During my service, I was deployed twice: once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, I decided that my time in the military was coming to an end. Afghanistan was a very traumatic and painful experience. I lost a friend out there, there was a lot going on back home and in my relationship, and it just pushed that decision: Is this something that I want to continue doing or do I need to start looking at other options? I love being a solider, so much. I didn’t want to leave the Army, but I understood that my experience in Afghanistan affected me in such a way that it had degraded my performance, and it really required me to heal. So when I came back to Joint Base Lewis-McChord after nine months in Afghanistan, I started looking at my transition options.
It was one of the scariest times of my life. I’ve always had a job, since I was 15 years old. And for the past eight years I’d had everything taken care of: I knew how much I’d make every month, I knew how much my expenses were, I knew that if I ended up not being able to meet some need, there were resources there for me to fall back on. I wasn’t going to have that lifeline anymore, and that was really scary. Translating the skills that you learn in the military isn’t always a direct correlation to the private sector. What do I put on a resume? What happens if I can’t make my mortgage payment? What if I can’t feed myself? I’ve been homeless, and I’ve been hungry, and it’s not something I ever want to experience again.
As I was walking around the education center at Fort Lewis, I saw a flyer for Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA). I saw that flyer and said to myself, “I gotta get into that.”
The best part about being in MSSA: I got an opportunity to start learning new languages — computer languages. But the most beneficial part was giving me a leg up. It was getting my foot in the door. I was guaranteed an interview at the end of the program. I’m very driven to succeed, and I was going to take advantage of every single opportunity that was presented to me. I worked really hard to prepare for that interview. And it paid off.