I am a veteran.
I have a hard time writing that.
In January 1992, The GirlBeater decided to sign up for the Army. He wanted to be an airplane mechanic. While we were filling out his paperwork, the recruiter was making small talk and said, “Have you ever considered joining the Army?”
I said, “Actually, yes; there was a time that I talked about traveling with the Army Band.”
“Reeeeeally?” he asked.
An hour later, we were doing my paperwork, witha promise for a $1500 bonus upon completion of boot camp. I dreamed of going to college on the G.I. Bill and not having to worry about student loans.
I took the ASVAB and we went to MEPS together. The only part I was nervous about was the hearing test. I knew that my hearing was degrading, but as we did the hearing test, I was relieved to realize that they were sending in six people at a time. I watched the girl next to me, and when she pushed the button, I did too.
The GirlBeater went into the job counselor’s office and came out visibly upset and dejected. He had not been approved for the mechanic job. He had to settle for infantryman.
About an hour later, I was put with a job counselor who told me, sure, I was approved for the Army Band pending the audition. But something else had popped up that he thought would be intriguing.
“Your ASVAB score is fantastic and you passed the physical with flying colors. How would you like to be an MP?”
My jaw dropped. Literally.
“Wow.” was all I could say, at first.
I came out of that office walking on air. I shared my good news with The GirlBeater. He was happy for me, but still quite sad about his results.
He went off to boot camp right away, and I wasn’t scheduled for boot camp until September. I was to start my warrior weekends right away, in February.
Somehow I made it through him being gone for boot camp and AIT. I continued my Weekend Warrior routine in Jackson, MI. I was part of the 303rd Military Police Corps, and I was absolutely loving it. I realized that I initially went in mostly for the G.I. Bill and the signing bonus, but I discovered something much deeper than that. I was proud. I was truly proud to be serving my country.
The GirlBeater came home from boot camp and AIT to do his Weekend Warrior bit, and I shipped off to Ft. McClellan, AL for my boot camp and AIT .
Right away, they said that I had to do Fitness Training Company. I was sort of bummed at first, but quickly realized what an advantage I was going to have over the other recruits going straight to boot camp. I was in FTC for five weeks, and then we were moved across the base to boot camp.
I loved my new life. I was quickly made a squad leader, and got a really healthy dose of good self-esteem and confidence. I asked about switching from reserves to active without consulting The GirlBeater.
I was doing great with the physical part of Army life, but I was having a hard time keeping up in class. If I was fortunate, I’d get a good spot up in front of the classroom and be just fine. If I got a spot in the back of the room, I had to rely on other people’s notes to keep up, as I couldn’t understand the instructor’s lecture from back there.
Then I did something that would change the course of my life. I asked one of my drill sergeants if I could move up to the front of the classroom from the back row. She got a puzzled look on her face, and asked why. Nonchalantly as I could, I just told her I could follow the lesson better up there. She said, “Ok, but you’re going to Noble Army Hospital tomorrow morning to see the doctor. If you have an ear infection, I want it cleared up right away.” We were going on our long march in a few days and she wanted to make sure I had meds before I left.
What could I say? Besides, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!”
Long story short, the doctor found my hearing loss within the first 15 minutes of the appointment, and did lots of testing. At the end, he said, “You can’t be an MP with the level of hearing loss you have. You have two choices. One, you let us choose a different job for you. Or two, you go home with a general discharge.”
I didn’t want someone just choosing what I would be doing for the next six years, so I chose door number two. I was crushed. I was devastated. I cried and cried and cried. Two of my drill sergeants did, too.
One week before boot camp graduation, I was Pulled From Training. It only took a couple weeks for the rest of the paperwork to go through and I was home by Thanksgiving.
One good thing that came out that experience was that I found the courage to stand up for myself and confidence that I deserved better than The GirlBeater. I left him January 20, 1993.
But I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am technically a veteran, but I have a hard time saying it. When I think of a veteran, I think of a person that has been in combat or in a police action or similar service. I think of a person that gave their life for their country. I think of a guy in the desert that’s seeing his child for the first time via webcam. Not someone who did seven warrior weekends and about 12 weeks of training.
I am a veteran.
I just wish I could have been a better one.