...today was one of the longest days of my life. I didn't wake up in my comfortable, queen-sized bed with soft sheets and a warm comforter and the cat snoring next to me; I woke up on a hard mattress with cheap sheets and a wool blanket and fifty other girls waking up around me. My alarm clock didn't go off, waking me up with my favorite songs; "reveille" took its first step in becoming one of my most hated songs ever. My exercise wasn't spending two hours in the dojahng with some friends each evening; we were out on the track doing pushups, situps, and running with the rest of the squadron before the sun even thought about rising. Breakfast wasn't a leisurely cup of coffee and a muffin while chatting with friends online; there was no speaking at any meal as we ate whatever we could wolf down as quickly as we could and prayed we didn't get screamed at by the TIs stalking between the tables. Getting ready for the day didn't include a warm shower and picking out a professional yet still flirty outfit; it was a quick rinse and the only thing in the "closet" was, while comfortable, quite possibly the most unflattering thing I've ever worn. We didn't learn about orbital mechanics or aerospace design in classes; we learned how to challenge and kill enemies, look for IEDs and apply first aid to those wounded in combat. We didn't relax in front of the tv at the end of the day; evenings were spent scrubbing and folding and praying you would have time to write a letter home. Mail didn't come in a digital inbox; it was a card or a letter you could hold in your hand and cherish and look at to help get you through the next day. Phone calls with home didn't make you roll your eyes and wonder what Mom wanted now; they were your lifeline to the outside world and became the most important twenty minutes of the whole week.
One year ago, I needed a drivers' license to get to work instead of a military ID, two badges and several PINs.
One year ago, the phrase "being a wingman" would have only meant something at a bar instead of in daily life.
One year ago, people in uniform would have been set apart, instead of brothers in arms.
One year ago, a memorial service would have included a black dress instead of a salute.
One year ago, I was a trainee instead of an Airman.
What a difference a year makes.