This is part of Das Tor’s ongoing series, Voices of Thunderbird Veterans, a collaboration with the Thunderbird Veterans Club. In the series, Thunderbird students who are veterans share how their military service led to a global mindset.
I enlisted into the Army National Guard at the ripe age of 26. To be starting the process at that age made me a common mediator and diffuser since I was training with mostly 19- and 20-year-olds. I had graduated from college, married, and worked for five years, bringing real-world experience to my peers, some of which had never traveled outside the town they grew up in. Once the jitters of the initial shock of training wears off and you are forced to spend 24/7 with strangers for seven months, you begin to learn what makes people tick. Not only are you with others from all regions of the U.S. and its territories, but you are also with people from all over the world.
The barracks from training and the motor pool I where I currently work have diverse ecosystems. I think of the barracks as a “mini-U.N.” as I have trained, worked, and been led by U.S. soldiers from South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Jamaica and Uganda. The conversations with international soldiers during a grueling ruck march, work or physical training give insight into different mindsets or ways to approach situations, allowing us to not only get to know one another but also to acknowledge our similarities and differences alike. I continue to learn more about the various cultures of my fellow soldiers through small and big moments shared together, such as family introductions through FaceTime, unboxing family packages from home or listening to humorous translations of the Soldier’s Creed in their native language. Our bonds show us that no matter where you come from, a push-up is a push-up, and together, we can embrace both good and bad experiences. The men and women I meet all believe in the power and pride of doing one’s part, no matter how big or small, in serving your country.
I would have never thought that joining the Army would expose me to such a diverse group of men and women with a wide range of backgrounds. I have learned that strength comes not only in numbers but in diversity as well. Different cultures that bring their own energy, ideas and experiences to situations can provide a wider range of solutions, bringing teams together through shared hardships, laughs and camaraderie. I have learned techniques to de-escalate potential situations between two different viewpoints, how to respectfully approach others about sensitive issues and that our military, through continued work, is just one of many examples where the greater the diversity, the greater the strength. Walt Whitman put it best when expressing the importance of cultural and global diversity: “The Americans of all nations, at any time upon the earth, have probably the fullest poetical nature. These United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.”