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.
14th July, 2002
So I’ve been at my new job for about a week now, and it’s surprisingly not all that bad. I am basically working by myself for the most part, or with one other person, putting fruits and vegetables on the shelves. Not exactly anything that is too hard or challenging. The people I work tend to either be old ladies or guys my age. I already saved up enough money to buy a super cheap car that I found in the paper, so that’s pretty awesome. I finally won’t have to rely on rides or taking the god awful bus to school for my final semester. It’s the ugliest, biggest, oldest piece of junk around but it’s mine! Now most of my pay check goes towards gas for it, but I’m perfectly fine with that. It really does add a whole new level of freedom to my life.
Speaking of my life, which is what this entire thing is supposed to be about, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Someone from work asked me what my plans were for after high school, and I didn’t really have an answer. I’m completely sick and tired of school, and really don’t feel like going to college right away, even if it meant playing baseball at a school on a scholarship. As much as I love baseball, I’m just tired of the classroom setting and being forced to learn at someone else’s pace and standards. Schools don’t care about the individual anymore, they only worry about average test scores and numbers of people finishing. Which I feel defeats the whole purpose of going to school in the first place, which to me, is expanding your own personal knowledge.
So, I don’t really know what I’m going to do after my final semester of school. I’ve always thought that maybe the military might be an option that I would enjoy. I’ve always been a fan of war movies, and military style video games. I know it’s a lot different in real life, but it’s still been an interest of mine. I’ve also got a lot of family members who have served in the military, so it would make sense I think. As a kid, I kind of always wanted to be in the Army.
Speaking of the military, I have started reading the book Black Hawk Down, which I borrowed from my dad. I was too young to really know or care about it when it actually happened back in 1993, so it has all been pretty new to me. I’m not that far in to it, but it’s a pretty good book so far. I’ll probably give my opinions on it when I’m finished reading it. I don’t usually read non-fiction books, but Dad said that it was a good book and mentioned what the story was about. It has pictures of the crashed helicopters, some of the Soldiers together before the battle, and pictures of the bodies of some of the guys that were in the Black Hawks when they crashed. It’s pretty messed up stuff if you ask me. They showed those guys on the news and apparently nobody in the U.S. even really knew that our military was in Africa. That is pretty crazy to me. Anyway, that’s enough writing for tonight.
29th June, 2002
I’ve decided to start writing a journal. Not for any specific reasons; more so because I often times have nobody else to speak with about the kind of things I feel I need to say or get off my chest. And it never hurts to keep track of past events in your life, no matter how big or small. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever let anyone else read this, but if anything it will be a sort of stress reliever and a way to help with my writing skills in case I ever end up going to college. I don’t think that I’ll write in this journal every night, but rather when I feel as though I need to get something off my mind and on to paper. Often times I’ll have something stirring in my head that I can’t seem to express without sitting down and writing it out. So whenever I feel like I need to, or whenever I have the chance and feel like adding to it, I will. Alright, now that I’ve explained the reason why I’m starting this journal, it’s time to…start the journal.
I suppose the first thing I want to put in to words is how much it sucks having to switch schools; especially when you’re someone who has a hard enough time making new friends. It’s not that I don’t try, or that I’m socially awkward I don’t think. I’m just not as outgoing as most people, and I admit a tad shy. I’ve been at the new school for an entire semester and can honestly say I’ve got two friends; one of whom that transferred from my old school, so he barely counts as a new friend. At least at the old school I was friends with the same kids since seventh grade and also had the baseball team to hang out with outside of class. I’m trying to be out going now, but I can never seem to come out of my shell when interacting with new people. Not even sure why, since nobody has ever been mean or bullied me at all growing up. I suppose I’ve just always never really been the type of person to open up to people until I know them.
Maybe I am a shy person, after all, who knows? All I do know for sure is that I’m glad that I only have one semester of senior year to go and then I’m officially done with high school for good. It was definitely the right choice to take those two classes this summer and get them out of the way so I could graduate early. As much as it sucked going to school during the first month of the summer, at least now I can get it all over with a lot sooner.
Other than enjoying my shortened summer without having any real friends, the only other thing going on in my life is that I had an interview for my first job yesterday. It’s nothing too exciting, just a produce clerk at a local grocery store, but at least I’ll be making money and it will give me something to do other than sitting around my room or playing video games all night like I normally would be doing during the summer. Hopefully I’ll get enough hours to make it worth it and to get my own car. We’ll see, I guess.