High school is full of decisions about your future. You are bombarded with go to college here or go to college there, take this career path, or take that career path. For those of us who still aren't quite sure what we want to be when we grow up, this can be overwhelming.
The options for what to do after high school are endless. It's been made pretty clear that a post-high school education is a necessity nowadays, and for most people this means going to college.
However, there are other options and one of them is joining the military. Although this path is often less explored than others, it's one that I have come to develop an understanding and appreciation for.
It all started when I was like every other boy-crazy sophomore girl in high school. I met a guy who was a senior and while the rest of the senior boys were making plans to go to college, mine had other plans. He wanted to join the military.
I always knew he was a military man and someday he would go after that dream. For three years I stood by his side and watched him go through this military journey. Through this, I have come to understand and respect how much goes into joining the military when you are young, as well as why it is one of the best decisions that you could make for your future.
If you ask most people their feelings about the military, they would say it's great because we need people to serve our country, but many others would also agree that the military is just not for them. I used to think the same way -- that the military was a good thing, just not for me. But after watching my boyfriend join the Navy and leave for boot camp, life started changing. The end of my senior year was fast approaching which meant countless decisions to be made for my future.
In a conversation with my friends about our paying for college, I joked that maybe I would just join the Army. We all laughed at the thought of my 5-foot-tall girly-girl self crawling through the mud and that was the end of that conversation.
But later on, I wondered what would happen if I really did join the Army, so I looked into it. I found out that there are actually a lot of options that would benefit me and my schooling.
Having been through this process before with my boyfriend and the Navy, I knew that the next step was to call the recruiter. I met with the recruiter and to my surprise, she was a short girly-girl, too, who had originally joined the Army Reserves to go to school, just like I was interested in doing. She answered a lot of my questions and had me take a practice ASVAB exam, something I was also familiar with. The ASVAB is a military entrance exam similar to the ACT.
From that point, progress could not be made until I told my parents that I was interested in joining the Army Reserves; since I was only 17, I would need their approval. After leaving the recruiter's office, my stomach was in knots because I was worried about what my parents' reaction would be. They took it surprisingly well, despite my mom crying. They just wanted to know why this was something I was considering and encouraged me to look into it fully before making a decision.
The next step in joining the military is to take the actual ASVAB exam, and if I pass that, then I will go to the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. Here you take various physical exams, learn what your job will be in the military, find out when you'll be leaving for basic training, and get sworn in. Although some of the steps vary between the various branches of the service, this is typically how the process works.
I haven't gone to MEPS yet; I'm still not sure if the military is the right decision for me. But I know that it is one that I want to continue to explore. My extended family and friends aren't too supportive of the decision because it would mean me leaving for an extended period of time. Many also feel that I would be sacrificing many of the things that I want out of life.
The way I look at it, I would have to take a semester off of school but it would also mean having a good portion of the rest of my schooling paid for. Yes, there would be some sacrifices but it would also be a great addition to everything else I want in life.
Many believe that there is a specific military type of person out there. In all actuality, the military has so many different programs for all walks of life. My high school boyfriend and I are a testimony of that. He didn't want to go to college so he joined the Navy to get a career that way. His family and friends did nothing but support him in this decision. I want to go to school to be a nurse and think joining the Army Reserves will help me get there, but I don't have that support from my friends and family.
After high school, there are a lot of different ways that life can take you. The military is an option that can help many young people get to where they want to be. Even if you think the military isn't for you, there might be something that suits you.
So while you're looking into various colleges and career paths, don't forget to consider the military as well.
Caitlynn Kindall is a senior at Ogden High School. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.