I sat at MEPS (Military Entrance Process Exam) feeling nervous, anxious and sick to my stomach because I was about to leave home for Basic Training in Fort Sill Oklahoma. 

It was two weeks after my High School graduation where I packed a small bag of my clothes, a journal, a Walkman and left home. I was eighteen then.

It was two and a half years before where my dad had lost our house due to foreclosure and all of our family life savings went with it. We were forced to move into a garage turned into living quarters or also known as In-law unit in San Francisco.

My room had a big heating pipe hung over the entrance where I had to duck in and out of my room without hitting my forehead against it.

Life was miserable but we were happy that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. At least we were not on the streets homeless. My dad’s salary was enough to cover rent and food but nothing more.

Discussion about paying for college came up and since we didn’t have money, I volunteered to join the Army and off I went to Oklahoma in July.

For the first few weeks of Basic Training, I felt just like home. Literally. I called my mom up one Sunday morning and she asked me what I thought about the Army life.

I said, “Mom, the Army life is just like home. My Drill Sergeants yell at me like how you yell at me back home. Only difference is I’m getting paid to be yelled at!”

She chuckled and knew that I was doing ok.

Then one day Basic Training changed my mind.

Imagine for a moment that you are walking a 20 kilometers tactical road march (about 12.4 miles) in the 120 degrees, 200% humidity during the summer in Oklahoma wearing full combat gear.

The full combat gear consists of 5 pounds Kevlar helmet, Load Bearing Equipment (Suspenders, canteen, ammo pouch), M16 Rifle and a 60 pounds rucksack on your back.

I could feel the burning heat transfer from the asphalt into my combat boots. It was that hot.

There were roughly about 240 of us in our company and during tactical road marches, we had to be split into 120 soldiers on the right side and another 120 soldiers on the left side.

We also had to maintain a 50-meter radius from the soldier in front us so that if an enemy were to throw a grenade, not a bunch of people will die or get injured.

Because I was in 4th platoon, “Stealth Fighters” our platoon was always stuck behind 1st, 2nd, and 3rd platoon in the back of the tactical road march.

This was a huge problem for us. When the other platoons in front of us slowed down during the march, they had to run and catch up with the leading platoon.

The slowing down and speeding up process created a rubber band effect where we would walk for four minutes and run for one minute just to fill up the gap in between us.

I would get really bad blisters from the rubber band effect where it feels like pins and needles poking my toes every time I took a step. And bad news was that we were only half way done with the march and our Drill Sergeants would say, “Just suck it up and march on!”

After a while, I would get new blisters underneath the old blister and some times even blood blisters. It was really that bad.

I hated those road marches so much I swore if I ever make it back to college, I would study the heck out of college and find a desk job with air conditioning. I never want to do this ever again.

When I did eventually come back to college, I studied night and day. I had almost straight As in my upper division business classes.

I thank my Drill Sergeant Miller and Drill Sergeant Parker for teaching me hard work and discipline.

After Basic Training, I would complain how hard life is sometimes. I would stop myself and reflect back to the hot blistering summer days of Fort Sill Oklahoma. I stop complaining and I smile at what ever problems I have in that moment.

One of the hardest times of my life was also the best times of my life.

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