Seniors prepared to join military after graduation

Anushka Mukherjee | Staff Writer

Senior Kimberly Kelly plans to go into the Air Force as soon as she graduates high school.

While Mason seniors are dressing up in their caps and gowns, a few are gearing up for the military. 

Senior Kimberly Kelly is one of the few students who has her mind set on entering the military field. Her mother served in the army for 14 years, and Kelly said she hopes to follow in her footsteps. 

“My whole family has been involved in the military in some way,” Kelly said. “My mom served for 14 years. I remember her driving the big tanks and trucks and I loved how happy that made her. She found a family outside of blood. You meet these people and instantly you form these bonds for life, and I want the same unspoken companionship that she has.” 

Senior Ajay Moola is also considering the same career path but said his interest lies in the Naval field. He said he values the military lifestyle and wants to work in a structured environment. 

“I’m interested in the Navy more compared to the other fields because I’m a swimmer and being in the water just brings me peace,” Moola said. “And I get to help people in an environment that I enjoy being in just makes it all the better.”

Senior Spencer Gerdes is another student who has decided to pursue the United States Coast Guard. Growing up, Gerdes started in Scouts and said that played a major role in his decision to join the guard. He said it helped him recognize the importance of helping others and doing his part for his country. 

“Through [Scouts] I’ve learned the importance of service to others, and putting other people’s needs before your own,” Gerdes said. “I feel like that’s a lot of what influenced me. Scouts have a National Scout Jamboree, and they had some Coast Guard exhibits along with the other branches on display. But the Coast Guard interested me more and I just felt like that’s something I wanted to do.” 

Kelly said her parents’ divorce pushed her to take on more responsibilities at a younger age, and because of that, she got into a more disciplined lifestyle. She said she thinks the military will be a good environment for her to apply herself and gain more life skills. When she told her parents, she said they responded positively to her decision of enlistment, even though they were a bit afraid. 

“When I told my parents, they were really happy and proud,” Kelly said. “My mom was a little hesitant at first because she knows the dangers of the field, but she came around. My dad’s excited but scared too because I’m his only daughter. I have six brothers, and I’m the only one going in the military.”

Like Kelly, Moola has family members who have been part of the military. He said his family influenced his decision immensely and supported him. 

“Some of my family members from my dad’s side served in the Indian Army, so my parents were pretty happy with my decision,” Moola said. ”I love the military lifestyle because of all the life skills that I will have the opportunity to learn. The way it’s structured, the discipline. It’s all fascinating, and I think it’s something for me.”

Gerdes’ great grandfathers were in the United States Military during World War II, and he also has a couple of cousins in the Marine Corps and the army. Given his family’s military history, Gerdes said they were very supportive of his decision. 

“Yes, I have family members in the military; however, they didn’t play a major role in influencing him as much as scouts,” Gerdes said. “My dad is supportive of my decision. My mom is supportive too, but you can understand that she doesn’t want her kid to get hurt. I’ve also considered the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the legal team of each branch. It seems like a good option, as I’m going to the University of Cincinnati for criminal justice.”

Kelly is considering the United States Air Force, specifically the Pararescue. She said she is also interested in the medical field, and this branch of the military blends both her interests. 

“I want to go into the Pararescue route because it’s more related to the Medfield, which I enjoy,” Kelly said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I like the idea of jumping out of planes and traveling everywhere. I love helping people and after serving, hopefully, I can be either a neurosurgeon or a surgeon at the base.” 

She said she has started some of the basic training on her own with the help of her aunt, who has also been in the military field. Given the expenses of college, Kelly said she has considered military academies and programs such as the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as well because she still wants to pursue higher education.

“I’m applying to [military academies and programs] right now along with a few colleges,” Kelly said. “However, it’s not my first choice because I want to go [into the military] right out of high school. Given the political climate right now, I’m even more motivated to go in. Before it felt more like a dream, but now it’s real and I’m ready.” 

Moola, too, said he has explored many institutes such as the ROTC and the Naval Academy to get him started with the training process. He said he wants to pursue a medical career along with the military, so he has been finding ways to meld both his interests. 

“I’m applying to the United States Naval Academy (UNCA) for sure, but I’m still researching the ROTC options,” Moola said. “In the case that I don’t get into UNCA, I may go to college for a year and then apply again. I want to pursue the medical route, so I’m thinking about med school along the side. The longer I spend in med school, the more hours I have to serve once I get out. And afterward, I want to continue serving as an army doctor.” 

With all that is going on in the country, Moola, Kelly, and Gerdes said they recognize their duties and are preparing to fulfill them. Moola said the current political climate has motivated him to continue on the military path. He said he wants people to put aside the politics and focus on serving the United States’ best interests. 

“I simply want to help people,” Moola said. “I want to serve my country and become a better person along the way. Honestly, with the state of our country now, my motivation and drive to join have increased. It’s made me realize that I need to be there to help my people.”

Photo by Anushka Mukherjee.