Of the 325 million people living in the US, only one percent are brave enough to serve in the military. Though that number seems inconceivably low, it is an accurate statistic. So what does that mean for me? It means I am a part of that one percent and within that one percent is an even smaller percentage of women who serve and an even smaller percentage of African-Americans who serve. This is why I cannot take what I do lightly.
Growing up, when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the military never crossed my mind. The only person I knew associated with the military was my grandfather, but he retired long before I was even born.
My high school GPA wasn’t “top notch” so scholarships weren’t flowing in like I had seen for my friends. I started to ponder how I can obtain a higher education without living in debt for the rest of my life like I see so many members of my family doing.
When I raised my right hand on March 19, 2015, I swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… [and] bear true faith and allegiance to the same…” I admit, at the tender age of seventeen, I did not know what I was agreeing to. I just repeated after the soldier giving the oath so I could get to the money and get my school paid for. I knew that it was a commendable action to join the Army because not everyone can be “Army strong.” Out of those who are mentally and physically able to, there are not many who would voluntarily do what I am doing. Most people immediately think of war when they see the military so there is an immediate turn off, but I have developed discipline and character in my short time of service. Four years into my contract and I am still enjoying the financial benefits, but I see a bigger picture now.
I must pay homage to the Buffalo Soldiers – originally the black calvary who fought in the Indian Wars and later established as the first peacetime all-black regiment in the regular U.S. Army. These brave men fought for a country who would never fight for them. They endured much hatred, but still humbled themselves to put their lives on the line. We have come a long way from that period of time, and we have gained many rights the Buffalo Soldiers could only dream of. We are achieving things that they paved the way for.
Henry Ossian Flipper is another honorable man. He was a former slave and the first black officer in the U.S. Army, receiving his commision from West Point Academy. One of the struggles he dealt with as a black soldier was at the end of career when he had seemed to be set up so he could be dishonorably discharged. To hear his story near to the time of my expected commission is fortifying.
Though I have asked myself on numerous occasions, “Why did you join the military?”, “Is it really worth it”, “Why am I still in?”, I did not get here by accident. I will trust in God’s plan for me as He orders my steps in the same way he led Flipper and the Buffalo Soldiers. It is because of these admirable people that I continue to serve and seek to be the best soldier and future officer I can be.