By: 2nd Lieutenant Robert R. Gerard, USAF
I’ll never forget the feeling in my soul that summer day in 2007. I was still an undergrad touring Western Europe for a month long study abroad. The program had us visiting World War II monuments and battlefields from London to East Berlin and everywhere in between. This particular day, I found myself in a quiet little French town not far from the beaches of Normandy. It had been almost sixty-three years to the day since the D-Day landings turned the tide of war for the allies in Europe. Above me in the town square were two flags flowing in the breeze, honoring the soldiers who liberated the town: Old Glory and another brandishing the emblem of the US Army 101st Airborne division. The feeling of pride and love for my country had never been stronger. It was at this moment that I was truly convinced that I could and should join the military. Flash forward two years to the sweltering Alabama summertime heat. There I am, standing in a line to who knows where, with some Airman yelling at me about who knows what (most likely not clutching my hands correctly or looking around at my surroundings instead of straight ahead), wondering what I had gotten myself into. I must have been insane two years ago thinking military service was a good idea. It only got more intense as the day went on. We were shuffled around from building to building, registering the same information seemingly a dozen times. Numerous officers were explaining all the different leadership exercises we’d be thrown into. I didn’t think I could handle it. Not until the last week of the “short” five-week program did I appreciate what I had learned. Commissioned Officer Training hadn’t taught me very much about military medicine. What it did teach me was a great deal about leadership, myself, and what I was capable of. By the end, I was excited to give my four years (and maybe more) to the U.S. Air Force. When you sign your name on that dotted line, you are an Airman (with a capital “A”) first and a physician second. The recruiters won’t tell you that, but your staff sergeants and superior officers will make that perfectly clear.