Living The Army Values With Pride
By Elizabeth Rivera
Florida State University
The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), Army ROTC
My name is Elizabeth Grace Rivera, and I am proud to say that I will soon commission as an Army Officer. Currently, I am a senior at The University of Texas at San Antonio with a GPA of 3.53 and have had the great fortune of making the Dean’s list numerous times throughout my academic career. My major is Criminal Justice, and I aspire to obtain my Master’s in this field. I have always felt that my purpose was to serve and protect my community. If not for the dream of becoming an active duty officer, then my plan would have been to enter the Police Academy after I obtained my Master’s and pursue a career as a detective. For now, I am dedicated to school, the Army ROTC program, and my duties as a Soldier.
My family and my upbringing have shaped who I am today. I am proud to say that I am an Army brat. My dad served for 23 years and retired as a Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army. His choice to enlist at the age of 17 provided me with many opportunities that I otherwise would have been denied. As a minority who has lived in urban areas filled with poverty, drugs, and crime, I have seen many of my cousins and family members become living representations of the statistics that plague so many Mexican-American communities. Teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and crime are sad realities that have crushed many dreams and ruined many opportunities. If not for my father’s choice to serve, my immediate family would still be exposed to that type of environment and those types of risks.
The Army has not only given my family opportunity; it has given us the inspiration to succeed. My brother was the first one in our family to graduate from college and my sister was the first female to graduate as well. While I may not be the first to earn a degree, I am the first female in our extended family to serve in the military. Some of my family members have chosen to put on a uniform and serve their time, such as my brother, but I am proud to say that I will be the first officer. Even though growing up in a military family has had its drawbacks—long periods of time away from my dad, constant moves and changing environments—if not for the Army, I would not be where I am today.
With my strong military background, I grew up with discipline, the Army values, and a strong moral code. My decision to join the military wasn’t a shock to my friends and family because everyone knew that this was what I wanted to do since I was a little girl. I was eager to enlist; however, my dad valued education above all and wanted me to first graduate from college. The compromise was ROTC. Looking back now, I can see that it was the best decision of my life. I joined the ROTC program as a Military Science Level 1 in my first semester of freshman year and never looked back. I worked hard to organize the Ranger Challenge team with my fellow peers; I trained for the 26.2 mile Bataan Death March, even when all the other females quit; and I have given extra effort to raise money for the program. I owe the program so much for my overall development as a strong individual. Being a Military Science Level IV now, I have grown more confident in my abilities to lead and overcome any obstacle. I started the program with a 232 Physical Training score, but now I can achieve a perfect score of 300. I was quiet and not very confident to lead, but now I embrace the opportunity to be in leadership positions.
I feel fortunate to have had the privilege of going to Ft. Benning and complete airborne school. I am the only airborne qualified female presently in my program. I was scared, but I accomplished something I never thought I could. My goal in my last year of ROTC is to build and motivate others who were like me and push them to be the best they can.
Besides being a student and cadet, I am also a Soldier. I feel fortunate to have had the life changing experience of going to basic training. As a cadet, I had a choice on whether to wait to get noticed and be contracted or go through basic training and become a Simultaneous Membership Program cadet. I chose basic training because, as a future leader, I believe going through similar struggles and gaining those experiences with fellow soldiers is something you could never learn from reading a textbook. In the future, I will continue to live by the Army values that are now instilled even deeper in my heart. I want to continue to do whatever I can to protect this country and my battle buddies while motivating others to do the same.
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UTSA Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Team.
Airborne School at Ft. Benning, GA.