Following in My Mom’s Military Footsteps


My mother and I at her re-enlistment in San Antonio, Texas.

Nov. 11, also known as Veterans Day, is a day the United States celebrates and honors American veterans for their patriotism and service to the country. It’s a tribute for those who have served, living or deceased, who made the ultimate sacrifice in times of war and peace. 

My mother, Ana Wheeler, enlisted in the United States Air Force in Los Angeles in 1999. It gave her the opportunity to see the world, grow as a human, and experience things she would not have if she stayed in Los Angeles, where she is from.

Six months ago, when I started to genuinely consider joining the military, I knew I wanted to follow in my mom’s Air Force footsteps and work in either information security or a computer analyst career.

She believed the Air Force had the best benefits and quality of life and served for 12 years working in information technology. During which she was also deployed in both Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2011.

My mom said that some of her favorite memories from joining the military are enduring freedom, serving in two wars, and having the honor of saying she fought for the country. 

Although being deployed was one of her favorite memories of the military, it was the hardest thing to deal with as a child. But, one of the best things about being a military brat was definitely awaiting the memorable homecomings. In those moments, I had never been more proud of the sacrifices she made. When she returned home after 10-month deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it felt as if everything was okay again.

In hopes of finishing with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and a minor in Computer Information Systems in May 2023, my plan is to enlist as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force right after graduation. 

Ironically, never in a million years did I even consider the idea of joining the military a couple of years ago. I felt incapable of completing important tasks and taking on large responsibilities. The fear of setting myself up for the impossible echoed in my head, while the thought of failing basic training and being unable to pass tests terrified me as well.

The truth is, there is a job for everyone in the military because everyone is good at something. If you are weak in some areas, you train and keep working at a job to become self-sufficient. 

A year ago, I thought I had my whole life planned out. After finishing college, I wanted to go into journalism or a news broadcasting career. However, those dreams changed fairly quickly after I started working as a government contractor with the military in Hawaii in May 2021 where I am surrounded by soldiers every day.

During the beginning of my third year of college, I started to lose interest in my major and questioned if it was something I was even passionate about anymore or could see my life going in that direction.

It’s common for enlisted soldiers to talk about what they have to endure and the limited freedoms they have taking orders from their leaders. Going in as commissioned officer after receiving your college degree can give you a leadership role at a young age, higher pay, and greater opportunities for promotions.

Many join out of high school for the military benefits and for the paid college tuition. However, my patriotism led me to want to join because serving the country is an honor, and something no one can take away from you. It gives people the chance to fight for what they believe in.

It comes with the challenges of anticipating the future, saying goodbye to friends and family for a long period, and leaving home permanently, but there are more advantages than disadvantages. 

As a military brat, I lived in seven places (Virginia, Texas, New York, Florida, Japan, and Maryland) throughout my entire childhood before settling in Hawaii. Moving around often seems difficult to process and adjust to when you are constantly changing schools and leaving friends, but it was the part I enjoyed the most about military life.

As a soldier, there is always a sense of duty that needs to be fulfilled because very few people are open to joining or are unwilling to commit. 

Joining the Air Force after college will present me with my one goal of serving the country at one point in my life. With the blood, sweat, and tears that are bound to come along with the decision, I am willing to make that kind of call at this point in my college career so I can start making my plans for the future a reality. 

The military is not for everyone and that’s okay, but it helps your mind expand from the customs you have known your entire life and explore the world. Be open to changing your perception of people and places that come along with the journey.

For those who are interested in joining the military, but have doubts, allow yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. Take advantage of the opportunities the military has to offer because it’s difficult to have the same chances in the future. Letting fear stop you from wanting to do more in life closes the door to benefits and the rewards of serving in such a short period of time.