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Swearing an Oath, Taking the Challenge

By Jesus Rodriguez
On February 17, 2012

14 weeks of hell. That is what it took for me to capture a dream. It is what I volunteered to endure for the defense of our country; to be a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

United States Infantryman. That is what I am, who I am, and what I became for the people of  our country. To carry the honor of those who have fallen for our freedom. To continue a legacy that began hundreds of years ago, dating back to a time when George Washington led our ancestors in battle.

September 19, 2011 was the day my life began a dramatic change. I left behind everyone and everything I loved at home for the shooting ranges, gas chambers and new life that was waiting for me at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Homesickness began to hit me as soon as I reached Atlanta airport. There was no turning back though. All I could do is keep moving forward.

I arrived at Fort Benning and spent about two weeks processing into the training site. September 30, 2011 was when the official training began. All the trainees were bused to Sand Hill and became part of Alpha Company 1-50. We were met with an immediate challenge of having to march up a very long hill with our heavy bags over our heads.

The Drill Sergeants separated everyone into four platoons and I was to became a 1st Platoon Misfit. A memory permanently embedded into my mind was when our Senior Drill Sergeant looked every single one of us in the eye and said, "Welcome to hell for the next 14 weeks." I thought those words were awesome and intimidating at the same time.

The training was tough. Running around with up to 50 pounds of gear on our bodies, training in 30 degree weather wearing shorts, constantly beating up our bodies and countless other things were breaking us down and building us up to be the soldiers we were training to be.

Mind games after mind games were getting the best of some of the trainees who broke down and decided to quit. Being unable to contact our families with nothing but letters added to the mental stress.

All my fellow trainees and I could do was suck it up and finish the training we signed up for. Day after day the stress became less intense as everyone got used to their new lives away from home. The suffering became enjoyment and before we knew it we were graduating.

The mission was accomplished and I became not just an American Soldier, but a United States Infantryman. Like many before me, I achieved a dream. The grueling journey to graduation was now over and I returned home with many stories to tell.

For anyone with future hopes of becoming a part of the Army I just have one thing to say: you can do it. There is nothing hard about it. It was never hard to begin with. It's just tough and I along with thousands before me proved it can be done. To leave you with a quote from one of my favorite Drill Sergeants, "It's always a good day to be in the Army."

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