The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

From Books to Battlefields

While most AHS students envision the traditional experience of college after high school, some prefer to follow a career in the military. Tyler Jackson, a senior who recently enlisted in the Marine Corps, was put into this situation when the prospect of traveling and having an adventure without having to pay seemed like a better alternative than breaking the bank for college.

“I was going to go to every university and do their pilot’s programs, but I don’t want to waste money when I want to learn a few things that I know college won’t teach me, like self discipline and responsibility,” Jackson said.

Perhaps the deteriorating economy also has had something to do with the surge of recruiters into the United States Military. There has also been at least a 50 percent increase in applications to the U.S. Naval, Military and Air Force Academies from students after high school since 2009.

Senior Jake Dang, who was recently accepted into the United States Naval Academy, has had his ups and downs throughout the whole process of acceptance, but learning to persevere towards the end of reaching his goal has already started to mark the benefits in line for him in the future.

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“After the academy, I’ll have a guaranteed job traveling the world and doing things some of my friends will never get to do or experience; meanwhile, I’ll be getting paid to do it. I won’t have to worry about paying for college because it’s completely covered by the government. Health and dental are also covered,” Dang said.

A different approach, however, is the one being taken by senior Joshua Sarker, who is planning on going to the Naval Academy Prep School for eight months before being admitted into the U.S. Naval Academy for four years.

“I chose the USNA over traditional college because I knew that I wanted to serve my country and become part of something greater than myself while also receiving a college education,” Sarker said.

Visiting the Armed Services Recruiting Center in your local area or applying to the different military academies that you may be interested in is just a beginning step to the whole process of devoting oneself to a particular military experience in this day and age.

“I enlisted August 22 of 2010,” Jackson said. “There are a bunch of stages I didn’t even think of having to go through before I was actually able to enlist.”

In addition to going through physical training that usually takes place during a couple of vigorous days of the week, those enlisting also have to go through the unpleasant experience of the Military Entrance Processing System (MEPS).

“It was the most painful thing that I’ve ever been through,” Jackson said. “There are doctors looking in places you don’t want to know, people who are just tired of you after continuously going through it all. Going to MEPS is one of the most boring and cold experiences in my life.”

Students applying to military academies also can get themselves checked medically at their nearest MEPS location and besides from checking recruiters’ blood, eyes and other medical areas, MEPS takes one’s fingerprints electronically, since it’s all a biometric process.

After passing the MEPS’ tests, there is another test that many students have to pass when deciding to choose the military as a career: telling parents of their sometimes controversial decision.

Dang’s family has felt indifferently on his choice to go to a military academy than a traditional college after high school. “My father would much rather prefer that I go to Virginia Tech or a traditional college because he lived through the Vietnam War and saw the horrors of it. He doesn’t want me to face all that hardship and danger,” Dang said.

Sarker agrees that his own parents were a bit wary of his decision when he first told him that he would be choosing the military for a career path. “At first when I told my parents I wanted to pursue this path they were a little hesitant. But as they learned more about the program they became more and more supportive.”

Support seems to be the usual end result for families watching their child’s progress throughout the whole process, especially as more of the benefits of choosing a military career are discussed.

“My family was just as uninformed as I was [about the Marines],” Jackson said. “But when they heard that there is a bunch of college money and housing bonuses involved, plus a bunch of other things the marines has to offer, they were fully supportive of my decision.”

The question of being shipped out to a war zone such as Afghanistan, however, does cross one’s mind when joining any branch of the Armed Forces. According to a recent article updated by, there has been continuous pressure to increase the Armed Forces’ size two years sooner than originally planned because of the need for troops to perform in war zones.

“If you think about how many Marines are in Afghanistan, it will only take maybe three years before everyone has been there,” Jackson said.

Aside from the possibility of being deployed to Afghanistan, one may also have the chance of being sent to other American bases throughout the world, like in Okinawa, Japan or Germany.

“I only recommend doing this if you’ve put some serious thought into it and have researched it thoroughly and it’s still what you want to do,” Dang said.

Nonetheless, while the fear of the consequences of entering a war zone and going through this time consuming process may cause one to turn away from enlisting, those taking this path show nothing but encouragement for those thinking of taking a military career for their future.

“They’re a great career path and provide a great service to our country. Even though it may be a more difficult and challenging path than others, I believe that it will be worth it in the long run,” Sarker said.

“Others who have come back from boot camp on leave come visit us and say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done in their lives, but it’s the most rewarding,” Jackson said. “I really can’t wait to take that next step in my future.”


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    Rebecca BurkeMar 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

    great story, gwen!

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