Reflection

I’d never participated in a military ceremony before. Nor had I ever marched  with an honor guard. I was about to, however, because on June 28th, 2018, I won an essay contest to participate in a memorial honoring the unidentified fallen of our armed forces. That same day, as my reward for the essay contest, I had the privilege and honor of participating in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Before that I  had an almost fairytale-like notion of the concept of honor, reserving it for stories about our soldiers in Afghanistan or old Arthurian legends. It was world-altering to stand there in the shadow of a memorial embodying the sacrifice of people who laid down their lives without recognition, for the freedoms and liberties of a population they’d never met. The reality of it shook me to my core. That day changed me, for the better. That night, as I lay in bed in my hotel room, attempting to fall asleep, I had an epiphany. My epiphany came in the form of questions. What would I do with the time I had? How could I contribute to the world? Previously I’d wanted to work in finance or law, making a name and money for myself. After that day however, all I could think about was a career in public service. Additionally, the memorial ceremony changed the way I viewed my fellow person, not as disparate entities that exist around me, but as fellow humans and citizens, whom with I have more attributes in common than things that set us apart.  In the time since, I have become positively entranced with government, law, and politics, voraciously reading every article, procedural document, and national security report I could get my hands on; favorites include the 2018 DHS Report to Congress, the ASIO 2017-18 Report to the Australian Parliament, and the H. Res. 907 Congressional bill to implement a Special Counsel for investigating FISA warrant abuses. These documents might seem mundane and boring to most people, but to me, they help educate me about the way the United States and other countries keep their citizens safe, a topic that I find myself fascinated by, and compelled to research. I took a renewed interest in the Debate and Model United Nations teams, seeing them as platforms to articulate and explore the possibilities of my newfound knowledge and interests. Research and academic competition alone proved to be insufficient, and I searched for practical applications for the insights I gleaned. I wanted to experience what it felt like to be a part of something bigger than yourself. I decided that the best way to achieve this was to get a job. I happened to be in the right place at the right time- the NYLF National Security Leadership Conference.  The conference had a career fair with a number of governmental agencies with booths, such as the NSA, the CIA, and the NGA, but I found myself particularly drawn to the FBI display, intrigued with the prospect of a law enforcement career; protecting and serving. I took a business card and applied for a FBI internship in New York City. Due to my age I was deferred approval for a year until I reached legal age. Hopefully the wish  that I have of pursuing my dream of serving the public in government and law enforcement gets fulfilled next year when my FBI application gets reviewed. When I think back to that day, the one I’ll remember forever, marching under the hot D.C. sun, I see that ceremony as my liminal point, and as I marched down the steps of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I left my old world behind as I stepped into the new, embracing my newfound proclivities and identity as a prospective public servant and a grateful, changed, and empathetic human being.