Thursday, October 13, 2011

guard{ed} at seventeen

So, yeah... a while ago I mentioned that I was going to enter a writing contest. Whoops, missed the deadline. So this is what I would have submitted. Just a little history ditty about me at seventeen. enjoy.

Guard{ed} @ Seventeen

I was the baby in my high school graduating class. Seventeen. Back in the day, my Momma started me in Kindergarten when I was only four years old. Unheard of today, right? Unless you're homeschooled or believe you have a little genius on your hands and persuade the school otherwise, most kids don’t start school until their six.  And no, I am not referring to myself a little genius.

While everyone else in my class was finishing their studies and taking college entrance exams, I enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard. Seventeen. My parents had to sign on the dotted line for me to enlist. A minor. Having no college aspirations, nor money to attend, I followed my boyfriend into the Guard and joined the band. Yes, you read that right.  The band!  Raised my hand and swore my allegiance to the military.

I graduated from eight weeks of basic training from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, only two months after graduating from high school. Still Seventeen.

I learned a lot about myself those first couple of months in the Guard. Not only did my physical appearance change and I gained 35 pounds of muscle (yes, I really needed to put some weight on my scrawny body back then), there were many life lessons learned. I was a natural leader, but the Guard taught me to speak effectively and listen to others. I had self-confidence, but the Guard taught me the value of one among many. I had faith, but the Guard showed me that believing could take on a whole new meaning. I was a woman in a man’s army, and my female drill instructor showed me how to rise above gender roles in the Guard. I was out to show the world my worth, and the Guard enlightened me that sometimes it takes teamwork. I wore baggy camouflage pants and combat boots. I was young and healthy, and the Guard showed me what it meant to go one step further, to stretch, to dig down deep and find strength and stamina.

I grew up in those eight short weeks.

Looking back now, my seventeenth year was a pivotal time in my life. It is an age I will never forget. The Guard shaped & molded me in ways that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Seventeen. Dreaming of who I wanted to be, what I could do to change the world, and how I could give back... moments now frozen in time and in my mind. As I stood at parade rest for hour-long speeches, learned to shoot a rifle or grenade launcher from a fox hole {for what seemed like the umpteenth time}, or marched one more mile, I grew in ways that continue to reveal themselves to me. When I speak of being a woman and how I evolved into who I am today, I find myself being thankful for having no direction, no money and no designed future… for without having served in Our Country’s military, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

I am valuable.
I have self-worth.
I am strong.
I am… {unGUARDed} and no longer Seventeen.
I am middlessence.
I am woman, hear me roar!

1 comment:

  1. I think you should still find somewhere to submit this, it is very well done. Thanks for the glimpse into your earlier years.