It all started on July 13 1993, after completing High School and I decided it was time to head out on my own. Earlier I had received a call from an army recruiter and decided to join the army. This was the day my life really began.
Before I joined the military I was your average teenager. Like the vast majority of the kids my age, I had no direction and no real concept of what life was really about. I thought I knew everything about everything but really didn't have a clue. All I really knew that it was time for me to break away and get my life on track.
This was a terrifying time for me because I really didn't know what to expect and for the first time I had tasted independence. I finally had to rely on me and me alone to get the job done and if I failed I had to suffer the consequences. I wasn't sure I had what it took to make it but gritted my teeth and rode it out.
When I first arrived at basic training I was greeted by a bunch of screaming drill sergeants barking commands and expecting you to follow right away. It was mass confusion and the drill sergeants got even more insistent that you obey. At this point I was wondering what I was doing here and wondering if leaving was the biggest mistake of my life. I left to gain independence and was thrown into an authoritarian society. My first lesson learned, The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.
Several weeks passed and life got little easier as I adapted to the daily routine and got a sense of belonging. I learned many new skills and among these I acquired a greater sense of responsibility, discipline, respect, how to deal with criticism and how to work well with others even though you may not like them.
More time passed and I graduated from basic training and was off to airborne school where for the next three weeks I was to learn how to jump out of airplanes. During this three weeks, not only did I learn to jump from airplanes, I also developed a great sense of self-confidence and many other skills and traits that helped mold and shape me.
After Airborne School I was of to my first unit in Fort Stewart Georgia where I was assigned to be a crew member on an M901 A1 Improved Tow Vehicle and was given the task of driving the vehicle. At Fort Stewart I learned how to be a better member of a team and honed my skills, learning more about teamwork, reliability, listening and communication skills and a greater sense of individuality and independence. I came to find that life on my own was not quite what I expected but fine and rewarding none the less. I had finally achieved what I desired most, my freedom and was well on my way to becoming an adult.
Two years passed at my first unit and I came down on orders to go to Italy. I was thrilled to learn that I was going to see another country and spent time getting to know little more about my culture. Once again I was on the move, further developing myself. When I first arrived in Italy there was a bit of a culture shock, I had to get used to a whole new way of life. Although I lived on base I went out often exploring the country and I had to interact with the people to a great extent. Here I gained better social skills and a greater understanding of the differences between people not just in the United States, but all over the world.
On December 24, 1996 I was deployed to Bosnia and was one of the first soldiers to arrive there for Operation Joint Endeavor, where I saw first hand the aftermath of a war and realized for the first time that life isn't always as great as it appears to be. Before I arrived in Bosnia my eyes were closed to the problems of the world. I didn't realize that there were so many people just struggling to survive. All I saw was the world in which I lived. It was a shock when I first saw those bullet-riddled houses with no roofs and the children that lived in these houses waving out of them at us as we drove by. It was like a nightmare and there was really nothing we could do. Often when we stopped our convoys the children would run up to the vehicles and we would give them food and any other extra stuff we had that might help to make their lives little better. Through my experiences in the war torn country of Bosnia I learned one of the most important lessons I have ever learned, and that was how was it is to over look those less fortunate than ourselves and not even realize that they exist, and blindly allow this to go on. I now respect everything I have and without hesitation am willing to share what I have with those that have nothing.
So the most significant turning point in my life has to be when I first went out to make it on my own by joining the army. If it was not for this decision I would only be half the person that I am today and would probably still be blind to the problems of the world and only aware of my own little sphere of existence. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunities I have been presented and appreciate the changes they caused in my life. I will never take life for granted again.