While it sounds very Jack Bauer to write that I can't tell what unit I'm with or where I'm stationed, I actually can't and it is much cooler said than what the reality of my mission is.
When I was 14 years old, I read an ad in Cookeville, Tennessee's Herald-Citizen daily newspaper. Anyone interested in aviation, map reading, land navigation, and airpower between the ages of 13 and 21 should meet at the Putnam County airport -- Thursdays at 7 pm. Each week for nearly 5 weeks, I read this ad before I got the nerve up to ask my sister and our close friend, Misty, to go with me. It pulled to me unlike anything else I had read or seen in all my young years.
That first night at the Civil Air Patrol meeting, I was hooked. I loved the pale, blue Air Force uniforms, the marching, the history, all of it. Over the next six years, I would attend meetings, participate in camp outs, compete in drill competitions and study aviation history and current issues. While I did get distracted with normal teenage-ness and wasn't as regular the older I got, that initial feeling of belonging never left me.
As a freshman college student at Tennessee Tech University, I enrolled in Army ROTC. The Air Force did not have a detachment on campus. But this was even better. We learned to rappel, rock climb, fire weapons, low crawl toward an enemy without him knowing it. The camaraderie was intoxicating. Life stepped in again as I also embraced college. Parties, cheerleading, sorority life. They were all a distraction for a path I had known I wanted since I read that first newspaper ad.
After eventually blowing out my knee and worrying too much about boys, my military path seemingly ended. It would take five years before I would find my way back.