Ten years. Ten years since I swore an oath and jumped on a plane and headed over to Fort Jackson, SC. Ten years since I met a man who would break my heart but still change and help so much. Ten years since I met friends I would lose to war. Ten years since I started down a road that would quickly lead to me being crippled for life. Ten years since I started down a road that would quickly make me stronger, louder, angrier, more passionate and sure of myself.
I was 19, days from being 20. My MEPS experience wasn't much different than the first 10 times or so that I went. The girl they put me up with in the hotel was going for her very first MEPS visit and was so
nervous. I wasn't. I felt like I should have been, but it'd taken me a year
to join and mentally I was mostly too impatient to feel properly nervous. She asked me what I was doing at MEPS this time, and seemed floored when I told her I was shipping out. I think my calmness threw her off... but helped, I hope.
They keep you at MEPS all damn day when you ship out. You do the usual cup-peeing, you sign a lot of things, you do the oath, then you just sit there for hours doing nothing. It's on purpose. The flight isn't until that evening and they want you exhausted when you get to reception. Hell the flight took forever and they still had us sit as the airport for ages.
I met some one at that airport who is still my friend despite us playing with that whole relationship thing for a while (it was a miserable failure)
Reception was quick, starting technically on the 26th in the wee hours of the morning when the bus took us there from the airport. Most people spend a week processing. You get all your clothes, your dog tags, do a lot of paperwork, get your shots, some MORE paperwork, blood drawn, they talk to you about so many things you'll forget in almost no time. Again, this normally is covered over the span of a week, we had two days.
We got on the bus to Basic on the 28th, my 20th birthday. I might talk more about that later. I just kind of wanted to talk about the very very beginning.
I was so different. I mean, duh... 30 and 20 are massively different ages, mentally, emotionally, socially. But I wouldn't recognize myself if 20-me met 30-me. Back then I was beaten down, underweight, quiet and shy, terrified of the world. But I was tired of being terrified. I was tired of being afraid and abused and manipulated. The military was an extreme form of escape, one that left me permanently scarred, but it did exactly what I wanted it to. I came out of the other end changed so much that my own family was shocked by the person I was by the time I got home. I had become so much stronger. I was bold, loud, angry, passionate. I didn't put up with the same shit I put up with before. I cut ties with people I needed to cut ties with, people who I'd been terrified to do that to before.
I wouldn't change it. I mean, sure, small things... there's always small things. But I learned a lot. And I didn't stop there, I've been growing so much in these 10 years and I'll do so for the next 10 years, and the 10 after that. I'll die of old age while smiling and saying I still don't understand a damn thing, and I'm still not done.
I'm never done. I could be bedridden with pain, breath caught in my throat because of it, brain screaming in terror from a dark memory... but none of that will beat me. Nothing ever has, nothing ever will. I'm not done. The Army broke me in so many ways and built me up in others. I don't regret it. Anything that can break any part of me is also something I can use to become something far more powerful than I was before.
Ten years... it's been a good ten years.