My younger brother shocked everyone when he announced, only a few years out of high school that he was going to go on the adventure of joining the United States Army. This was six or seven years ago; right in the midst of the post-September 11 strife against the Middle East. When he went, we sat with baited breath back home. When he returned my parents had finalized their divorce and his tight-knit net around the northeast was spiraling out of control fast. Fortunately he was lucky enough to meet a girl overseas (a comrade in arms from nearby Newburgh NY) and they both settled down around our former suburban Connecticut home. My brother and his girlfriend’s transitions were both difficult for different reasons, but they both were kind enough to open up to me for this piece.
Alan: Trabajo No Bueno: My brother, Alan, was fortunate enough not to have to work right away when he had gotten back from his time overseas. He has mixed feelings about that saying that while the time spent relaxing was a welcome relief, he wishes that, faced with the realities of modern life and being from a broken home, he would have gotten onto the work train again a little sooner.
Erica: No Job Like the Present: His girlfriend Erica though was anxious to get going on the work train since her stint in the US Army was her first “job.” “I was scared to death to get a job,” she told me. Her fear quickly turned to excitement, then to hum drum as she fell into routine at Forever 21 in the Danbury Fair Mall.
Erica: One Dollar in Hand is Worth Two in the Paycheck: Erica quickly learned that the quest for fluid money was far more preferable than waiting around for a weekly paycheck. She sniffed out a waitressing gig at the very exclusive Eastridge Country Club and appreciated the fact that having cash at the end of the day was better than at the end of the week.
Erica: Independence: Erica also said she liked the fact that earning her own money allowed her freedom. “I love my mother,” she said, “but I liked being able to live my own life and not having to rely on cash sent from mom.” The independence was something she learned in the Army which was reinforced in the working world.
Alan: Army See/Army Do: Alan liked the Army experience but in the end he said, “the Army isn’t that different in terms of day to day work.” Alan’s work on computers in Afghanistan and Iraq was no different than his setting up his brothers Windows 95 for him or helping his dad outrun DOS. What was different about the Army and civilian life was “…the way the Army comes to control your life outside of work.” There was no rest for the weary, even on his downtime for his 18 months of deployment.
In the end it’s about getting the job done, making sure that America stays free, and that their families back home could be safe. Erica maybe put it best when she wrote to me that “people associate military folk with responsibility, loyalty, dignity, and courage among many other great things!” Alan and Erica were able to tread the ground lightly and reintegrate themselves back into the working masses in the United States following their successful tours of duty in the ongoing Middle East crisis.
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