BY KYRA BACON
The military has always been associated with honor, prestige, and challenges. However, most don’t grasp the true difficulty of what it means to be a soldier or what exactly it entails. Enlisting in the military is a choice some find difficult to make, whereas others have been dreaming about it ever since they were children. The different branches, a hierarchy of positions, and immense training make it a very complex system. While many people refer to the action and harsh conditions that they see in the movies when thinking about the military, there are benefits, preparations and realistic conditions that they miss. For a select few Cooper City High School students, enlisting in this concentration of armed forces is their chosen career path and they intend to lead themselves to success with the many opportunities offered.
Senior Giovanni Reyna knows exactly what his future entails. From the time he was ten years old and first saw the Air Force jets that his uncle flew, Reyna not only realized his ultimate goal of enlisting in the military, but the exact branch that was suited for him. He had always loved the feeling of flight, and the Air Force not only provides an opportunity to fly as often as he wishes, but as a branch of the military, it provides the benefits Reyna needs to build a successful career.
“I love being up in the sky and the chance to do that as a career, as well as representing the country I live in became a dream come true,” Reyna said. “It wasn’t a difficult decision, but I just went straight for it.”
Another CCHS senior, Eder Arellano, also plans to enlist in the military in the near future. He hasn’t decided on which branch, however. Realizing that different benefits come with different branches of the military, he is considering both the Navy and Air Force.
“Joining the military was a financial decision as well as a decision to serve my country,” Arellano said. “The main factor that will influence my choice between the two branches is which one will give me the better benefits.”
Arellano, like Reyna, has enlisted family members that encouraged him to enter the military. However, his primary influence came from his involvement with NJROTC, which he has been in since he was a freshman.
“Being in NJROTC has really opened my eyes to the military,” Arellano said. “I particularly wanted to join the military because I’m really into NJROTC.”
Reyna also found that his three years of experience with NJROTC could have benefits when it comes time for him to join the military. The program taught him the basics of military service, such as discipline and marching.
“NJROTC has taught me what the military expects from you,” Reyna said. “I think my experience with it has benefitted me greatly and will help me in the future.”
CCHS Juniors Teddy Sandoval and Daniel Redondo are heavily involved with NJROTC as well, and are aware of the opportunities it provides to those planning to enlist in the military. However, it was not the main influence on their decision.
“I’ve known that I wanted to join the military since I was 12,” Sandoval said. “When I was little, I thought it would be all fighting and action. Now that I’m older and matured, I’m looking at the benefits and all the financial opportunities it provides.”
Determined to go into the Navy, specifically Naval Special Warfare, Sandoval has made many preparations. He has applied to the summer seminar at the Naval Academy, where he would be taught all about the academy by an enrolled freshman, if he is accepted.
“I wanted to join the Navy because, living in Florida, I’m always near the water,” Sandoval said. “Water is just someplace I feel comfortable.”
Like Sandoval, Redondo also plans to join the Navy. His father was in the Army Reserve for a while, before joining the Air Force for 20 years. He and his brother, who is also in the Air Force, have had an impact on Redondo’s decision, although not in his choice of a military branch.
“I actually really want to go into the Navy because I don’t really like the Air Force,” Redondo said. “My brother has told me that he stays at the base most of the time, and I really want to travel.”
Redondo, who has known since his 8th grade year that he wanted to enlist, has also prepared himself. He has been talking to military members to get advice on what to do and how to do it, as well as having written up 110 regular applications and 300 scholarship applications.
“I’ve been working on the applications since about the end of sophomore year,” Redondo said. “I was working on it pretty much every day over the summer.”
Another NJROTC member/CCHS Junior Chase Lambert also strives not only to enter the Navy branch of the military, but to become a Seal as well, as a long line of family members who served the military set precedence for Lambert from the start.
“Just about every man in my family has served in all the branches of the military since the Civil War,” Lambert said. “I want to be the next one in line.”
Lambert plans to go to Broward College for two years and then transfer to FSU and enter the military program there. He hopes to become an officer after commissioning into the military and going through boot camp.
Like Lambert, most future military members at CCHS know exactly how they will start their career. Reyna plans to enlist halfway through the summer and, after about a year, enroll in college online, paid for by the military. Even though he will achieve a college education like any other, he will be simultaneously serving his country.
“I’m planning on staying in the military for about three years, and getting a college degree in either electrical engineering or chemistry,” Reyna said. “That way, when I’m out of the military, I’ll still have a career.”
While some decide to enlist for only a short time, others plan to make a lifelong career out of it. Redondo plans to remain in the military as long as he can, about 20 years or so. First, however, he plans to go to the Naval Academy or the Merchant Marine Academy for at least four years. This way, he can enter as an officer.
“My main dream in my career is to become an admiral,” Redondo said. “My parents always saw me as a little guy, but I said, ‘nah’. I want to be something big.”
Sandoval, on the other hand, is unsure of how his plan will lay out. His primary goal is also to go the Naval Academy, but if he doesn’t make it, his next choice will be to enlist in the Navy immediately and earn an officer position after four years. However, he does know that a long military career is the best route for him.
“I think I’ll be in the military for the full 20 years until I get my benefits,” Sandoval said. “Afterwards, I guess I’d go into a federal job.”
Arellano, like Reyna, has ideas of what he’d like to be once he leaves the military. He has applied to Embry-Riddle, an aeronautical school that has an ROTC program perfectly tailored to his needs. He hopes to enter as an officer and, after his contract is up, become a graphic designer if he has the funds for it.
“By going to a college, I would become an officer when I join the military,” Arellano said. “As an officer, you pretty much start out in command of everything instead of taking orders.”
Even with such preparations and determination, the military can be unpredictable. The reality is that every career is a learning process, and former CCHS student and current Air Force Academy cadet Niko Ouano found this out firsthand. He had to apply to the academy like any other college, but also had to send another application to the congressman to get nominated. Training hard with push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and running, Ouano found that his hard work eventually paid off, and will continue to pay off when he joins the military as an officer in a few years.
“What I would recommend to anyone going into the military is to enjoy the time that you have while you’re a civilian,” Ouano said. “Basic Training will make you appreciate all the little things you get to do now, like sit in a chair, sleep under the covers, smile, and talk. Enjoy the time with your family or friends, and live it up because once you’re in, you’re committed to a whole new standard of living.”
Any way these CCHS students decide to go, it’s evident that they each have big dreams and the military can make them come true. Each part of the military is unique and provides various opportunities for those who decide to enlist as part of it. The Marines are the first one into battle, while the Army provides general security to the nation. The Coast Guard protects the waters, and undergoes search-and-rescue missions, whereas the Navy protects rights in international waters and is the primary source for water combat. The Air Force is similar in that it protects rights and is essential in air combat. Unknown to many, though, each branch of the military isn’t all fighting and danger. Branch reserves allow members to hold a regular job, and call on them only in times of need. In reality, the military can be a job like any other.
“Whether they’re in NJROTC or not, I help students who are looking to join the military with whatever service they want to go into, let them know what each service is like and make sure they’re making the right choice,” NJROTC Head Officer James Sloan said. “It depends on what they want to do with their life. My job is to help them make an informed decision so they’re happy with it.”
Sloan served in the Coast Guard for 20 years after he was given an ultimatum: move to Germany with his father, who was in the army, or enlist in the military. Sloan found a recruiter immediately and spent the next 20 years serving his country and loving every minute of it. Because he had no initial plan to enlist, he had never joined NJROTC, but he also says that, in the long run, it didn’t matter.
“NJROTC is not really necessary to be successful in the military; anyone will learn fast in Boot Camp, ” Sloan said. “Just stay out of trouble, score high on the ASVAB, graduate from high school, stay in shape and you’ll find success.”
NJROTC is a program designed to prepare students for life in the military, teaching them the importance of attention to detail during their uniform inspections, how to march properly and the chain of command. The Navy itself pays for the uniforms, books and Sloan’s salary; the school doesn’t pay a penny for the program. NJROTC does wonders for self-esteem and self-discipline, and serves as a great opportunity for scholarships and critical life experience, especially for those entering the military.
Joining the military isn’t only a chance to fight for your country. Benefits are provided to those who serve, including job security, great pay, full health insurance, college tuition and an early pension. Many people don’t realize the full extent of the military. It is a chance to explore the world and realize that your role in it makes a difference not only to those of your country, but any and all who are in need. Members of the military are honorable, noble, and sacrificial, but most importantly, they are our heroes. Thank you to those who serve and all who plan to enlist in the near future for dedicating your lives to making the world a better place.