The experiences of joining the military


Noe De Santiago

Veterans Day shirt given to students who participate in the last Veterans Day activities at Santa Ana College.

Most people join the military because they have no other choice; others join because they want to. It can be a choice a lot of us face later on in life and it can impact our lives drastically. It begs the question, what is life joining the military? 

Before even joining the military there are reasons one may decide to join it in the first place. Their motives include for their country, family, or honor. Maybe it is even to prove to oneself that they are capable of going through the extreme and make a name for themselves or to find out who they really are. In the case of Jason Valencia, a United States Marine, he enlisted because he wanted to be part of the brotherhood that his family had achieved. He is a former MCHS wizard who served in the army for five years, from 2015 to 2020. 

Valencia stated, “ My brother and I are fourth generation military and we grew up listening to our grandpa and his buddies talk about their time in the Marine Corps. I joined because I wanted to be a part of that brotherhood that so many in my family had achieved. No one forced me to join, I talked with the recruiter myself and signed my contract once I turned 18. I joined because I wanted to earn the title of United States Marine.”

So what do individuals such as Valencia experience upon being recruited? We all have seen those commercials on television where it highlights the intensity of joining the army. A 30 second commercial can’t capture all of the emotions and experiences a soldier in training feels during the heat of action. They make it seem like they were training for their lives, obstacle after obstacle, gladiator style fighting. 

Though it does live up to the expectation of being brutal, bootcamp isn’t really what it looks like in the movies, shows, or commercials. Boot camp is a process that breaks down recruits and builds them back up as a completely different person. It is designed to prepare all recruits for all elements of service; whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. It provides them with the knowledge to survive in any condition regardless of climate. Bootcamp ensures all recruits are prepared for anything at any time.

Chris Chavez, father of junior Valerie Chavez, adds onto this by stating that “The first couple of weeks in boot camp was hell.” He goes on to say that he regretted joining because he did not know what he had gotten himself into. There was lots of shouting and yelling and remembered thinking, “What the hell did I just do?” He explains that simply going to the bathroom was a struggle. You couldn’t just raise your hand and ask to go, you were told when to go and you had to go fast. There were four guys to one urinal so you could just imagine the mess and you only had five seconds to do what you had to do. 

What keeps recruits like Chavez motivated to finish boot camp?

He stated, “The easiest way of getting out of here is to actually finish. And I saw my face in the mirror after three days and I was bald, there was no way I was going to go home bald. I knew that if I were to leave I would be a coward, I didn’t want to go home a coward. I would never forgive myself. I was taking it a day at a time and every day that was successful it motivated me to go on and on. I was not going to be defeated, I was not going to go home a coward, I was not going to go home bald.”

Boot camp is only one mountain that recruits have to climb over; there are still many others that will be coming right after it. Especially if you are deployed, soldiers go through experiences that no person should ever get to experience. 

District Security Officer Jose Frausto described an experience where he had to fire his rifle during his deployment in Iraq.

Frausto stated, “Actually shooting at someone is an experience that not that many people have ever experienced. It’s one of those where you realize ‘Oh man I actually shot at a human being.’ Something that breathes and lives and did I do the right thing? Yes I did the right thing, but when I shot at him at the time I felt like there was so much weight on my shoulders. It wasn’t until my sergeants told me I did the right thing and it lifted all the weight off, it was one of those experiences where not a lot of people say ‘Oh I’ve done this.’”

Joining the military is not an easy task. It requires one to be mentally and physically prepared for anything. It is a life changing experience and will shape the way one views life drastically. We thank those who were and are in the military protecting our freedom. They continue to risk their lives in order for us to have the opportunities we have each day.