I am officially a member of the active duty Army. I went to Indianapolis with about ten other kids in a van. We all took our ASVAB tests, physicals, and then talked with a career counselor to pick our MOS. My career counselor showed me a video about being an Infantryman, which was basically unneeded since I already had my mind made up. I didn’t do that great on the ASVAB test, but that was because I was just trying to rush and get it over with. I already knew what job I wanted, and didn’t really care what I scored as long as I passed.
I also got to pick my first duty station, which I didn’t realize you got to do so soon. I didn’t really even consider it before going, but knew a little bit about some of the units offered. There were a lot of places that I hadn’t ever heard of before, like Fort Sill and Fort Polk. But there were also the more famous Infantry units too, like the 101st Airborne in Kentucky and the 10th Mountain Division in New York. I had remembered that the 10th Mountain was one of the units in Somalia during Black Hawk Down, the unit that actually had gone in to the city with the Pakistani to help rescue the Rangers and Special Forces guys.
I was overwhelmed with the possibilities. I was just so happy to finally be leaving Indiana that I hadn’t done much thinking about where I’d want to go. I wanted to go anywhere and everywhere. It didn’t even matter to me. I decided that living in New York, at Fort Drum, would be cool. I’ve always wanted to live in the East and being a part of the 10th Mountain Division would be an honor. So I signed up for a three year contract. My basic and advanced training, fourteen weeks of it, would be done at Fort Benning in Georgia. My ship out date would be June 4th, and I’d officially start on June 5th.
All in all, the entire day took about fourteen hours. We left super early in the morning, and didn’t get home until about midnight. It was a lot of sitting around, and standing in lines. Something that one of the Sergeants working at a desk at one of the medical stations said I should get used to. This was the first time I’ve heard anyone use the term “Hurry up and wait.” But apparently it’s a pretty common Army expression. But even though it was a long day, I can barely find myself relaxed enough to sit down, let alone sleep. It felt so good to raise my right hand and swear in.
I’m grateful that I’ve finally been able to do something that I can take pride in. The only time I ever really was proud of anything before was during meaningless baseball games growing up. I’ve never gotten good grades, I’ve never won any awards, and I’ve never really done anything of note in my short seventeen years leading up to this. I just wish I didn’t have to wait so long before leaving, but that is okay. It will give me time to really prepare for it; mentally and physically.
24th July, 2002
So I met with an Army recruiter today, and it went well enough for me to not even bother talking to any other branch. I know that the Army is the right choice for me. And I know that the Infantry is the right choice too. The recruiter was surprised that I was so certain of what job I wanted to do; he said that usually people in high school still have no idea what it is they actually want to do. But he was an Infantryman, so I think he understood why I wanted to be an 11 Bravo, the MOS code they use for the Infantry. I have to wait until I turn seventeen before I can officially go to the MEPS station and sign up, but my birthday is during the weekend, so I’ll have to wait until the 30th of this month.
I did complete most of my paper work, and mom and dad were both there to sign off on me. So now I’m just waiting for everything to get processed. It’s a good feeling to know that I’m finally going to have a purpose and goal to look forward too. I think that it’s going to make this last semester of school go by a lot easier. I know that when I’m finished with school, I can completely focus on preparing for basic training and whatever else the Army will have to throw at me.
The recruiter said that since I wouldn’t actually be considered a graduate until June I would have to wait before I could leave for the Army, even though I’ll actually finish school in January. That is not really a big deal, since I can just keep working at my grocery store job while I try and get in to better shape. I’m not in bad shape; I’m just not all that strong. I’ve played baseball my whole life, so I’m athletic, but I also only weigh about 160 pounds and I’m six feet tall. Needless to say, I have trouble doing pushups. Hopefully, if I work at it, I’ll be able to get better at them before I leave.
After I sign up, I’ll be considered a part of the Army, but I’ll just be a member of the Delayed Entry Program, or DEP. We meet once a week and learn as much basic Army stuff as we can, and practice doing drill and ceremony. That actually sounds like it will be fun and it will give me something to do during the week besides just working and going to school. I want to make the most of it and learn as much as I can in order to be as ready as I can be when I get to basic training. My dad has mentioned how it is best if your Drill Sergeants don’t even know your name, and the best way to do that is to not get in trouble and to know what you’re doing; sounds like that is what I’ll be shooting for then.
22nd July, 2002
I spoke with my dad today about whether or not he thought it would be a good idea to join the military after I graduate high school. He seemed to be pretty supportive of it and said that if it was something that I really wanted to do he would sign off on it for me. He said that if it was important to me, he would support my choice completely. I’m not really surprised, he has always been the type of father to support whatever choices his kids made. I’ve always been lucky that the one thing in life I have going for me is a great family, even though my parents aren’t together any more.
My mom has always been very understanding and supporting of me, as well. I’m the middle child, and the one who has never really been in trouble or caused any kind of grief. My half-brother, much like his real father, seems to be in the rebel youth mode and worries more about being stupid and getting in trouble than he does anything else. And my sister and mom have always had a rocky back and forth relationship, in which they need each other’s bitchy moods to live, apparently. I think that my mom will probably agree to signing off for me to join early, though she will probably just worry about me a lot once it’s time to leave, which is normal for all moms, I’m sure.
I asked my dad which branch I should join; either the Army or Air Force, and he wouldn’t specifically say one way or another. I think he wants me to make my own choice, and not sway me one way or another. I know that I want to do something challenging, and if I’m going to join, I am going to do something that I can be proud of. I want to be part of something like what those Soldiers had in Black Hawk Down. Not the fighting and the war, but the unity they shared during it. And I think that by joining the Army and becoming an Infantryman, I’ll be able to be part of that same brotherhood. I’ve been reading a lot about the Army and about the Infantry on the internet lately and think that it is probably the right choice for me. I e-mailed someone from the recruiting station and they said that I should come in and talk. I’m going to keep my options open, and probably stop in to the Air Force office while
I’m there to see what differences that they might have compared to the Army.
Regardless of what I end up deciding, I’m just really looking forward to seeing what sort of opportunities I’ll have going forward. I finally feel like I have a worthwhile goal, and even though it’s only been a short time, I’m already excited for what is in store for me. I’m ready to change the way I see and experience the world and life in general. It can only lead to good things.
21st July, 2002
I just finished reading Black Hawk Down a minute ago. It’s about four in the morning, and I have been reading since around eleven last night. It’s hard to put in to words the way I feel after finishing this book, but I’ll try. It’s hard to really even understand what those men went through during those two days. I’ve never been as emotionally vested in anything as I was during this book. Those Rangers and Special Forces Soldiers were outnumbered over one hundred to one and yet they didn’t quit in the face of danger; they kept on fighting for the survival of each other. They faced horribly lopsided odds, and yet never once thought of giving up; they instead chose to drive on and get out of there alive.
But even when facing those odds, the courage they displayed was still so subdued and almost expected from each of them. The way those men talk about the fight, after the fact, was as if every bit of their purpose in life was to be in that sort of situation. They knew exactly what was expected of them, and not a single one of them questioned it. They kept on fighting, for the survival of not only the individual self, but for the entire group. Helicopters were shot down; the pilots and crew of most of them were killed. Yet, those men still further risked harm by attempting to secure the crash sites and recover the bodies of their fallen brothers.
When the second helicopter went down, no one knew for sure whether or not anyone survived the crash; yet a pair of Special Forces snipers circling above volunteered to secure the scene until more troops could arrive. They didn’t care about whether or not they’d be in danger; they simply knew that the right thing to do was to get down there and keep the enemy from advancing on the wreckage. When they touched down and made it to the crash site, they found that just one of the crew survived the crash. The pilot was badly injured, but was still coherent. In the book, he details the feeling of pure joy of seeing those two men and how he felt like he was out of harm’s way. And while ultimately both of those men were killed by enemy fire, they stalled the barrage of gunfire long enough to have the pilot taken alive by militia forces instead of being killed by the hostile locals.
They sacrificed themselves in order for that pilot to live. It was two of them against an endless wave of anger and rage. The two of them did everything they could and gave everything they had in order to make sure that their friend and fellow Soldier could continue on in this life. I’ve never felt anything near that level of dedication or commitment. I’ve never been a part of something with so much meaning and with a sense of unconditional duty like that. I want to know what it is like to have that much passion about something that you’re willing to pay the ultimate price for it. I want to be part of that.
I am really going to consider joining the military now, I think. Not just because of reading a book, but because of the culmination of everything in my life. I feel like I’ve got nothing going for me and have already said that I am fed up with school. I’m also just fed up with living in this state. I want to experience more in the world than just where I’ve lived as a kid. I see a lot of people who are more than happy to finish high school, go to college in the same city or state in Indiana. And then marry their high school boyfriend or girlfriend and have two or three kids by the time they are 22. And the biggest thing they look forward to is getting a job at one of the local factories that everyone in their family already works at. That’s not the life I want for myself; I need something more than that. I need adventure, I need to explore the world, and break free of my shell that I’ve been raised in.
My father was in the Army and the Air Force; he knows the differences it can make in a person. I’ll just have to talk to him and see what he has to say about it and see if he’ll sign off for me to join. And then I will have to convince my mom that I won’t be in too much danger if I joined, since she would probably die of worry if I was. But anyway, in the meantime I’ve got work in about six hours and it’s time to try and sleep.