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My definition of military

Airman 1st Class Jessica Smith (second from left) and a group of her fellow public affairs Airmen sit at a bus stop at Fort Meade, Md., 2014. The military provides an opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds and build lifelong friendships. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Jessica Smith (second from left) and a group of her fellow public affairs Airmen sit at a bus stop at Fort Meade, Md., 2014. The military provides an opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds and build lifelong friendships. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Jessica Smith and her brother, Zach Watson, pose for a picture in San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 31, 2014. After completing basic training, Smith's family visited to celebrate the graduation. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Jessica Smith and her brother, Zach Watson, pose for a picture in San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 31, 2014. After completing basic training, Smith's family visited to celebrate the graduation. (Courtesy photo)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Merriam-Webster defines the military as "of, relating to, or characteristic of soldiers or armed forces," with synonyms such as:  army, combative, warmongering, fighting, all the way to aggressive and noncivil.

While this, by definition may be correct, it means nothing to me. I didn't join the military with these negative words in mind.

To me the military is service, commitment, selflessness, sacrifice, honor and, as cliché as it sounds, freedom.

It's service because we do what is asked without hesitation.

It's commitment because it cannot be done half-heartedly.

It's selflessness because less than 1 percent of the population will choose to serve our country.

It's sacrifice because so many will give up anything for the sake of a better cause.

It's honor because the men and women who've given their lives for our country are regarded with the highest respect and utmost appreciation.

It's freedom because it ensures the rights to act, speak and think as one pleases, without restriction.

I knew I wanted to be in the military since I was a young girl. I didn't know why I wanted to join. Maybe I watched too many movies with war heroes or maybe it was my dad volunteering for the Georgia State Defense Force for so many years, either way I knew it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something that genuinely mattered. I wanted to make a difference even if it was only a small detail in a much larger picture.

When I made the decision to enlist I felt a sense of pride. I was excited to be doing something so important with my life.

Once I arrived to basic training I was terrified! As soon as I stepped off the bus it was chaos. From that moment on, it was non-stop yelling and rushing around like mad-men. I started second guessing my choice; I just knew I wasn't cut out for military life. As the weeks went by I started to regain the pride I initially felt. I was finally starting to get into a rhythm. I began to bond with the other women in my flight, women with whom I am still very close. We encouraged each other every day. We wanted to succeed as a whole, not just as individuals. We became a family, large but tightly knit. We were determined to become Airmen. 

Once I graduated, I felt more accomplished than I did when I graduated college. Who knew making it through two months of training would feel like such an amazing feat!

I'm very proud of being in the military, but I am still not use to the attention it can bring. When a veteran approaches me to shake my hand and thank me for my service, I'm humbled. It seems unreal that someone who paved the way for me feels the need to thank me like I've done something. They are the reason I am able to put on my uniform every day. I feel honored that I can follow in their footsteps and can only hope to leave an impact as big as theirs.

To some being a teacher, firefighter or a doctor is what's important to them. For me serving my country and protecting my family's future is what's important.

So while the military may be seen as combative, it's to protect against persecution and oppression. We may be viewed as warmongering but it's to keep peace in our nation. Some may think we are aggressive, but aggression is needed to defend against the aggressors.

When I think of the military I think of all the branches, not just the world's greatest Air Force of which I became a part, but of the joint effort put forth to keep our country safe. To me, the military means people who care despite all the negative connotations that can be attached. Men and women are still willing to selflessly step-up and ensure our safety and freedom.

The military means family -- a family I'd do any and everything for, a family I know would do just as much for me.

Military means America!