Keep Calm And Kerri On:‘The Ties That Bind’
Published: May 31st, 2021
By: Sun Columnist Kerri Green

Keep Calm and Kerri On:‘The Ties That Bind’ Columnist Kerri Green

Dear friends,

When I decided to join the Army, I never thought I might die. To be honest, at 18 years of age, I don’t believe that the notion that I could die ever crossed my mind. When you’re young it isn’t something that is even considered and rarely thought about, at least for me.

My recruiter certainly never talked about it; not the best marketing campaign to recruit young soldiers. He used words like duty, country, bravery, trade, education, honor, patriot.

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My parents didn’t mention it either. To be honest they were probably shocked. In classic Kerri tradition, I didn’t discuss it with them. Basically, I called them and said something like “Hey Mom and Dad … I joined the Army, and I am leaving for boot camp.” The possibility of death was never discussed openly with me, although I am sure they were worried.

My friends were excited for me. I was “getting out of here”, going to do cool stuff, would get into shape and see different places. Also, like my parents, they were surprised by my sudden decision to “run off and join the Army”. It was very Private Benjamin of me!

I had a lot of feelings and emotions as I set off on my new journey.

I felt immense pride when I was sworn in. I felt sad to say goodbye to my family and friends.

I had a mixture of excitement and nerves when I got onto a plane for the first time, headed to boot camp in Missouri. I was definitely feeling some confusion when, upon arriving in Missouri, I realized that my luggage didn’t, and I found myself staying overnight at the USO, as my bags took the scenic route.

Many times, throughout my training, I was scared. It’s hard to explain, and maybe unless you have been in this type of environment you can’t understand. I was scared. Scared to death. But not scared of death.

When you first arrive on base, you are in processing for a couple of days. You get your gear, sign paperwork, another physical and just hang out with your new squad. On the first “real” day of training, we were picked up from processing, driven by cattle truck to our units, and that’s when I experienced my first “smoking”.

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Smoking is basically a shakedown. They do this a lot in the first few weeks of boot camp. It’s really a way for the Drill Sergeants to gain some order, control, we learn how to follow directions, respect, and no back talk. After a few weeks you get less and less of these, but they like to spring them on you when you least expect it, or when you seem comfortable. My first smoking came when we arrived at our units on base, that very first afternoon.

Upon arrival, they line you up on the sidewalk, each person getting a square of the concrete. You can’t leave your square. You and your belongings need to stay in that square and you can’t move unless instructed to. We stood in the bottom left corner, heels lined up at the bottom edge of the square. Personal items in the bottom right. Rucksack top, center. All the while, as they are giving instructions, the DS’s are walking up and down the rows, sizing us up. Trying to catch someone not watching, smiling, fidgeting, not standing exactly where they told you. Any reason to call someone out, and make an example. Unfortunately, for yours truly, I was one of those examples.

I was doing ok, until one of the Drill Sergeant’s caught my eye, and came flying at me.

“Name, Solider!”

“Insinga” I squeaked.

“Am I funny, InsIGNIA?”

“No, Sir.”

I am a firm believer that in most scenarios, you can solve most controversies with a smile. In fact, my mom always told me that it was hard to argue with someone who smiles at you. Plus, you know me, I am someone who likes to make friends. I had not yet learned that bootcamp doesn’t work this way, nor do the D.S.’s want to make friends. So while I maintain that smiling can sometimes be a defensive move, I also smirked because of the funny way he said my name, and the embellishment of the “IGNIA” part, which was totally wrong.

So I said, with a smile, “It’s Insinga, Sir”. By the way, it is also not ok to correct them. His response to my attempt? “Drop, funny girl!” I am sure you can figure out how the rest of that went. For the rest of boot camp this particular D.S. called me “Smiley”, “Funny Girl” or “InsIGNIA”, just waiting for me to correct him, which I did not. See, training works!

Part of a soldier’s training is preparing for war. Yes, you learn, train and prepare for your job, but you are also preparing for battle. You are a soldier first and always. At the heart of every commitment a soldier makes, they are signing up to give their life for their country. Think about that for a minute. Think about the job you go to everyday. How many of you go to work, and have an underlying job description that includes “possible death”?

A soldier makes a choice to get up each day, put on their uniform, lace up their boots and go to work. They made a choice to put country before themselves and their family. They put their lives at risk each day.

As a society, we have our differences. It’s part of being an American, isn’t it? Freedom to think for ourselves, carve our own path and be independent.

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Memorial Day is about honoring our fallen brothers and sisters who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It’s about saying thank you to those who chose to fight for, and died for, our freedom. Let’s honor them by showing each other respect, embracing our differences and remembering that we can live the way we choose to because others have put themselves in the path of war, and have died for you and me. No, you didn’t ask them to, and that’s the best part of this. They are brave and honorable people that signed up, left home, maybe slept in a USO, got yelled at, learned about weapons, communications, and went through rigorous and exhaustive training to emerge as your protector. No one had to ask them; they just did it.

Please join me in thanking those who have given their lives so we can continue our way of life, to their families who will never see them again, and then let’s throw some love and respect to those who are still fighting for our freedom.

“We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.”

Happy Memorial Day, Chenango.

~ Smiley (Kerri)


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