Written by Ginger Gunnip, US Army veteran and EBV-SU Class of 2012 grad
Throughout the barracks, bunks are being made without a wrinkle. Soldiers in training quickly dress and run downstairs before falling into formation where they begin reciting The Soldier’s Creed in unison. The creed was drilled into every soldier in my basic training company. Although I can no longer recite it from memory, the values encompassed in it still influence my actions on a daily basis:
The Soldier’s Creed
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
The US military does offer a sense of pride and values to those who serve. However, I am somewhat conflicted about my experience, which has left me with physical and emotional scars. I believe my uncle, Warrant Officer Jones, put it best in saying, “Congratulations, you just earned a million dollar experience you wouldn’t pay a penny for.”
And that experience continues to build after achieving veteran’s status. Many military jobs do not translate directly to the civilian sector, meaning additional training is necessary to prepare for a rewarding career. One way is to pursue an education by utilizing well-earned Veteran’s Benefits. Although the transition from soldier to student may be difficult for many, the road of academia is an enriching route, to say the least. It is a fruitful addition to that million dollar experience my dear uncle spoke of, especially at private institutions like Syracuse University.
Soldiers will run in the extreme cold—I recall icicles crystallizing on my eyelashes while my knees lacked elasticity and my shoes slid down a snow-covered hill. I knew, if I fell in the formation, I was bound to knock other soldiers down with me. I did not fall. I ran on. My head was held high. I made it to the finish line aside my fellow comrades who bore the same battle. Just as we all weathered the extreme heat of Iraq and flew home amongst too many empty seats in the cabin, those seats reserved for the real heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom 07-08, FOB McHenry, those who made the ultimate sacrifice: PFC Howell, SPC Emard, SGT Duffy, and SGT Legg. Those soldiers had a one-way ticket to Iraq.
Veterans can serve as model students. We put on our boots and make it to every class despite the weather. We help our fellow classmates—never leave a fallen comrade. The “best of the best” was brought out of us through military training and experience to represent the credibility of an institution, like Syracuse University, and earn the success of our futures with honor.
We will always place the mission first.
We will never accept defeat.
We will never quit.
We will never leave a fallen comrade.
Just as we carry the red white and blue,
Without any limitation or hesitation,
We will wear orange with pride.
Ginger Gunnip, a US Army veteran, is a current student at Syracuse University and member of Syracuse’s Veterans Writing Group