Why I Enlisted This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 30, 2012
In some memories, the small things are what stick with you most, and sometimes it’s the small things that have the biggest impact on you. Like the cadence of a group of soldiers who run by with their sergeant, the intensity of the heat, the thumping of helicopters in the distance, or talk between the soldiers about weekend plans. These are sounds I recall from Fort Hood, but there is something else I remember even more vividly about that day.
“Formation halt!” our sergeant calls out. All 25 of us stop in front of a tan, four-story building. Another sergeant named Marks makes his way to the front of our formation, looking each of us in the eye as he passes. He turns to face us and says, “This is the headquarters building of the 20th Engineer Battalion. It is where we work when we are not on a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. This building has very special meaning to us, and I will show ya’ll why.” Sergeant Marks begins walking toward the building. Our formation sergeant yells, “Formation, fall out and follow Marks!”

As we follow Sergeant Marks through the side entrance, the air inside is nice and cool – a relief after the hundred-degree weather outside – and it’s very quiet. Sergeant Marks leads us into a lobby. Looking around, I see photos, captured weapons, and battle streamers from the different campaigns that the 20th Engineer Battalion fought in. Another soldier approaches our group, introducing himself as Specialist Knight.

Taking us outside, Specialist Knight leads us to a quiet corner of the courtyard where a stone statue stands with small plaques in a semi-circle around it. The statue is a rifle stuck in the ground with a bayonet attached to its barrel and a Kevlar helmet on the top of the butt of the rifle. At the base an engraving reads, “Only the dead have seen the end of war. This memorial is dedicated to the men of the 20th Engineer Battalion who made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.” The plaques surrounding the statue bear the names of the men who didn’t make it home. Looking at the memorial, we can’t help but get choked up, even though we know nothing about these men.

Specialist Knight starts to talk in quiet voice. “All of these men we knew personally. Some of them were like our brothers. Some of them were our closest friends. All of these men gave their life for a cause called freedom and hope. When you see this memorial, think of what you have right now in your life. Think about the most precious things you have, and when you do, think of these men who fought for your opportunity to enjoy them freely.” Tears form in Specialist Knight eyes as he reads the first line of the plaque on the base. “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

At that moment, something inside me changes. I know I want to join the army, not because it will make people proud of me, but because I want to make sure that these men’s sacrifices have not been for nothing.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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cupcake123 said...
Jan. 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm
This story really made me think. I mean it very sincerely. Thank you for serving our country. God bless you, and good luck.
Freedoms_GuardThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm
First off, thank you for serving our country and enlisting.  I love this country and highly respect all of our military.  I've never actually been to Fort Hood, but that plaque sound like a very good memorial, thank you for writing something that honors those who paid the highest price, and for sharing your own story.  I want to join the Marines when I'm old enough.  GOD bless you.  GOD bless our military.  and GOD bless America.  HOORAH!!!
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