Military friendships are what get us through some of the hardest situations. This week Jean is talking about her experience in the military. One of the things she credits to getting through her first-year deployment is her roommate and friend that she is still friends with to this day.
Joining the Military at Seventeen
Jean joined the military at seventeen after growing up in Hawaii and seeing the military presence and the fact that her dad and uncles had served. It was also a way to gain independence and get away from a toxic environment at home. Jean also knew that she would be able to get college paid for after serving in the military.
Jean began drilling with the National Guard in February of her senior year of high school and attended boot camp that summer after hen she graduated. She thought she was going on active duty, but then when she came back from boot camp, she understood the difference between active duty and National Guard. Jean decided to make the transition from National Guard to active duty.
Off to Iraq Without Military Friendships
When she arrived at her first base on active duty, she found out she would be deploying within her unit within 30 days of arriving on station. She didn’t feel connected to anyone because she had just arrived. It wasn’t until they were doing training in Kuwait she started to build military friendships. They went to Kuwait and then Iraq. She talked about being young and unprepared mentally for what war would be like. Her deployment was a year-long and it felt like a really long time.
Coming home from deployment was a difficult transition. She talked about how hard it was to stay connected with family and culture back home. There were MWR phone centers and computers, but she had to squeeze in time to find a way to get there. She often chose to sleep over a long walk in the sun to the MWR tent. Luckily, through the deployment military friendships developed and she was able to connect with others to help deal with the stress of being deployed.
Leaving Active Duty for Reserves
She transitioned to the Reserves and moved back to California after her service commitment was up. The transition to Reserves was interesting because the culture in the military was so different. She was also dealing with the guilt of not deploying with her unit. Her boyfriend was deployed with the unit and she heard what was happening. It was hard to not be there.
She and her husband were both able to use the Post 9-11 GI Bill to get their degrees while serving in the Reserves. They both able to be home to take care of their son. But they still relied on their family care plan to ensure they could meet their Reserve requirements. Luckily, her sister in law in Maryland was able to fill that role. It was complicated, but having a safe place for her son made it worth the trip to Maryland.
Today and the Future
She is currently in the IRR so she can finish her masters and is working toward going back into the Reserves to finish out her commitment to retirement after she graduates. She is working on a few different avenues on how she will be going back into the Reserves.
Currently, she works for a large military non-profit in the Mental Health services area and is working to get licensed as a social worker and provides coaching on the weekends. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Connect with Jean:
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