On Feb. 22, 1996, the night I joined the U.S. Army, a bus took me and other recruits from the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on a 136-mile trip to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for eight weeks of basic training.
Over the next 24 hours, I’d get one hour of sleep. At basic training, six continuous hours of sleep was a luxury.
For four years, I trained and served as a voice interceptor (first Mandarin Chinese, then Russian). I was a linguist in the military intelligence field. My duty stations were Presidio of Monterey, California, Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo and the now-closed Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.
I received an honorable discharge after four years on Feb. 21, 2000, in part because I wanted to become a journalist.
Had I made it a career, Feb. 22 would’ve marked my 20th year of service. Those who serve that long are eligible to retire.