I was 19 years old when I joined the Air Force. Believe me, I had no idea of what I had gotten myself into; however, I knew I had to do something. At the time, I was heartbroken, too grown to continue living with my mother, and I was failing my first semester of college. Yeah.. I needed to do something. So I spontaneously joined the Air Force. Really! I put no real thought into it. As Nike says, “Just do it!” Well.. I did it!
Up until my first full day of basic training, I had no clue of what I had done. I had actually signed eight years of my life away– four active and four inactive, and it was all because I wanted to get away from home. Little did I know that I was giving up my freedom for the sake of others. That at anytime within those eight years I could possibly go to war. So no, I did not join because I was patriotic, I joined to get away.
Anyhoo.. It was during basic training that I discovered my true strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I had no idea my left arm was so strong! Well, I found out my first night/early morning at basic training. You see, my recruiter told me I needed to pack for basic training and technical school (which was to come afterwards). And pack I did! I brought two bags with me, one of which contained laundry detergent and an iron. I had clothes, makeup, shoes and purses. For some reason I had packed like I was going on vacation instead of boot camp. For years I blamed the recruiter when in reality it was all me! All Shaun!! I was like, “I’m not buying stuff I already have.” Too funny! Well, I paid for it.
That night (which was the only time) my training instructor/drill instructor got in my face and yelled at me. She asked me what was I thinking bring all that s**t with me. Y’all, I was soooo embarrassed. I was this 5’1 3/4”, 100 lb, sleep-deprived female being yelled at by a woman at least twice my size– okay, might be over exaggerating, but just a little–in front of over 100 airmen in my section. There were even more airmen further down. Well, of course I wasn’t the only one being yelled at, but it sure felt like it. As I said, I had no idea my left arm was so strong. She made me pick up both of my bags with my left hand and carry them around the building (which I later learned we were already at the entrance but they had to make everything DRAMATIC) and up five flights of stairs without dropping or dragging them. She put me at the end of the line because she didn’t want me “holding up” her line. That was the day I learned to pack light. Carryon luggage, only! Bae-bé, I can pack several days in a carryon. Skills!!
I have so many other stories about my eight weeks at Lackland AFB. To this day, I have no desire to revisit San Antonio. That one stay was enough. Overall, I am so grateful for the experience. Joining the military was like extending my family. The people I worked with, lived with, went clubbing and church with, toured with, all become part of my family. As many of you know, Ramstein, Germany was my first duty station. I knew absolutely no one when I got off the plane. However, I was greeted with so much love and camaraderie. Everyone, from my Chief to my roommate, made sure I had everything I needed. They were my family.
I could write sooo much more, but I don’t have time. Maybe one day I’ll write my memoirs. I’m so grateful God granted me that opportunity and experience. So grateful for all of the wonderful people I met along the way. We really had some good times.
For the past few years I have celebrated Veterans Day with my little sister, who served in the Navy. This year, because of COVID-19, and a few other things, I won’t be able to spend it with her. Our ritual is to get as many freebies as possible. We usually spend the entire day hitting up one restaurant after another. It’s pretty awesome, and even more awesome because we spend the day with our fellow veterans. So I am dedicating this blog to her. Thank you for your service, Shartese! And you too, Sarah!! She’s my other little sister who served in the Army but acts like she didn’t. Lol!
Happy Veterans Day to my fellow veterans; and from one vet to another, thank you so much for your service!