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From Frontlines to Heavy Books

My Experience Going from Combat to College

October 2008, Iraq.

“INCOMING! GET ON THE FLOOR!”

This is how nearly all military movies portray war. You are sleeping in your bunk/cot/bed, and suddenly someone is screaming to get down. Perhaps in the very beginning of the War on Terror it was this way, but it wasn’t my experience. I went into the Army after graduating high school in June 2006. I got an awesome $1,000 bonus as a 19K, or M1 Armor Crewman. Meanwhile, every other person there received a $40,000 bonus. Little did I know, there was a huge bonus increase before I went to OSUT.

Better luck next time!

For a year from 2008 to 2009, I was in Iraq, first in COP Tahrir, then FOB WarHorse. It was pretty typical to have a year long deployment at that time that was 95 percent boring, wishing something was happening, and 5 percent something happening and you wondering why the hell you wanted to see action. It isn’t really the glorification that you see on movies. It is you doing beyond your absolute best to watch your fellow brother and sister-in-arms' backs. It is you setting aside the misery of having to do three patrols a day, going to random government buildings, or busted down schools that are being rebuilt.

Time goes by fast, overall, but once you get back home, you finally realize everything you miss out on. All the movies your family saw while you were away. All the hit songs you never knew existed. Instead, while you were deployed, you were blasting Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” over and over, or a little “10,000 Fists in the Air” by Disturbed. You were developing a twisted sense of humor. You come back home just to learn that those songs are way outdated, and the newest hit is Justin Bieber.

This, for me, was also the time to decide what to do: Re-enlist or get out. Based on the title, you guessed it. I got out. I decided I had had enough military at the time and decided to pursue my Associate’s of Applied Science in Information Technology. Going to college after service was quite an experience. All the drama that was in high school was non-existent now. I no longer felt angered by what students said. I was more optimistic and excited about actually learning. One of the first things I was told as a new Private in the Army was “Knowledge is power.” These words came from my Platoon Sergeant. I still hold those words dear to my heart today. I love knowledge. I love learning.

It is quite unfortunate that a lot my age don’t agree. Going to college, I would frequently hear about how difficult someone’s life is, working at a customer service position. These students would also complain about how difficult it was to get out of bed for a 7 AM class. Sure, it might be a little early, but it could always be worse. I just couldn’t understand how students were able to have so much freedom and complain so much. I found myself butting heads quite a few times. Thankfully there was a Veteran Association at my college that I was a part of. I heard quite a few anti-military words being spoken, about how the War on Terror was completely wrong and we needed to “stop killing women and children.” There was a couple of times I even left a “pass” on my desk and walked out of class, getting beyond frustrated with the students and teacher about their “mild” complaints about the military. But in the end, and it took me a while to realize this, it all boiled down to a lack of knowledge. They only knew what was on TV, not actual research. Once I realized this and decided to start enlightening some of the naysayers, it got significantly easier. And the more I taught, as well as learned, the more and more I enjoyed my time in college, realizing I was DEFINITELY part of the 1 percent of the American population to have (and continue to) serve in the military, and now part of another statistic: A degree holder.

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