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Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew that one day I was going to join the military. My grandfather was a huge inspiration to me. He was in the army for 20 years and he would always tell me these amazing, heroic stories of things that he did while in the army. Not only was my grandfather a huge inspiration to me, but my father would tell me all the time that joining the military was a really good idea. The only thing that I was not too sure about was when was I going to join and what branch. Don't worry though, that comes a bit later in the story. Every day I would imagine the amazing adventures I would go on when I joined the military.
Days turned into months and years, and eventually I was a senior in high school. As every high school senior know by the fourth year of high school, most people should have a good idea of what they want to do after they graduate and I, just like everyone else, knew exactly what I wanted to do, and that was join the military. So I submitted a request for information for the United States Navy. A week later I was taking my usual after school nap to get ready for work later that evening and I woke up to a phone call from a number I didn't know. I answered the phone and got ready for a random telemarketer to try to sell me something, and to my surprise, the woman on the other side of the line said, " Hello, I'm a navy recruiter and I would like to talk to you about what the navy can offer you." Now in all honesty, I was in a pretty deep sleep, and I was still partially asleep when I answered the phone, but as soon as she said the word "navy," I was instantly jilted awake. So we set up a meeting. The first meeting went well, but she told me that because I was 17 I would need my parents' signatures on any paperwork that needed to be signed. Now, that sounds super easy, right? Well, not exactly. My mother was very excited that I wanted to join the navy, but my father seemed a little unsure. Nonetheless, I decided to push forward and set up the next meeting and invited my mom and my dad. On the day of this meeting, my mom came, but my dad was nowhere in sight, so obviously I couldn’t get anything done. So I continue to push forward, and eventually I realized that my father was probably not going to sign the paperwork, so the recruiter and I decided to wait until I turned 18. That way I could sign the paperwork.
A year later, I graduated high school and turned 18 years old and I was ready to start my navy career. So periodically I would bring up joining the navy at the dinner table to my dad, and he would always do one of two things: option one; deflect the conversation and talk about something else, or option two; tell me that everyone in the military was stupid and joined because they are too dumb for the real world.
Eventually I decided that I was going to sign the paperwork, so, I got back in contact with my recruiter and let her know that I was ready to sign the paperwork and we set up a meeting and I signed the paperwork to send me to Military Medical Processing (MEPS), but I didn't tell my Dad. I had about two weeks before I was going to get my MEPS dates so that gave me ample time to figure out what I was going to say to him. Finally, the day came, I was going to tell my dad that I had started the process of joining the navy. I was super nervous to tell him because I wasn’t sure how he would react, but I toughed it out and I walked into the living room and told him that I signed the paperwork. The best way I could describe how the conversation started was he reacted as if I told him that I wanted to be the next Pablo Escobar. He went ballistic. I know you probably want me to go in detail about what he said, but in all honestly, I cannot repeat what he said because it would offend everyone who is or has ever been in the military and what he said might put him under investigation by the US Government. Long story short, after he was done yelling at me, he left for work and didn't talk to me for the next two days.
Three days later, he decides he wants to talk to me and the subject of this conversation really hit me hard. He told me how disappointed in me he was, how stupid I was, how he was going to disown me, and he even went on to tell me that I was going to die. Now I feel like everyone at some point in their lives hears someone say some negative things about them. I'm not the type of person that lets other people’s negative comments affect me. It's a whole new thing when your own parent tells you that they don't like you and insults you. At the end of the conversation, he told me that I was not joining the military and that if I did he would never speak to me again. That night I couldn’t go to sleep. All I could do was think about what my final decision was going to be. Was I going to do what my dad wanted me to do—live an unhappy life and not follow my dreams? Or was I going to follow my dream and live the life I have always wanted to live?
A week later, I was scheduled to go to MEPS and my recruiter let me know that she was going to come pick me up from my house. I was super excited and ready to go, but this happy day was about to turn into a stressful one. My father called me in to his room and told me that he wanted to talk to my recruiter before we left, and I told him that would be fine. He then told me that if she didn't get there before he had to leave for work that it was only fair for me to cancel my MEPS dates and go again a different day. And right here was where I said one two letter word that set the tone for the next 15 minutes of my day. My response was "NO, it’s not fair to reschedule it." As soon as I said that, he told me to get out of his room. Shaken, yet excited for what the day had to bring, I went downstairs and waited for my recruiter to arrive. Remember when I said that one two letter word would set the tone for the next few minutes? Well, here it is. My mother and father came downstairs and went in to the kitchen and my dad called me. He told me to repeat the entire conversation to my mom, so, I did, and he told me to try again. So again, I repeated the conversation. Again, he said I didn't repeat the conversation right, so at that point I was not trying to let this ruin my day, so I told him I didn't know, hoping that he would say it and this would be over quickly. Well, that only fueled his anger. As soon as I told him that I didn't know, he yelled at me and called me stupid and basically said anything he could to scare me or make me react in a negative way. I didn't react to it at all, but I'm pretty sure that he was trying to get me to cry so that I wouldn’t want to go to MEPS, but I signed way too much paperwork and waited for three weeks to get these MEPS dates and I was not going to let that happen. Then I heard my phone ding. Now I have never been so happy to hear that I have gotten a text message. Surely enough, it was my recruiter letting me know that she was in front of the house. My dad then told me to get her to come in the house so that he could talk to her, so I walk outside and let her know that he wants to talk. What my father didn't know was that I already let her know that he was not supportive and warned her ahead of time that if he talks to her that he might be a little hostile. So I invited her in and we all sat in the living room and my father basically talked to my recruiter in a disrespectful tone and, in all honesty, I'm pretty sure he was trying to do to her what he couldn’t do to me earlier; he wanted to see some sort of negative reaction out of her and he didn't get it. As far as what was said, I couldn’t tell you because I was freaking out. I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest and I was sweating profusely because I was nervous. I was more focused on not having a panic attack than what they were talking about.
After the conversation was over, the recruiter and I walked to the car, and as soon as we got in and buckled up, she asked me something that I will never forget she said.
"Does your dad's support matter to you?"
My response to that question was no. Before you start judging me and thinking that I'm just trying to be a rebel, let me explain myself. All my life, everything I have done was to please my father, and for once in my life, I was deciding for me; a decision that I knew was going to come with some risks, but there were also going to be so amazing benefits. Even though I would love to have the support of my father, I know that he is never going to change his mind, but there are so many people rooting for me to be successful. My family and friends have all told me about how excited they are and how they will be there for me if I need anything. There are so many people rooting for me and there is only one person that isn’t. The good outweighs the bad.
Back to the story.
I went to MEPS and passed the physical and picked my job. Later that day I went home and my father wanted to know what happened. So I told him that I passed the physical and signed a contract. The look on his face as soon as I told him told me exactly where the conversation was going to go. He told me that he was disappointed in how stupid I was and, again, he said things that would offend anyone who is affiliated with the military, but unlike other conversations, this one was different. This time I engaged in the conversation and countered everything he said. For example, he told me that I was going to die, and my response was, "We are all eventually going to die. The only difference between your death and mine is I'm going to die for a cause."
The story doesn’t end there. I'm still living through this story. Today is January 24th, 2018, and I am shipping out to basic training on May 7th, 2018. My father still does not support this decision, but after everything he has said to me, not going to boot camp is not an option. My original reasoning for joining the navy was to learn life skills that can’t be taught in the traditional college classes. My reasoning has changed to not only wanting life skills, but I want to prove to my father that joining the navy was the right thing to do. I want to show him that every negative thing he said to me when I told him I was joining was wrong and that it was worth the fight that I had to go through to get to where I want to be.