Who AM I
When I think of the phrase “Who Am I” certain titles come to mind. I'm a Father, Husband, Son, Friend, Recruiting Agency Owner, Chief Master Sergeant (soon to be retired) and a Christian. These help to get a sense of who I am but they don't exactly tell my story.
It’s a weird thing, telling your story. As a point of reference, I'm the guy who has social media but never really posts. Telling my story feels strangely selfish and also extremely personal. However, the process of being a transitioning service member requires me to do some self reflection. This blog and the Learner Program that is a part of my DoD SkillBridge internship with the ARRC are all tools in that transition. I am grateful for this opportunity to grow and learn.
I was born in Olympia Washington February 12th 1980. I was the first born child to my parents Don and Renee. They met in high school and married while my Dad was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Mom grew up in Southern California and Dad was born in Canada before moving to California as a boy. They were young, it didn't work out and they divorced when I was 5. My Dad stayed in Washington and spent 30 years on the Washington State Patrol. My mom moved home to California and started over with my sister Taylor and I.
I had a good childhood. My mother and Step Father had two children together, there were four of us in the house, two boys and two girls. We were an all American middle class family. My Step Dad was a small business owner. My Mom helped him manage the business while raising us kids. He was a hard worker who was always hustling to provide. My mother did her best to be the glue that held us all together, she was the ultimate CEO of the house. They were married for about a decade before divorcing.
I stayed close to my biological Father throughout my childhood. He would call every Sunday and send letters in the days before text messages and email. He had remarried as well a few years after my Mom did. They had a son together and my Step Mom had two children from a previous marriage who were close to the same age as my sister Taylor and I. We would visit our other family in Washington each summer. Bouncing between the two families was not ideal, but it showed my sister and I how to be flexible and appreciate two different lifestyles.
One constant in my life were my maternal Grandparents, or as I affectionately called them, Grandma and Pa Pa. They were from the greatest generation and I learned so much from them. My “Pa Pa” served during the Korean War and post service spent 35 years as an employee of Chevron. Grandma passed in 2012, she was quite the character and I loved her dearly. Pa Pa is still kicking at age 91. He reads two newspapers cover to cover each day and is still pretty darn sharp! He calls me a few times per week, I cherish each call.
We moved to 1763 La Mesa Oak Dr, San Dimas California when I was 7. That was the street all my childhood memories came from between 1987 - 1998. Those were pretty good years. Days when kids played outside all day, drank out of the hose and played “ding dong ditch”. When neighborhood sports, pool parties and late night roaming of the block helped to shape the interpersonal skills needed to evolve into young adults. Sometimes I'll drive by the old stomping grounds when I'm headed in that direction. I make a habit to unroll my window as I drive through town. The smell of the trees, sounds of kids playing at the park (although much fewer than when I was a kid) and sights of the places around town invoke memories of simpler times.
During the summer of 1997, I was visiting my father in Washington. He had often told me Stories about his days as an Army Ranger. One story in particular sticks out to me; during his special forces training, he was required to chase down a chicken and bite its head off, crazy! Although he was proud of his service, he told me “ Son if you join the service, join the Air Force, that's the way I would have gone if I did it all over again”. I listened to my Dad and started the process to join the Air Force that summer, prior to my senior year in high school.
Life has a weird way of coming together sometimes. As I prepared to ship for Air Force Basic Military Training, I stood in line at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). I was nervous and a little worried about what came next. As I peered through the line I noticed a familiar face! My Step Brother Ricky was about 5 spots ahead of me waiting to get his room assignment. He had recently moved to California to live with his Dad and as luck would have it we were shipping out at the same time. However, his father didn't give him the same advice as mine and he was joining the Army. We ended up sharing a room that night and helped each other calm our nerves. The next morning we both went our separate ways en-route to Basic Training. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that 20 something years later we both would have retired from our respective services.
Life also has a ways of working in cycles/evolution/chapters. Those first 20ish years were my foundation. Those experiences and my faith I would lean on as I navigated challenging times through the next chapter in my life. Marriage, fatherhood and a career in the military would lay ahead. It would be during this time I earned the titles of Father, Husband, Chief Master Sergeant and Founder.
Off we go, into the wild blue yonder……….