When I was in high school, I was a quiet kid. I did not engage in any verbal arguments or physical fights. I never needed to prove myself. I had one dream: to get accepted at a college, get my education, and find a job in law enforcement. I remember when my brother came home and announced to everyone that he wanted to join the Marines. I was pretty skeptical about his idea. I was against the rigidity and structure of military life, and I openly told him my thoughts about it. I don’t know whether my opinion influenced him, but instead of joining the Marines, he decided to graduate from high school.

After I graduated from high school, I didn’t have the grades or the money for college, but I wanted to do something with my life. I knew that the military awarded a twenty thousand dollars bonus for joining and pay for a college education. After pondering this for a few months, I decided to join the Army. It was the year 2008. I was a senior in high school and entered into the delayed entry program. I had no idea about the process, but I thought it could be an exciting opportunity that ultimately would lead to a possible law enforcement career. When I told my parents about my decision, they were very supportive, as they couldn’t afford to pay for my college, nor did they think I was ready to join the workforce at that time. My brother followed me and joined the Army as well.

In 2012 I volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan. There, the convoys in my unit were frequently attacked and almost hit by mortar fire. Fortunately, I survived, stayed alive. I didn’t lose any limb nor suffered from life-threatening injuries. I didn’t even have PTSD.

After I came back from Afghanistan, I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees using the Army’s education benefits, and I was able to find a good job. I often think about my life in the military and how it taught me to be healthy and disciplined, know my limits, or not think I’m not strong enough. It also helped me to build self-confidence and never to give up. I have not “arrived” yet. Every day is a learning opportunity, and I continue trying to be the best I can be.

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