Ever since I was a small child I have been fascinated, entranced, and captivated by the military. I wanted to serve my country, do my part, be an American.
The older I became, the more paraphernalia I got in the mail: information packets, posters, postcards, t-shirts, key chains, bumper stickers. I kept a lot of that stuff, decorated parts of my room with it. There was one postcard in particular that seemed to stare at me every day. It was simple, it didn't say much, it was just two words: Aim High.
But as life occurred and choices were made, the military was not a part of them.
I went to college, graduate school, an internship, night school at a community college, and then back to graduate school. And with each degree I earned I continued to be haunted by thoughts of the military. I continued to get e-mails, postcards, and letters. I would travel to conferences for work (Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Honolulu), and the haunting would continue. I would see professional peers in uniform and find myself feeling envious and disappointed that it wasn't me.
A year ago I was talking at length with a recruiter. After much study and research of the different branches, the Air Force was most complimentary to me as a person and to my profession. I was very close to signing, to joining up, to being all I could be (except that's the Army). If I hadn't moved to Raleigh last summer, I was going to join the Air Force. So, why didn't I? It wasn't the right time. Various circumstances surrounding my enlistment, pay, rank, etc. weren't quite lining up. My lack of work experience combined with my advanced education made for difficult placement.
So I moved to Raleigh. I'm pursuing my goal. And despite all of that, the haunting continues. It reemerged while I was in Chicago a few weeks ago. While at the conference, I attended a lecture conducted by USAF Colonel Elizabeth Bridges (RN, PhD, CCNS, FCCM, FAAN) and it was absolutely amazing. The work the Air Force is doing in concert with our other military branches on the battlefield is truly outstanding. At the end of the 1 hour and 15 minute presentation I was ready to sign up, ready to go to the front line, ready to Aim High. I left the lecture and walked around in the expo and who did I run right into but Colonel Elizabeth Bridges. We talked. I told her how much I appreciated her service and her lecture and her work. I told her I had wanted to join and time and circumstance just hadn't worked out. She said it was the best decision she'd ever made. She said it with such certainty that I didn't question. I was in awe.
I came home from Chicago and thought about this recent haunt, but as the days turned to weeks and I reengaged in my own work, the haunting subsided. And then I got an e-mail from the Air Force saying they needed Health Care Providers; it was generated from CareerBuilder.com, but still. And then I became aware of a 19 year old man who was serving in Afghanistan. The exact account of the story is unknown to me. He was going to help a fellow soldier and misstepped. This misstep cost him both legs and an arm. They flew him to Germany and then finally to Texas, to the hospital I would be working at had I not come to Raleigh.
I've thought so much about that young man, that boy.
I do not discredit the work that I do. I do not belittle or minimize the importance it has or the families I interact with.
But I am still haunted to serve.
As the 4th of July, my favorite holiday, approaches, I have to ask myself, am I Aiming High?