When were you drafted or when did you enlist?
May 2014 in Nashville, TN.
Deployed to the UAE July 2019–July 2020.
Why did you choose your branch of service?
I joined the Army because of its versatility. I wasn’t sure what type of career I wanted to pursue but knew the Army had the largest variety of industries! I thought the National Guard was such a cool opportunity that allows you to serve your country while also pursuing a career on the civilian side.
What do you remember about that day?
I was absolutely petrified and remember thinking to myself “What the hell have I done?” more than once! I had barely turned 19 and had zero idea what I wanted for my future. I came from a small town in Tennessee, without a single athletic bone in my body. I wasn’t exactly what you’d imagine when you think of a soldier. Most people who knew me thought I was joking when I told them that I was joining the military. Talk about a bruised ego! In many ways, I think that made me want to succeed even more. Who were they to tell me what I could or couldn’t do? For me, joining the Army was really a “Coming of Age” story where I learned so much about myself and my capabilities. Of course, being in the military is about service and sacrifice but it gave me so much back, in return. Without a doubt, I am the person I am today because of what I’ve endured in the Army.
Can you describe a happy moment from your time in the service?
Being deployed was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. You can’t help but think of everyone back home living life without you. Most of my deployment felt like Groundhog Day and the lack of seasons really took a toll on my mental health. However, I remember one of my dear friends and mentors telling me early on, “This is a year of your life. You won’t get it back. Sure, you’d rather be anywhere but here. . . but that’s out of your control. What you can control is your attitude. Make the most out of your situation and run with it.” And just like that, it was as if something switched in my mind and I strived to make every day count. I started implementing Cigar Nights with whoever was interested. We’d climb to the top of a connex and admire Dubai’s skyline, just talking about life and home with a cigar. We started playing volleyball 4-5 nights a week. I even organized Secret Santa for Christmas to help us miss home just a little bit less.
I made it my mission to really embrace a crappy situation and I demanded everyone follow my lead. I came home feeling so much more resilient, knowing I could keep a positive attitude, no matter what life threw at me.
Did your military experience inform the way you think about war or the military in general?
Of course. I think as civilians, it’s really easy to think of the military as a weapon the United States can utilize in times of struggle. It’s easier...more convenient to see our military from a bird’s eye view. But when you’ve been there, when you’ve been the one saying goodbye to your loved ones, unsure if you’ll ever see them again, war takes on a whole new meaning. I believe that war is a necessary evil, at times, but I’ll never take those who have died for this country for granted. Every soldier has a family who loves them. Every soldier has a story. They’re not just a number. People’s lives are on the line.
Who was your best friend in the military during your time at war? Do you still keep in touch with them today?
I made several close friends while deployed overseas. Having a good group of people to lean on was really essential for me. I definitely still keep in touch with all of them and think that we’ll always check in on one another. The bond you make with those serving beside you is something that’s hard to put into words but I think “embracing the suck” together really forces you to count on those to the left and right of you.
Do you have advice for those transitioning out of the military?
Don’t feel like you have to go through this alone. Leaving the military and transitioning back into the civilian workforce is a huge, life-changing event. It can be really intimidating and overwhelming at times! Lean on those who have walked this road before you. Hire Heroes USA is a wonderful resource that I highly encourage all transitioning service members to utilize. They’ll walk through the entire transition with you, empowering you to succeed in your job search.