VA Military Memories Competition
February 2023 Military Winners
Cpl Valieria Lara, U.S. Marine Corps (2017-2021)
I guess you could say the American Dream is what influenced me to join the military. As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, I experienced my parents building a dream for themselves that came true. They came to the United States with really nothing but hunger to better their lives for themselves and their children. I saw all these opportunities that were granted to my family to achieve this dream solely because they were on American soil.
1LT Colleen Bies, U.S. Army (2001-2014)
I was influenced to join the military because my father told me I was a weak, pathetic girl and that the best thing I could do for my life was to marry a man, have children, and be a good wife and mother.
Sgt Ramon Aguilar, U.S. Army (1999-2007)
What influenced me to enlist in the active army was the overwhelming urge to escape the abusive and toxic home environment I was in. I figured that there was nothing worse than the physical abuse I was receiving from my dad and constantly being called worthless, a loser, or a piece of sh* by my mother. Due to the constant physical and psychological abuse, I had a very low self-esteem, and self-worth and no clear sense of self-identity.
HM2 Neath Williams, U.S. Navy (1999-2022)
“You did what? Why?” That’s the question I got from my family and friends. I don’t think I had a simple answer for them at the time. I don’t think anyone who knew me in high school expected me to join the military. I don’t remember considering it an option; then again, I swam competitively 4 days a week at the local university and never considered going to college there. I just wasn’t a kid with a lot of foresight, especially in high school. I was coming up on graduation in 1999, and I knew I was expected to do something, but what that was, I wasn’t sure. I’ll never forget the day the recruiters started showing up in our cafeteria. Their uniforms pressed perfectly, their size, posture, tattoos, and overall confidence. They would always hand out stress balls or little nylon backpacks, and if you stopped and chatted with them for a bit, you might score a t-shirt or ball cap emblazoned with “Let the Journey begin,” GO NAVY or USMC or ARMY. Now, I can’t speak for the other kids in my class, but I didn’t have ties to the military. I had no idea about the differences between the Navy and the Marine Corps, let alone any of the other branches. With over 20 years of military service on my resume, now, I’d like to tell you that I did some research or deep soul-searching to make a decision about which branch to join. Still, if I’m being honest, the Navy recruiter was the coolest and most persistent out of them all, so I chose to let the journey begin and begin it did!
MSgt Kevin Nichols, U.S. Air Force (1996-2017)
It wasn’t that my oldest brother was a Marine or that another brother was a Sailor. It wasn’t that my Dad always talked about his DOD sanctioned school as a child during the Manhattan Project days.
That’s not why I joined; that actually influenced me NOT to join. After several calls from Marine recruiters who knew “Gunny Nichols,” I’d tell them I was going to college to make something of myself…so I did.
Sgt Raymond Vaughn, U.S. Marine Corps (1965-1971)
My favorite uncle was my inspiration to join the Corps, not an easy decision at the time because Vietnam was starting to really escalate. It was all over the news, and we were starting to see wounded vets returning, and views of flag-draped caskets with bugles playing taps were popping up frequently on the local news. My Uncle Brady, Uncle Caesar, and my Dad were all Merchant Marines but 180 degrees apart in demeanor. Dad and Uncle Caesar, a US Navy WW II vet, were settled homebodies. Uncle Brady was the happy vagabond with different kinds of stories to tell. We loved hearing their sea stories since my father had been part of the sea convoys carrying supplies and men overseas to Europe and the Pacific, and Uncle Brady had actually had feet on the ground. Dad had asthma and was not eligible for the military.