Six years ago, I swore an oath to my state and my country. To say that these years have been the best time of my life would be a lie, to say that it’s been a wonderful adventure would be an understatement.
I’ve had the opportunity to serve my fellow Americans many times, and have been rewarded with some of the most humbling and gracious experiences I could have ever have hoped for.
I had the joy of standing beside a friend of mine as he took his oath to become a citizen of the United States of America — and I’ve been fortunate enough to share a meal with a hurricane ravaged people who had nothing more to offer than their hospitality and persevering spirits.
The National Guard gave me the opportunity to visit every corner of this beautiful country — from the stormy heights of Lake Michigan, to the prairies of Texas — from the sandy dunes of the Mojave, to the tropics of Puerto Rico, and all the way back home to Central Pennsylvania.
I’ve watched sunsets turn desert mountains into majestic magenta monoliths, and sunrises break the frosted dew on Adirondack flora.
I’ve spent weeks in the wind and freezing rain of one of the coldest recorded winters in South Carolina, and I’ve had the displeasure of running for over an hour in 90° temps and 100% humidity in Virginia.
I felt the sadness of seeing friends leave the service, knowing I’ll probably never see them again; the fear of watching friends deploy to combat zones; and the dispair of learning two of my friends and fellow service members chose to take their own lives after their inner demons got the better of them.
I’ve had moments where I’ve laughed til I cried, and days where I’ve cried until I thought that all the happiness had gone out of the world.
These past six years have been the best worst time of my short twenty-seven years on this Earth, but I couldn’t be any more grateful to have had the privilege to serve.