I joined the United States Army out of stubbornness and to prove a point. (Kids, do not follow my example on this.)
One of my favorite cousins had previously joined the Army. I overheard my mother and aunt laughing at the idea of “Miss Ann” joining the force. Until that point I had never had any desire to join the military. But I tell you—that laughter struck a chord, and I became determined to have the last laugh.
I remember telling my mother that I had joined the service. She laughed again, and shooed me away. The joy I felt in my spirit knowing that I would soon be leaving was a secret too hard to keep. So I reminded her daily, always to the same response.
The day the recruiter picked me up to leave, again my mother laughed. She called my aunt and told her I had asked a friend to dress up in a costume and pretend to take me to the military.
When I arrived on base, a big burly man called my name in a big, intimidating voice. I answered him, and he handed me a note telling me to call my mother. I must have had the cheesiest grin on my face, knowing at that moment that I had won the battle against my mother and my aunt. The spirit of Happy Feet fell upon me.
Later, one day while I was in basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, everyone at the base was called in at around 11:00pm. We were told that President George Bush had announced that the U.S. would be taking action against Saddam Hussein due to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. This would become the start of the Persian Gulf War.
During that time there was a lot of activity on base. Reservists were called in for tactical refreshing and to be made battle-ready. This is when I learned that, generally, Reservists are among the first to put “boots on the ground.” I must admit I was a little ignorant as to the political goings-on, but this information quickly brought me up to speed. I made some wonderful friends and comrades. I later realized that learning how to shoot and dismantle an M-16 in a minute might be useful. I would eventually put these skills to good use as a sharpshooter and an expert in explosives. (And who knew all those years of wrestling my brothers and pretending to go safari hunting in the backyard armed with pellet guns and slingshots would come in handy? Shout out to my older brothers!)
I trained as a 91 Alpha, which was a combat medic at the time. (The M.O.S. has since changed to a 91 Bravo, I believe.) My later medical training came at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I was eventually attached to a unit to be deployed out of Houston, Texas. After all the shots and getting ready, some units were dispatched. Others, including mine, remained on stand-by. I guess God had another plan for me—but I lost many comrades who I will forever remember in my heart.
Needless to say, I spent a lot of time between Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; and my reporting unit in Houston.
I have never met a greater group of people than those in the military. A lot goes into being a soldier. You don’t only train physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. It’s not just that you walk a little differently. You are not in the military–you become military. I learned a lot about myself and others in the service—but more than that, I found a greater vision for life and my purpose in it.
Thank you for listening,
-The Forever Soldier (“Hooorahhhhhh!”)
Ann Washington, Legal Assistant