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It is at the end of Basic Training that you realize you have joined the largest family ever to exist, and something within you just grows and you know that if you were to deploy, you'd be working towards staying alive, and if one of your battle buddies needed the help, you'd risk your life to save them.

This was instilled into us more in my training as a combat medic, because combat medics well...work in combat. It is our very nature to be fierce fighters, while skilled and caring medical professionals, the strongest and the smartest in our field. Out of a class that started with 410, we graduated 356. Not everyone can be a combat medic.

At the end of training, you are left as a fully grown member of a large brotherhood that knows no color, race, or gender. Complete strangers, we can become friends because we share the same family, we wear the same uniform, we've endured the same hardships of training. Some have deployed, others have not. Yet we are all still proud soldiers in this Army.

A lot of people say that soldiers are brainwashed, and I don't think they could be more wrong. If ever I saw a better example of independent thinking, it was here in the Army. So many people, freed by the opportunity to work in a field in which they are more than capable of excelling, a field of their own choosing, further develop their talents and sharpen their skills. We are brough together by this sense of family, we are set apart by our skillsets, and not everyone likes the way things are.

There are always those soldiers who will be what we in the Army call "hooah-hooah", the super motivated super dedicated ultimate GI Joes and, if you think about it, everywhere has one of those. Every single job. Not just the Army. The Army gives a lot of people something to live for, something to dedicate their lives to, something to be proud of, an achievement that brings tears to our eyes, and this in itself is the motivation to be willing to lay down our lives for this country. The random little gestures of thanks from grateful strangers touch our hearts more than anything. I carry those moments in my memory forever. Some of you will never know just what that does to a Soldier. It takes a spot in your heart that becomes permanent. Some say this is a thankless job, and sometimes it is. But when kind people take a second to thank you, you remember all that you have endured just for the privilege to wear the uniform you wear, and something inside of you graciously accepts the thanks in a stuttering manner, almost too grateful for words. It truly is a beautiful moment.

A few weeks ago I was feeling depressed, having been in South Korea for about two months now, with my husband (yes, I'm married at 19!) back in Texas finishing up school, and with nothing really to do, and it was time for my weekly trip to the Commissary with my friend Ramos. She and I got there and started piling things in the cart, eager to refill our fridges with goodies. We came to the bakery and there was this little face staring at me, and then a little hand pointed.

Before I go on, I must explain a few things. I had just gotten hair extensions the day prior to that and also I wasn't in uniform. I was in civilian clothing and I must admit that I look insanely different than I do in ACUs. My hair was down, the extensions going past my shoulders. I had on a black tank top, exposing both my half sleeve tattoo and the tattoo on my chest that reads, "I Will Never Leave A Fallen Comrade", I wore Tripp shorts (for those that don't know, Tripps are pants with chains hanging off) and Fallen skater shoes.

I finally recognized the little someone pointing at me as a little girl I had seen about two weeks ago. On Thursdays I work at the Pediatric wing at the Hospital and she had been a patient of mine. She recognized me even as I was and I, of course, recognized her.

I walked over to say hello, and I admit my heart was pounding in my chest because her mom was there, and I was afraid her mom was going to judge me for my looks. The little girl seemed completely unpreoccupied with my appearance and was just happy to see me. She started telling me her plans for the day, so I shared mine, and then her mom looked up.

She smiled and said hello and, "Aren't you MAJ Kim's medic?"

I said, "Yes, ma'am, I am."

And she smiled and said it was nice to see me and that I should try the red velvet cupcakes here. I grabbed a box of them, and said my goodbyes, walking away to go put the cupcakes in the cart, when the mom called me back.

"What's your name, I have to know!" and she looked so hopeful.

"Jasmin," I told her. And she smiled and nodded, repeating my name to her daughter, who made a face of acknowledgement, and waved goodbye to me. I waved back and went on my way.

That alone warmed my heart and made me feel funny, as though I was going to cry. This little girl was so happy to see me, and it made me realize that her mom knew I wasn't a bad person. She knew I was just a soldier doing her job, treating her kid in a clinic, and in that moment at the Commissary, she realized I was also just a kid wanting cupcakes on a Sunday afternoon.

People need to realize soldiers are not war machines. We are not drones set out to blindly follow orders. We are human beings that chose to serve and enter one of the most powerful organizations in the world, chose to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that less than 1% of the population is able and willing to do. To us the sacrifices we will make are unmatched by small gestures of gratitude from the people we serve- people, not government. I believe it a service to the people of my country to do this. I don't do it for the money, for the glory, for the title, or for anything. I do it because one day I will be able to look back and be proud, I will know that I did something, I contributed to my country, in a way that not everyone was willing to. I don't care if I die in Afghanistan (or Syria I suppose) and my name is forgotten. As long as those I knew remember me, as long as the people of my country show support, I think it can outweigh all the bad things that people have to say. I joined for my own reasons, and none of those included to be made the butt of the jokes of the American people. I hold my head high no matter how much they want to poke fun.

"The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - Douglas MacArthur



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