Photo by Jason Johnston

What do you want to be when you grow up? Throughout our youth, this question was posed to you over and over and over. My answer to this question was, “Marine!” Though I am not a Marine, I am a former Army officer and a combat veteran, so in a manner of speaking, I have been there and done that, when it comes to living my childhood professional dream.

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Photo by Lance Cpl. Stuart Wegenka

“I am always on,” is a phrase I at times say to my civilian friends when I need them to understand that I am always aware of my surroundings. “Stay alert! Stay alive!” is a phrase on which I was raised, but not until my time in Iraq did I embrace and understand its true meaning.

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Photo by Spc. Carlynn Knaak

There is an unwritten code in our armed forces that those serving, especially officers, should not vote in U.S. elections. The most famous service member to follow this precedent was Gen. George C. Marshall, who served as Army chief of staff, secretary of state, and secretary of defense during World War II and the Cold War. The logic behind his decision not to vote stemmed from a desire to avoid partisan politics, because it would distract him from keeping the oath that commissioned officers take when joining their branch of service and upon every promotion, to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

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Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis

There is a long-standing joke at West Point that when wearing civilian clothes, cadets can spot each other a mile away. I tested this theory multiple times as a cadet, and it proved true every time. In the civilian world, this same “joke” remains accurate. Here in the nation’s capital, I can spot a Marine and a soldier a mile away. Here’s how one generally dresses: First, he has what we refer to at West Point as a “pizza pocket haircut,” known in the vernacular as a high and tight. If it is the summertime, he is wearing socks with leather sandals, a belt in his cargo shorts, and a short-sleeved collared shirt. Oakleys are the sunglasses of choice.

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U.S. Army/Cpl. John Wright

April 4, 2004 --- the first day of the fighting in the Battle of Sadr City --- a day that lives in the hearts, minds, and souls of every War Eagle from 1st Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. That fateful evening began like the end of a classic war movie. That day, The War Eagle Squadron was in the process of relinquishing command of Baghdad’s Tisa Nissan and Sadr City districts to 1st Cavalry Division. We were in the process of returning home after having been in Iraq for a year. Sadly, unforeseen circumstances that afternoon in Sadr City required we War Eagles to re-take command of the battle space.

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