by Ethan Mikolay
10 May 2018
The Armed Forces Career Center is located at 908 North Lake in Aurora, IL. “I joined the Army in 2005 to live up to my family’s culture of defending our country,” Staff Sergeant Neil Thompson said. Photo by Ethan Mikolay.
To most high school juniors and seniors, graduation means moving onto a public, private, or community college. To the East students that want to branch out and join the military, however, graduation means something else: something that involves sacrifice, adventure, and a feeling of patriotism.
“I don’t want to be behind a desk for the next four years of my life. I want to get up and do something. This is a great way to serve my country,” junior Mary McGavin said.
McGavin plans on joining the infantry in the Marine Corps, which is a branch historically dominated by men.
Late last year, according to an article published by Business Insider, a lieutenant became the first female in history to graduate from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course.
“I think I have the guts and I definitely have the heart to do it,” McGavin added.
In order to fully commit to this military service, she will have to forfeit certain hobbies and activities that she enjoyed while a student at East.
“I’m a gymnast, so I’ll have to give that up. The amount of training I’ll go through will change my body type,” McGavin said. “You’ll need bigger shoulders for big backpacks.”
She added that she currently misses track practices for P.T., or physical training.
However, students joining the military must also sacrifice relationships. Such a career requires time commitments ranging anywhere from a few months to a few years.
“My contract is six years on active duty. It’s definitely longer than most people generally have,” senior Gillian Enriquez said.
Enriquez plans to enlist in the Navy, specializing in nuclear engineering, which requires an extra two years of schooling.
“I had to sacrifice my previous career plan to be a linguist, so I ended up having to decline all of my college acceptance letters… [but] most importantly, [I’ll have to sacrifice] my relationships with people, particularly with my boyfriend,” she said.
Enriquez added that her decision to join the military is a mix of patriotism and educational benefits.
“I wanted to join for a while, but I always had slight reservations about joining. I was trying to decide whether or not my sacrifices would be worth it in comparison to what I’d be gaining, but [my family] was really supportive,” Enriquez said.
For senior Colin Delagarza, however, patriotism takes the forefront of his decision to join the Marines.
“The thing that really motivated me to join the military was that people were sacrificing themselves for our country, which we take for granted,” Delagarza said. “Why have someone else fight for your freedom when you can do it yourself?”
He added that his family history of military service spans across every branch but the Marine Corps, partially lending to his desire to join it.
“[The Marine Corps] is tough and poses many challenges I’d like to overcome,” Delagarza said.
According to Gunnery Sergeant Marcus Caporaso, a recruiter for the Marines at East, his experience in the military has led him all around the world.
“I was saving money and travelling around the world. I’ve been to over eight countries since enlisting [as a high school senior in 2005], including Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Ireland, and Germany,” Caporaso said. “I realized very quickly that I enjoyed being in the military.”
Caporaso added that students who want to challenge themselves are the ones who stand out the most.
“If I had to give advice to students interested in joining the military, I would tell them to speak to a recruiter as soon as possible to see if they’re eligible or not,” Caporaso said.
Ethan Mikolay is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL