Red mesh seats hung from dull steel bars with the loud hum of the aircraft filling my already ear plugged ears. I sat quietly with my bag between my legs, glancing around the cargo hold at my classmates. We all wore freshly ironed khakis and dark blue NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, which prepares students interested in the military for service) t-shirts proudly displaying a Navy emblem. On the back of our shirts a fierce wildcat pinpointed our school of origin’s location. The peers surrounding me were perhaps the most calm and collected high school freshmen. Inside, I was nervous and excited watching the Navy crewmen in their pickle-colored flight suits prepare everything for take-off. I had been on many planes before but this was the first time flying on my own, alongside Navy cargo no less. We were headed to Rota, Spain for a mini boot camp for first year NJROTC students. This was one of the turning points in my verve for military life and when I started to comprehend the dynamics of my childhood.
I have spent my entire life in the military community. My father joined the US Air Force as a commissioned officer after attending Virginia Tech where he met my mother who was also attending on an Army scholarship. The United States armed services have a long history in my family and runs deeply in my own veins. My mother’s father was a World War II Pearl Harbor survivor, serving in the Army-Air Corps and my father’s father served in the US Army during the Korean War era. My own father served in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was old enough to remember watching him pack his camouflage-adorned bags and suit up into desert fatigues as he headed off to a region of the world that perhaps the majority of Americans only hear about on the news.