My Community, the army. Since day one we are trained to hide our emotions, not to show pain, swallow our pride, and look out for one another. Through this phase we watch society (no, the world) change around us like leaves during the fall as we remain the same, or that’s the way it feels. Instead like clay we are molded and shaped to become combat effective. A change that consumes us so carefully and strategically placed that we don’t even see the person next to us become a weapon, for we are that very same weapon.
Fort Benning, Georgia aka “Hell on Earth”. The feeling never gets old. I wake up with my chest feeling a few sizes too small and my heart like an untamed tiger, clawing and roaring, trying to rip from its cell. I sit up and steady myself. Wrong move. As my senses become more attuned I hear the banshee screaming, “Get the F*** up, Houston. Move, mov,e move.” My body snaps into autopilot as if I was programmed. Into my uniform I spring, not missing a single button. Kevlar, check, goggles, CHECK! My lungs fill with cement, making every breath a feat of its own. I lock my weapon to the rear and we charge out the bay like a herd of bewildered rhinoceros ready to take this monster head on. It’s only a drill. It’s only a. . . My thoughts are interrupted by a Valkyrie within the room with the voice of a Harpy.
Am I dreaming? The Day Begins.
In the beginning it was hard, extremely hard, and as we progressed in our training it didn’t get any easier, but we became more confident. Ready to take on the world, we rose to the occasion. Pushing negative thoughts to the back of our minds and learning to trust in ourselves and in our comrades, becoming a true army of one. One unit, one mind, one team, one fight. Or at least that’s what we were trained to feel. Here we were, fathers, brothers, friends, and, children, third and first generation soldiers reborn as a band of brothers. And as much as I started to hate it and it tore at me like nails on a chalk board if there ever came a day if I was needed back, I’d accept with the willingness of a house cat taking a bath.
The military is like its own world. Hustling and bustling. Drawing you in with wonder and amazement to a world that you have only seen in movies: death, despair, chaos, violence, and everyone’s favorite, War. But once you enter the doors you are opened to a world of possibility. I made a second family once I just stopped fighting it, and oh how I fought. Soon, waking up became easier and everything was second nature. The cement in my lungs started to go away. The auto pilot became easier and flowed a lot smoother and I became generally happier but, as I stated before, as a soldier it never gets easier. You are always being pushed and shoved drug across the mud screaming, and all you hear like a runaway bat flapping \and banging around in the deep dark abscesses of your mind is “Don’t cheat yourself.” The NCOs would always say that, and I never really understood it until now. I woke pushing myself to become better, and better I became.
As far as the community aspect of the U.S Military. There is only one word that fits the bill. Family (amazing, right). After the torture sessions and beating you down in to the pits of despair they do their best to stress how family should remain priority. There are so many different types of programs to support the military families. Hell, there are even days called family day, as if we were part of some elaborate hoax with no punch line. The military understands that morale has many different factors, and family happens to be one of the biggest. It didn’t matter to me I had no family to rely on then.
Three things that sum up the military community lifestyle is war, F\family, and, last but not least, community. Weird to write about that in a paper about community but here we go. Community in the army is the third biggest aspect, and ever growing. It was shoved down my throat that if the community is in disarray that knocks the family out of balance and that can mess with a soldier on the battle field, putting him/her into a constant state of worry and caution, and if the battle field is shaken it disrupts communities. An endless cycle of events that if left unchecked can cause serious damage and could cost a life. So the military is very big in donating and giving time to the families that build these communities. And like that rich bastard that shows up to Christmas and only during Christmas brings so many half-hearted events from bowling to picnics to trick or treating events and even just dining out, which is a glorified banquet, it’s actually nice when you think of the bureaucratic nonsense and endless towers of paperwork a commander is willing to conquer just to increase the morale of his/her troops.
Finally, I’d like to touch on my favorite part. Education. Education is the third, but not any less important part, of the military. Education is power and the military understands that. So it is stressed that you go to college, and if it is not stressed they will not fail to nag it. Which ultimately turns the base into giant campuses and the company that you are with into frat houses. It is really something to see. All these war hardened vets lying back and enjoying themselves like some kind of 80’s sitcom with healthy rivalries and cohesive bonding. One of the few things I miss.
I hope that I was able to shed some light on the military bringing it from what is admired on the silver screen of guts and valor and giving you a more in detail look on how something so scary on the outside can be not so bad on the inside. Between you and me though, I Hate It. It’s not my cup of tea but I wouldn’t wish anything wrong upon it. Actually, if you desire to join don’t look at it as one last trip before you die but an opportunity to better yourself by doing something you may love and enjoy. And also being part of something that will take care of you in the long run.
Ashton Houston is a student at Lone Star College, North Harris.