Editor’s note: What a better way to celebrate the Military Appreciation Month than with some “Why I Joined” stories?

Growing up I liked to play what I knew at the time to be the so-called army. I thought it was all just one big army and knew no branch distinction. I would pretend to sneak around and play fight outside in my mismatched woodland camouflage uniform, and occasionally camo-painted face.

I think part of my eventual decision to join the military involved wanting to prove to myself that I was tough enough to handle it mentally and physically. My father served in the Navy, and my grandpa on my mother’s side served in the Air Force. That being said, I never had any pressure to join the military. If anything, I truly never put any serious thought into the idea that I would until I was in college. My heart was just not in it because I think I was afraid more than anything. Eventually, I would decide to seek a challenge and want to be part of something special, but I needed something to push me over the edge.

I remember the first time that the recruiters came to my high school. Each service had their booth set up, uniforms looking sharp, and that used-car-salesman approach that puts an uneasy feeling in the stomach of most young people. I looked at the Army’s booth, then the Navy, then the Air Force, and then I spotted the Marines. I thought about what I had learned of them from some of my friends who had talked about joining. And let’s be honest, the Marines have the coolest looking uniforms so that has some drawing power toward wanting to get one too. After a few seconds of staring, I left the Marines and walked back over to the Air Force table. I got my little keychain from them and told myself that if I were to join the military that I could see myself in the Air Force. It just seemed a little safer at the time.