Stitches, Terrorists, and Toe Touches: My journey into the US Air Force

So I posted my facebook status as:

Michelle Weger is thinking about the journey that 9/11 prompted in my life and where it has led me.

which is what prompted this blog entry. I'm sure each of you can remember where you were and what you were doing in the moment that the towers began to fall and the media went into a frenzy. I was in a Dance Technique class with the wonderful Mrs. Laurel Renfroe at Harrison Arts Center, sophomore year. Just as I was passionately explaining to her that indeed, no, I could not touch my toes- Scott Reed came in from a dentist appointment saying something about the president and a plane crash. He didn't at that point have any idea what he was reporting.

Within the next 2-3 minutes the school was placed on lock down and we were all huddled into the dance room where they turned on CNN. In retrospect, I am not sure whether turning the news on for us to watch was really the best idea for each student- but I for one was glad to at least know what was going on. This was also one of those rare moments when nobody cared that we were all pulling out our cell phones and calling people.

Once my sister and I arrived home from school [to be honest, I can't remember if they released us early or what] I continued watching the news and she went... well, somewhere- I don't remember that either. Meanwhile, my little brother, Ryan, went out onto the patio with my mother. He laid his head down on Raz, the evil miniature pinscher of my parents and Raz bit him in the face creating a wound that merited stitches. My mom was having to hold pressure on the gash so I got to drive the minivan... well, at least long enough to meet my sister who drove it the rest of the way.

We arrived at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and it was a sight that I have never seen again. There was NO ONE there. Everyone was home glued to the news watching the towers fall again and again. Honestly, we were in out and stitched up in 30 minutes. It was unbelievable. I still have the Extra from our local newspaper that day. I don't know that there has ever been an Extra before or since in Imperial Polk County. :) I continued to save the newspaper for the next several days. The anthrax scares began, the stories about Todd Beamer circulated, and the entire nation was on pause.

As I watched the troops beginning to deploy and the conflict in the Middle East beginning to escalate, I was ignited with a sense of responsibility and desire to help. Of course, I was finishing my sophomore year of high school so there wasn't much that I could do- at least as I saw it at the time. I ended up transferring schools in an effort to graduate early the next year. While in that last semester I served as co-president of our school's FCA. I remember sitting on the floor of our sponsor's living room with my co-president [that sounds so funny...], watching a commercial and saying to them that I thought I wanted to join the military. They were adamantly opposed to the idea.

I began my research. Thankfully, my uncle convinced me that the Air Force was a better option than the Marines or the Army- I am forever indebted. I enlisted in the Air Force Reserves at age 17 on the 30th of May, 2003. This began a very long journey that I am not entirely prepared to rehash in its entirety. To be honest, I am still processing a lot of it.

Some Reflections:
  • I learned a lot about asking God's opinion and advice before making life altering decisions.
  • I realized that no matter what level of success I achieve, I cannot be happy living and working outside of His call on my life.
  • I had my first opportunity to lead a worship service.
  • I saw God's favor in moments that it made no sense.
Being in the military also taught me some other things like discipline, shoe shining, and how to iron a perfectly creased shirt. It afforded me the opportunity to travel a little... very little, but none the less I saw Germany, France, and Austria- and it was incredible. I also saw Texas, Mississippi, and all the states in between... though less exciting.

Though I don't believe that it was God's perfect will for my life to join the military, He worked despite my choices and used it for my good. It financially allowed me to attend Southeastern University (though I was working for the Air Force 75% of the time that I was supposed to be in class...) and get my Bachelor's degree. It also gave me real world job experience and certifications that make me sound smarter than I really am- but seriously, this enabled me to work great jobs and make excellent money while I was going to school.

In the end I am quite disappointed that I never got to deploy and have a direct impact on the conflict in the Middle East. I had desert uniforms in my hands more than once, but was never able to go; plans always changed at the last minute. However, I did get to sing the national anthem a bazillion times, play in simulated wars for 3 years, look for fake bombs in MOPP Level 4 gear in the dead heat of summer (and get overheated and vomit in my gas mask because the snap wouldn't come undone on my Kevlar helmet...), get military discounts at Tijuana Flats, travel to Europe, meet great people, learn a lot of acronyms and the phonetic alphabet, MC large banquets and holiday parties complete with singing Kelly Clarkson on karaoke by popular demand, and of course- I had the incredible experience of graduating from Military Basic Training and being an Airman in the United States Air Force.

One day I hope to write a book about my basic training experiences... so many stories to tell.

1 comment:

Nicole McGovern said...

I had no idea that you had even joined the Reserves. That is awesome... I have also attempted that path...twice, but both times I really didn't feel at peace with the decision. My husband Jimmy, is currently enlisted in the Air National Guard, and also has 4 1/2 years of active duty under his belt. Although he enlisted in 2000, the only place he was ever stationed was Luke AFB in Glendale, AZ. That was the extent of our active duty tours... somewhat of a dissappointment to me since I wanted to live overseas. But nonetheless, I am extremely proud of everything that he has done while serving our country, even if he has never seen the front lines of battle, and that goes for any and every person that serves in the military. So, thank you for your service.