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My fellow shipmates and I departed from the MEPS, or military entrance processing station feeling quite valiant, dare I say honorable. The only thing we truly did that day was sign some paperwork, then it was off to the buses for basic training.

Let me rephrase that: the only thing we did that day was sign paperwork. As in, from 0600 to 1500 we did nothing but sign paperwork. Who knew that the MEPS was so similar to the DMV.

Despite all the metaphorical papercuts, our family and friends were waiting outside the buses, cheering us on. I felt a sense of pride that I was becoming something more than myself, although that pride was not even close to being earned yet. My mom was recording the entire walk from the building to the bus on her iPad. Filipinos like to record everything.

And then I dropped my paperwork all over the pavement. I looked like a complete fool in front of everyone’s families, but I quickly scooped it up, and acted as if nothing happened.

I played myself.

We got onto the coach bus and we were greeted with other future service members, but from other branches: Army, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. They were all here, ready to go to the staging area at O’Hare airport.

We took our seats, and the camaraderie in the bus would have spilled out the windows if it were an actual substance. Every member on the bus was ready for basic training in their assigned services, and I was too. Quite honestly, as much as I loved high school, I wanted to experience an adventure, and not just go to school for four years again, not yet.

I don’t remember what gate we started dropping people off, but I remember the Army guys and gals getting off the bus first. As they were leaving, we were cheering them on the same, high fiving and yelling at them to kick some ass out there. The next were the Coast Guard, then the Marines, and then the Air Force.

We didn’t cheer nearly as loud for the Air Force.

The Navy was last; we got off in one of the departure gates, and we were directed to the USO office, or the United Service Office. Entering the rooms of the office, we were guided to drop our things off in a supply room, and some of the staff recommended we sleep. The USO office had beds and recliners, so some of us took that opportunity. Besides, boot camp was ahead of us, and we needed all the sleep we could get.

Now, when I tell you that I knew that joining the Navy was a good decision, I say that referring to the USO. Every international US connected airport in the world has a USO, and they are freakin’ awesome. Do you like Girl Scout Cookies? They have an unending amount of them. Do you want to watch every single episode of Game of Thrones? They have a shared drive with a plethora of TV shows and movies. Do you just want to sleep? You can definitely do that. The USO is basically a respite for traveling military service members around the world, and it is great.

We spent about 8 hours at the USO. I spent about half of it sleeping, and the other half stuffing my face with as many Girl Scout Cookies as possible. I was enjoying talking to my fellow shipmates when I heard a stern voice project from the entrance of the office.

“RECRUITS,” the Petty Officer said. His voice disseminated through the entire room; his command presence was known. “GET YOUR GEAR AND MOVE OUT NOW.”

This is when I knew that things were about to get serious.

– Matt Cuartero

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