I never thought joining the Army Reserves would have such a huge impact on the trajectory of my life. I actually believed the recruiters when they told me I was just going to serve my country one weekend a month in order to earn college money.
Then, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 happened. And the whole world was changed.
I was still in high school at the time, but I had already enlisted in the United States Army Reserves as a Military Police Officer (MP).
A friend I played softball with told me once that she thought I would be a great police officer and that stuck in my head when my seventeen year old self couldn't decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.
When I initially took the ASVAB test, I got an 82 or 84 or something like that. I honestly don't remember the exact score, but I DO remember the recruiters and personnel at the MEPs (Military Entrance Processing Stations) responding with shock (and horror?) when I told them I wanted to be a MP. They told me I could choose from nearly any other job the military had to offer, but I was seventeen and I knew what I wanted!
Exactly a month later, I watched in despair as two passenger planes hit the Twin Tower on 9-11. As soon as the news mentioned terrorism and hinted at going to war, I was convinced I was going to die. I knew that my enlistment meant that I would be going to any war zone that had just been thrust upon the United States and the military forces charged with defending it. That day, I ditched my Government class so I could watch the news coverage of the events that were unfolding across the nation.
By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I would be going to a war zone. It was only a matter of time.
After Army Basic Training and Military Police School, I was deployed to Iraq where I was the youngest soldier in my company. As the only female gunner in the brigade, I took my role very seriously. It was my responsibility to see threats and respond to them. To make sure everyone made it back to the base that night.
From May 2003 to July 2004 I remained vigilant over my people. The men and women I was deployed with became my family. I had their back and they had mine and no one wanted to come home without everyone.
The things I saw and experienced in Iraq will stay with me forever. There's no amount of time that could pass that would allow me to forget the carnage and destruction I witnessed there.
I've been asked more times than I can count if I ever killed anyone. I'm not sure why people think this is an acceptable question to ask another human, but...Yes. I killed the innocent version of myself. And that's all I'll say about that for now.