Eric Bishop's Webpage

Reflection on the Military

February 10 2024

I’m near the end of my 6 year contract in the NY Army National Guard. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years, maybe since the day I joined, but as I approach the end I find myself more nostalgic than excited. I’ve met a lot of great people, interesting characters, and some leaders that mentored me in a significant way.

When I joined, I was 17. The military was an impulsive gamble on my part— I had no clue what I wanted to do after high school, but I knew I needed to do something with my life. So the military seemed somewhat rational. Since then, I went through basic training, went on a few missions stateside, and spent around 1/4 of my precious weekends at drill for several years.

Joining the military is like russian roulette. I’ve seen people have very bad experiences that were outside of their control. Though, by some miracle, my experience has been very lucky and rewarding. It was a poorly calculated risk I took that still panned out very well for me. On top of good fortune, there have been some good people looking out for me.

I do believe that the National Guard has worthwhile benefits for someone fresh out of high school. The experience is invaluable though. I’ve interacted with people I never would have outside of the military, seen many examples of good and bad leadership, and have a lot of stories to tell. I’ve made lifelong friends and good and bad memories. The military is also where I learned how to act like a professional, and I think that gave me a lot of advantages while I was in college. I wouldn’t have nearly as much life experience without it.

I certainly associate being in uniform with a lot of bad things, like:
dehydration, sleep deprivation, discomfort, overdosing on caffeine, and Catch-22 situations.

But I also associate it with:
laughter, friendship, comradery, getting outside of my bubble, and growing up.

I’m more tempted to focus on all the positives as I reflect on the past 6 years. My journey from being a very sedentary, unambitious teenager to being a diligent, somewhat-actualized adult starts and ends with my time in the military. It feels like an era is ending in my life and there is some anxious energy surrounding the future, but at least I get to grow my hair out (stay tuned for that). And now that it is all behind me I have more things to be grateful for than I do to complain about (and I’ve done enough complaining).

The juice was worth the squeeze.