Barney: Grateful For My Time Served

Courtesy Autumn Barney

By Autumn Barney

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I’ve written a few articles about the military. People always ask me why I joined. I wish I could say I did it because I wanted to serve my country or for school benefits or for any specific reason.

But the truth is, I joined right out of high school to run away. I don’t know if at 18 years old you really understand everything the military is or what exactly sacrifice means.

There are the real heroes, the ones who have given their lives for this country. There are the ones who have seen horrors on multiple deployments. There are those who come back and are never the same again or lose their lives because of recoil effects of the military.

I was honored to have served with many of them. There are some truly incredible people who are in the service, and it’s because of them that I don’t regret joining.

During my six years of military service, I met and made some life-long friends. Some of the most amazing, inspiring, loyal and genuine people in the world. I became an adult in the military, and I don’t know where I would be now without those people. I know I am a better person because of the luck I had in the friend department. The military is truly a family. Everyone is away from home. You work with them more than you see any family that may be there, like a spouse or child.

You laugh and cry. You fight and love. But the truly amazing thing about the military is the bond you share that no civilian would understand.

After I had my daughter, my military friends became her family. The first year of her life her dad was deployed and it was incredibly difficult. Some of my leadership made it even harder. Certain situations in my job made it extremely hard to be a single mom, but my friends were there for me. They babysat when I had to go to work at random times, they kept us company, they helped me take care of her. My military friends were more of a family than I could have hoped for.

The military is something I’m glad I did. I went through some difficult experiences. It is full of sexism, racism and people who don’t care about you at all. I had leadership who sucked the life out of me. I had friends pass away. After six years, I couldn’t do it anymore, but I am who I am now because of all of it. I’m grateful for those years. I’m grateful for the hard and the ugly. I learned so much about the world and myself. I’m a better person, mother and friend because of the Air Force. I look up to so many people who are still serving.

I have friends all over the world. I have friends I could call and they would do anything for me from states and countries away. I would have never had that without the military. Although I hate the fact that they aren’t physically close to me right now, I am lucky enough to have people like that in my life. From Seattle to Boston and everywhere in between, I have a family and I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had to meet them, negative or positive, for anything.

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