By Airman 1st Class
Katie Marie Naquin
50th Force Support Squadron
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — “Remember your why,” is repeatedly said from Basic Military Training, urging Airmen to remember their initial motivations for joining. Even when things are hard, just remember your “why” and push through.
Why did you choose this? Why are you here? Essentially, why do you wear the uniform? After being asked so many times, you would think the answer would be simple, and for some people it is. For me though, it’s a little more complicated, because my reason for enlisting then isn’t the same reason I now lace up my combat boots each morning.
When I first decided to enlist it was sort of on a whim. I’d been raised as a military dependent, on military installations my entire life and had a general idea of what the career entailed. I had just never thought it would be for me. I wasn’t overly fond of rules and restrictions, could never stick to a workout regimen, and most importantly, I had been soured on the idea by a lifetime of frequent relocation and a constant fear of my father being deployed to dangerous locations. All I had ever wanted was to be an ordinary civilian, up until the time when that dream finally came true. Suddenly, I got to experience the harsh realities of civilian life, and with the additional freedoms came a myriad of worries and concerns.
I needed a reliable job with benefits, and the military was there, ready to provide me with that in exchange for a few of my personal freedoms. Along the way, something changed. I don’t know when it happened exactly. Maybe it was the first time I swore the oath, and really let the weight of those words settle on my shoulders. Or when I stopped focusing on the rote memorization of the Airmen’s Creed and instead focused on what it meant. Maybe it was when I realized just how proud my family really was of me for making this decision, my father especially. Maybe it was the first time a stranger stopped me on the street to thank me for my service. I think maybe it changed the moment I realized that more important than what the uniform means to me, is what it means to everyone else.
When I was first issued Airman Battle Uniforms in BMT, I didn’t like wearing them at all. I found them heavy. After several months, I realized the weight of the fabric is nothing compared to the weight of the expectations the uniform carries. The weight of the promises and commitments I’ve made to my country and to myself. I may have joined for financial security, but in doing so I became a part of something so much larger than I think I understood at the time. It’s heavy, but it’s the sort of weight that presses coal into diamonds. It’s the sort of weight that will help shape me into the best version of myself.
Why do I wear the uniform? To put that weight on myself. To live up to the promises, expectations and responsibilities I swore to fulfill. To be the sort of person worthy of being stopped on the street and thanked by complete strangers for a service commitment that I’ve only barely begun.