I am weeks away from graduating college with a Bachelor of Arts in communications, and here I am thinking about how different my life would be if I had joined the military instead. Due to Veteran’s Day and similar thoughts on my mind, I found an old photo album with this picture and knew I needed to write about it for this week’s blog. So this is a picture of my 14-year-old self who thought that college was a waste of time and money and that she would go straight into the Air Force after high school. Before the braces, red hair and a heavy dose of reality, my sole focus was getting out of high school to fly straight into the military. In my mind I was a flight commander with my own team of cadets. My team would be unstoppable, strong, and we would always push each other to our limits. My grand plan was to finish high school, enlist in the Air Force and never look back.
The summer leading up to my freshman year at Earl Warren high school, I received a letter in the mail requesting my attendance for summer boot camp. I was itching to get out of the house by July so this was the perfect opportunity to get out of my room and learn something new. Immediately, I learned that I couldn’t do a pushup or pull up to save my life. From here on out I learned that I would no longer be addressed by my first name but strictly by my last name, Reyes. Oh, and that the senior training instructors (T.I.’s) were not going to tolerate anybodys whining. About three weeks of physical training were ahead of me and I already thought to myself, “what have I got myself into?”
By the time school actually started, everyone had the U.S. Air Force Core Values burned into their brains. The Values are: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. Within time I not only got stronger physically, but mentally as well. I joined the unarmed drill team where I would stay after school for hours practicing our routine and studying a manual full of various questions and answers that we would need to know before our competition in December that year. I had even more pressure to keep my grades up in all my classes knowing that Sgt. Mears, Sgt. Yurkovich, and Colonel Westermann would be keeping an eye on my report card weekly. As challenging as JROTC was that year, my desire to join the Air Force hasn’t completely left my mind.
I always told myself that I would join the military because I literally wanted to feel and be like Captain Ame
rica. Honestly, sometimes I still have that desire. With my chosen career path, I am more of a Clark Kent writing inside of a newsroom but before declaring a major I drove myself mad trying to figure out what I wanted to make of myself. I didn’t have a clue after high school about what I wanted to study. One week I was certain I would be a veterinary assistant but then all of a sudden I wanted to be an English professor, a pilot or a stunt devil. I drove myself mad trying to figure out what I wanted to make of myself so the military was always an option for me. My parents begged to differ, as they would trash any mail I would get that tried to recruit me for any branch of the military before I could even see it. I never signed up for the Air Force because before I could even finish high school, I found myself in community college.
Within those first two years, I figured out immediately what I was good and not so good at. What brought me the most joy other than drawing all over my history notes was writing and storytelling. Right now I am blogging for the university as a senior in college, which involves exactly the things that bring me the most joy. I’m also surrounded by like-minded individuals who want nothing but the best for me. The thought of if I had joined the military instead makes me realize that I would have never crossed paths with them. If I join now, I am in a much better position to do so. I have my education and people in my life who have my back. At this point, if I go into my new job that my degree qualified me for and do not feel happy, I know that I have time until I’m 39 years old to enlist in the Air Force. If I ever cross that bridge and seriously consider it, maybe I can now talk to Colonel Westermann about it. Or as the university knows, history instructor, Professor Westermann. Funny how we both ended up here.