"On service & integrity"

Written for class @ St. Joe's College

UribeCervantes, Mateo

 

 I am thirty-four years old; I have done a lot of living in those years, some bad most good. Out of all of the things I have experienced I felt the most fulfilled serving with those who have a common mission with me. I have been a soldier, teacher, farmhand, and now student. Coming to St. Joes and learning of its history and values I truly feel as if I belong. Service and Integrity are cornerstone values of my life.

 Throughout my time in the military I met many truly remarkable people, but the wisest man I ever had the privilege of serving with was SFC Johnston. He told me that “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking”. I was young and dumb at the time to really understand what he was telling me. It has completely changed my life. What he was saying is that habit makes you or breaks you. If you consistently take shortcuts or do things halfheartedly you are making it easier to do the wrong thing every time. “A lie comes with a limping leg soldier; it doesn’t get far till it gets shot down” he used to say too. Being accountable for yourself trough honesty and self-reflection is the only way to progress. Looking at your mistakes, acknowledging them and forgiving yourself allows you to become your best self. One can only do that with integrity.

I am a disabled Veteran of the Iraq war. I was injured during my last deployment and I was told that I could not be an Infantryman. I felt that I had lost my main core of identity. Who was I if I was not an instrument of war? All of the things that I had learned, my hyperawareness, my propensity to meet violence with equal or greater violence, my ability to react to a situation as quickly as possible was a great asset an infantryman at war but a detriment to the relationships I had to those around me as a civilian at home. I felt as if I needed to be tough in order to fill the void that was missing from my life, and I was never more wrong. I needed to serve. The void that I felt in myself was lack of service.

 I now volunteer my time to a nonprofit called The Warrior Ranch, which takes racehorses that are about to be put down due to anti-social tendencies, pairs them up with a veteran and a horse trainer and through natural horsemanship, kindness, and understanding makes the racehorse more social and in theory makes the veteran as well. I found through my service with these majestic animals is that the qualities that the military has taught me (hyper alertness, quick reactions, chain of command) translates really well to horsemanship. You have to be fully focused on your body language and that of the horses as well, you have to be ready to get out of the way or to make a correction in seconds, and there is a pecking order, whoever makes who move is on top. Horsemanship has also showed me that you have to use only enough pressure to get the results you want, not more. This allows me to be firm in my boundaries and not give in to anger. Through service I am becoming an instrument of peace and I have never been happier. I plan volunteering there every weekend health permitting.