Ryan Rumminger

Ryan Rumminger

Prompt- "John F. Kennedy once said: "A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living." In your pursuit of higher education, how do you relate the challenges faced through military service to those faced in the academic and professional world? How will, or how has, your military service taught you to deal with adversity? "

In order to fully explain how my military service has taught me to deal with adversity I have to go back about 3 years ago, which was a time of great sadness for me, when I lost my best friend, a person I considered to be my brother, who died tragically at the age of 16. During this time my parents were in the middle of a five-year divorce battle, I had been living with my mother moving from places ranging from a friend's barn to living room floors, both of my older sisters had become teen parents before the age of 16, and I had became lost personally and academically. I dropped out of high school and started to go down the wrong paths in life. I was at a major cross-road in my life - the transition from childhood to manhood and I felt utterly lost and spiritually broken. It was about 8 months after I lost my best friend that I was introduced to the works of philosopher and civil servant John Stewart Mill who once said, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself". This inspired me to turn my loss into something greater and I found that by enlisting into the US Army and serving my country.

After I enlisted I married my best friend's sister, the girl I had been in love with since second grade, and we had our first son Gabriel about 3 weeks before my first deployment to Afghanistan. I missed the entire first year of his life - his first smile, first steps, first words - in service of something greater than myself and to this day it remains the most difficult and best choice I have ever made as a father and as a husband. No one can understand and words fail to describe how my service in the army, especially my deployment to Afghanistan, has and continues to shape my character and define my outlook on life. During my year in Afghanistan I spent an infinite amount of time socializing with the Afghani locals, ANA (Afghanistan National Army), and ASG (Afghanistan Security Guards), learning basic Pashtu, learning about their Muslim beliefs, the Afghanistan culture, and the atrocities its people have suffered during the last decade. I listened to countless stories from the Afghani people about the gut-retching acts of violence and cruelty that have been inflicted upon them during the course of this war. My experiences overseas allowed me learn about their culture and struggles in-context and to expand my global perspective. It made me realize that as globalization amplifies the flow of services, goods, people, capital, and ideas across country borders many political, social, and economic reactions have and will arise for the citizens of developing, as well as developed countries. I was there I Fighting for freedom in a war zone twenty-four hours a day for a country whose citizens would give their very last breath, many of whom did and continue to, for one-tenth of the freedom and opportunities that we so easily take for granted.

It gave me a new attitude toward the American way of life—particularly the "American Dream". We live in a country where anything is possible - even the poorest citizens of this country have every opportunity to make something of themselves if they only choose to persevere over their adversities. The point is this- Americans have the freedom to decide their fate in life and that is a freedom that I saw the Afghani people fighting for with every fiber of their being and many of them are dying for it. Once I engaged in the war effort and saw firsthand the blood that is being spilled in the fight for their freedom, I couldn't come home and take mine for granted any longer. There is nothing standing in my way of getting an education that could ever possibly compare with the adversities faced by the soldiers and citizens who are fighting this war and wars like it across the globe.

My service to this country, as arduous and challenging as it has been, has made me a better and stronger father, husband, and student. Now at home, with my son and wife, the challenges I witnessed and underwent overseas left a permanent mark on my character and it continues to give me the drive and ambition I need to be successful in perusing my higher education. It gave me the understanding that there are so many things in life, both domestically and internationally, worth fighting for and filled me with the desire to be a part of that fight. I came home and enrolled at Empire State College and am in the process of attaining my A.A degree in Global Studies. My goal is to go on to get my B.A and then Master's degree in the same area and to one day work for the United Nations working for global peace, security and human rights. My service has not only shown me, but let me experience, what I am so painstakingly fighting for and for as long as I live and breathe I will not forget the lessons it has taught me. I will not forget that freedom is not free, that the best achievements in life where done by men and women beyond exhaustion who continued to get up and keep on working, and that "perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did"i. These lessons have shaped the student I have become and I will be forever thankful to the US Army for teaching me how to deal with adversities and giving me the strength to overcome the ones that have/will come my way.

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