In coastal California, where I grew up, there was a low military presence. I rarely saw a member of the military. My grandfather and great grandfather, whom I considered my best friends, had both retired from the Air Force. My mother had served for 13 years and my father for three. So while I may not have grown up with the military straight in my face, subtle things were instilled in me throughout my childhood, such as respect for our flag.

In high school, I was a bad student. I cared more about lifting weights and making friends than I did for my studies. I was also a stand-out athlete with great potential to play college ball.

While my parents did not force college down my throat or provided a solid guide, I probably wouldn’t have listened had they done so anyway. During my senior year in high school, I didn’t even take my SATs. I knew I wanted to join the military.

Coming from a long line of Air Force lineage — my great grandfather served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Vietnam — you’d think the Air Force recruiter would have an easy sell, but I never went to see him. I wanted to be an Army Ranger! When the young motivated Sergeant came to my house and showed my father the hooah video, I thought maybe even my dad was going to join with me, it was that enthusing. So, off to the boot camp I went.