Military enlistment a popular route following graduation

Meghan Dincler | Online Editor

After switching out their backpacks for military uniforms, some seniors are getting ready to head off to boot camp.

When high schoolers consider going into the military, they are presented with a few options. They could go to basic training and then straight into the military as their full time job, known as “active duty”. They could also go to basic training and then move into part-time military service, while also attending college or holding a civilian job through the National Guard. There are multiple other opportunities within the military for students, including the Army Reserve, or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) or military academies. 

When it came to choosing between these options, senior Elle McMahon was set on active duty. Despite this, she enlisted in the Army National Guard last September as a compromise with her mother in order to allow her to go to college while still serving her country. After growing up with her father’s military influence, McMahon said that she is eager to get involved.

“My dad is in the army, along with his dad and my cousin,” McMahon said. “Growing up and hearing stories from them is what made me want to go in. It really changed his life, and he came out more motivated and disciplined.”

McMahon deeply admired the values that the military instilled in her father and said that she “loves how disciplined and structured the military [is].” Having that influence in her childhood was a strong factor in what pushed her to enlist, since “[she] knew since middle school that [she] wanted to go into the military.”

Senior Zane Acashian felt a similar familial influence when considering his enlistment in the Navy, though for him it was from his older brothers, one of whom is actively serving, and the other who served within the same branch.

“I have one [brother] that is a vertan, he got out last Winter,” Acashian said. “I also have a brother that’s in [the Navy] right now. I just feel like since I’m lucky enough to be able to live in this country, I should give back to it, and this is what I chose to do to give back.”

Being able to give back to his country was a strong motivator for Acashian’s enlistment, and he is planning on going into active duty soon after he graduates from high school. 

“I go to boot camp July 29th,” Acashian said. “I feel good about it, I’m done wasting my time. I just want to start my life.”

Because of the military history in their families, both students had begun to seriously consider the military as a possibility for their futures from a relatively young age, with McMahon deciding on the Army in middle school and Acashian becoming interested when he was even younger.

“It all started back in like fifth or sixth grade, when I started watching movies and reading military books,” Acashian said. “That’s what really got me interested. And then my brother joined the Navy, I was like ‘okay, I’m going to join the Navy.’”

Since she has been set on the Army since she was in middle school, McMahon already completed one round of basic training last summer. She plans to return this July, and said that the training only made her more excited for her future working in the army medical field.

“I loved it,” McMahon said. “Coming out of basic training, it made me a lot more disciplined, motivated, and gave me more confidence in myself.”

Mikal Stoughton, a senior at MHS, says she is also excited for her future within the military. She enlisted in the Coast Guard, and is looking forward to the chance to serve her country and learn as much as she can during her military career.

“They had a few jobs that I was interested in,” Stoughton said. “They can teach me how to be a pilot, which I’m very interested in, and it seems like an incredible opportunity that I can’t pass up. I’d want to make [the Coast Guard] a career if I can, and try to make it as a pilot.”

Acashian has not been through any basic training yet, but his decision to enlist was one that came with a lot of positive emotions for him. After trudging through senior year of high school, he said he is ready to start his career and experience an environment much different from a classroom or office setting.

“I’m excited,” Acashian said. “I’m done in high school, I’m done sitting around doing nothing. I’m not really nervous because I’ve been able to hear about the experience from what my brothers have done, so I know most of what I’m getting into.”

Despite being nervous when she signed up and took her oath, Stoughton now seconds that positivity, saying that she is looking forward to the adventures the Coast Guard can provide for her after she gets through boot camp this August.

“I know that there’s going to be ups and downs with it because obviously it’s the military, it’s very serious,” Stoughton said. “But I hope that they can teach me a new way of life and kind of shape me into who they want me. I just want to be able to see what I can see and go out there and do my best.”

McMahon grew up always striving to do her best, and her strongest memories related to the military are of these values she learned throughout her childhood, values that she hopes to carry with her after graduation and into her future in the Army. 

“They taught me that you need to take responsibility for your actions,” McMahon said. “You need to step up when it’s time and be a leader who serves others first. Because that’s what a leader is, they don’t just tell people what to do, they serve and I think that’s one of the best traits I learned is how to serve and put others before myself.”

Graphics by Aadrija Biswas