After spending eight years in the Army, I made the decision to end my time in service and pursue my educational goals. Being from a family that always struggled financially, college was never an option in my mind. Nobody had even talked to me about going to college so I assumed that it was unattainable for someone like me and instead joined the Army at the age of 17. The Army changed that idea that college wasn’t for me by stressing the importance of getting both a military and civilian education.
One might think that making the decision to get out of the Army was a difficult one but it was not a difficult choice for me. I can tell you the exact moment I decided to get out of the Army. It was after my second deployment and I was home on leave for two weeks. I had been gone for seven months at this point and my younger son Danny, who was only eight months old when I had left, had absolutely no idea who I was. I met him and my older son, Bron, at their daycare in hopes of surprising them. Needless to say, Danny was terrified at this stranger who ran up to him so eagerly to hug and kiss him. I was absolutely heartbroken and I felt like a failure as a mother. On our way home from their daycare I had to drive so that my aunt, the person my children now called mommy, could sit in the back seat with my younger son and comfort him as he was still completely terrified by my presence. He finally stopped crying after 15 minutes of driving so I turned and looked at him expecting to see him sleeping. Instead I saw his face, stained with tears, staring at me with wide eyes. He immediately burst into tears again. That was the very moment that I decided to end my career in the military and venture out into the unknown territory of the civilian world. I had already made arrangements to start college before my enlistment contract was up and I was very excited, and incredibly nervous, to start a new chapter in my life. Little did I know that life had a curveball to throw. My time in service was to end on April 11, 2012, but on April 8th I received a phone call that would change mine and my children’s lives forever.
It was on Easter Sunday that I received a phone call that my husband had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) and had lost both of his legs. I didn’t know if he was going to survive, all I knew was he was in surgery. By the grace of God he did survive. So I, being five months pregnant with our third child, packed up what few things I could and drove with my two boys from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Bethesda, Maryland so that I could assist my husband in his recovery at Walter Reed. In such a short time our lives were completely uprooted. Me ending my time in the military, having our third child (and only girl) on the way and of course my husband’s life changing injuries seemed almost too much to handle. There wasn’t a single easy day during the two years we spent at Walter Reed during my husband’s recovery. There were triumphant days like the first time he walked on his new “robot” legs or the day he was able to hold our daughter after being so close to death, but none of those days were easy. Pushing him around in his wheel chair when I was nine months pregnant was not easy. Sleeping next to his hospital bed every night for nearly a month when I was five months pregnant was not easy. Watching my husband struggle to cope with his injuries was not easy. Uprooting our entire lives was not easy but we managed to do all of this and I kept my family together during a time when we saw many families falling apart. Being there during my husband’s recovery and keeping it all together (the best I could) is the greatest personal achievement of my life and while my husband and I are separated now, we made it through the most difficult time of our lives and I can say with all confidence that we were there for one another.
After putting my educational goals on hold for two years to support my husband, I finally get to put my energy into achieving one of the most important goals of my life. I just recently started college (I’m currently in my third semester) and I plan to transfer to Sacramento State to study business administration. I will be applying to the Business Honors program which is a challenging program but I’m confident that I will excel in this program. When I was in the military I worked on a long-range rocket system and I had never heard of any job in the civilian world that was similar to that. So I feared that the technical skills that I had learned in the military wouldn’t help me much elsewhere. However, I spent the last two years of my military career as the training NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) for my company and it was this position that motivated me to pursue a career in human resources. I learned computer skills (PowerPoint, Microsoft and excel), organizational skills, management skills and most importantly, I learned how to present the data that I had collected to my seniors. After years of getting my elbows dirty turning wrenches, I learned that I was good what the Army calls “paper pushing”.
So now the majority of my life is spent doing homework or studying, that is unless I’m taking my boys to soccer, baseball or football practice. Between school, work and being a mom, I find very little down time. In the off chance that I do have down time, I enjoy volunteering in my community. There’s something about helping other people that brings me joy and a sense of accomplishment.