A marine’s gratitude
With the growing student debt, the difficulty of finding employment after college, and the issue of raising the minimum wage taking over the news, I could not help but be grateful about the benefits I received as a veteran. Moreover, I could get help with resumes not just at UH, but I could get it from the VA.
Not to rub it on anybody’s faces, but I get paid to go to school. However, it was not given to me. I put in about four years of my time in the military. I was fortunate that I did not have to deploy (or so I’ve been told). However, I was stationed overseas for two years. Which meant my two years not only consisted of working out and completing the mission, it also consisted of Skype calls and the occasional care package from a home that was 10,000 miles away; it also meant I couldn’t go home for two years, for a round-way ticket cost nearly two thousand dollars.
For those that did deploy, they not only kept in touch through Skype, but they had the letters; they patrolled the areas of Iraq or Afghanistan in 100-plus degree weather, carrying over a 100 pounds of gear on their bodies. They risked their lives day in and day out, and have seen the brutal, ugly side of war.
Regardless of where you were, whether it was in an air-conditioned office or in a tent during the summer, the military stressed that a mistake can have consequences. To this day, I remained paranoid of making a mistake in anything. That alone is a both a blessing and a curse.
Thus, the time I put in was no easy feat. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. The times I had to carry a 100-pound pack for about ten miles; running up the hills at five in the morning; making sure the uniform was straight; or making sure my hair was in a tight, gelled down bun, and that no fly-aways nor my sock — which was utilized to create my bun — appeared, all the while losing and frying my hair in the process. There were the times when we had to stop work to participate in another ceremony. Sometimes, it felt like we stopped work once a week to attend another brief, much of it repeated information via PowerPoint (or as many in the military call it, “death by PowerPoint”). Then there were the sexist remarks, not only from men but from women as well.
The final nail in the coffin was the way many of us were treated as children. Regardless of whether you joined at 18, or in my case, 28, the way of being treated like a child can grind on an adult’s nerves. What irked me most was treating my own Marines as children. They didn’t need their hands to be held; they were grown. They knew the rules; they knew right from wrong. Yet we had to constantly make sure these adults did what they were told.
Although I was motivated and loved it in the beginning, near the end of my contract, I resented it. Nonetheless, the tears flowed at my going away dinner. While I was finally leaving the daily structure, it broke my heart that I was leaving a culture. While I did — and still do — miss the service, what I missed the most was the camaraderie. Leaving the office of my comrades was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I knew I was ready to leave behind the culture I ate, slept and wore on my body for four years. However, the people, I was not ready for. I knew I would never encounter a job like this again; where the people would take the hit for you, even die for you. And many did.
So you see, having your tuition paid for all the while being paid to go to school did not consist of an essay or straight A’s. It consisted of blood, sweat, tears and sometimes a life to receive these benefits. In my branch’s case, it also included “honor, courage, commitment.”
July 27th marked a year since I left the service. While I no longer have to follow the handholding rules, I find myself constantly talking and writing about it. As one of my drill instructors once said, all the initial training and rules served a purpose. What that purpose was, we did not know then. Now, as I write this, I realize it was not only for a change, or even the benefits, it has impacted my life in more ways than one. It is what inspires my writing, and me, and it’s what keeps me pushing forward.