Re: Your reason for joining
I've always been drawn to the military, and actually I count GI Joe as my introduction to the military (if you remember, each action figure had a file card that had their military grade--using actual military pay grades--as well as their primary and secondary MOS). When I was about 13 I read a story in Reader's Digest about Lt. John Connors, who was a Navy SEAL and was killed in the invasion of Panama. That was the first time it really hit me that our fighting (at that time) men could give their lives in service. Around the same time I was closely following the military build-up prior to the first Gulf War. I watched every news program and read every article I could find on the military.
When I was 16 I met my recruiter in my high school. We struck up a friendship and kept in touch for the next year or so. He gave me a brochure that pictured some soldiers rappelling down a cliff on the cover (I still have it). Inside was a picture of a Ranger with face camo, M16A2, and the old ALICE LBJ, crouching in some jungle grass. The instant I saw that I knew I would be enlisting. I wanted to be that guy.
I also knew at the time that going to college right after high school, like all my friends were, wasn't for me. I was the only person in my graduating class that joined the military (incidentally, I went to high school with John Faas, one of the Navy SEALS killed when the Chinook was shot down a couple of months ago...we didn't know each other well, but it's always weird when someone you knew in school is gone).
So on August 28, 1995 I raised my hand and swore an oath to protect and defend.
Army Reserve 1995-1999
Army National Guard 1999-2004
Would reenlist in a heartbeat