Deciding to join the Army during a time of war was no easy thing to wrap my mind around, let alone my mother’s. I’ll never forget the receiving line of congratulations just after raising my right hand, my mother at the end, and as I got to her she hit me as hard as she could. I hadn’t been enlisted in the Army but 5 minutes and she had already caused damage to government property. I can honestly say I wasn’t mad, and I’m glad it didn’t hurt as bad as I thought. For those of you who know my mom she can throw a pretty mean jab. I scarred her enough from birth till that day and the way I say it, I had that one long time coming.
My actual call to service started way before my enlistment however. My first true calling came late 2005 when I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to civil service; police, firefighting, EMS, something. By late 2006 early 2007 someone answered that call. A close family friend and Fire Officer at De Forest Fire/EMS saw something in me and was willing to help me on my path. Rydell stuck his neck out to get me in the door, get me an interview and ultimately started the foundation of my love for serving.
This is when I met Mark. Mark has been a major player in my life sense 2007. Mark pushed me, taught me life lessons, always expected the best and wasn’t afraid to kick my ass when it needed it. Mark supported me through my career at De Forest and was happy to see me go to another fire department because he knew it was the best for me to start my long career in smoke eating. My fire and EMS service is something I will never forget and it is something that I will always hold close to my heart. After 6 years of being in the Army I still find myself boasting “I was a firemen before I joined the Army.” I have a Maltese cross tattooed on my right arm with the number 343 inside, the number of FDNY firemen lost in the September 11th attack.
I had an amazing start and was well ahead of anyone my age in relation to having a career so fast out of high school but I felt like I was not doing enough. I guess this is when my second thrust towards serving others was. As cliché as it is, I saw the pictures and videos of war, I saw the pain in soldiers eyes, I saw the war and needed to be there. I needed to be a part of something bigger, something with more meaning, something that was going to make a difference. The realization that I could not come home crossed my mind and was gone as quickly as it came. Dying for my country was the most honorable thing I could imagine. My journey from enlistment to Afghanistan was a dream. Basic, jump school, moved to Germany and 60 days later I was in Afghanistan. This was exactly where I need to be. Getting off the plane I looked around, it was cold, smelled like shit, I was tired as hell but it didn’t matter.
There are fighting seasons in Afghanistan believe it or not. Think of it as a baseball season. It’s too cold in the winter to play ball but come spring - GAME ON! Our platoon was very experienced. Most just got back from another deployment and here they were back in the suck. I was called on again to deploy and I was just as excited as my first one. Here I find myself once again, being called on, and I’m back over in the Middle East.
My call to service has taken me around the world a few times and I couldn’t be more honored to wear the American Flag, my Sergeant chevrons and the U.S. Army nametape. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I’m a leader in the greatest Army in the world. I will continue to serve until they kick me out or bury me.