by Quinn Welsch
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the Department of the Army. These letters are pretty common for me, since I’ve only been in the civilian world a few months now. But this one was big, and it was full of papers. Most of my mail sits on my counter until my electricity gets cut, or I have no internet access, but this one just felt different.
I tore the thing open right away and unfolded about five separate sheets of paper. The font looked like it came out of a government typewriter from the 1940s. I glanced over it all, and noticed the first six words. In CAPS LOCK, bold faced, it read: “YOU ARE ORDERED TO MUSTER DUTY.”
Synapses in my brain simply refused to fire. My eyes rejected what was written.
I sat down and let it sink in. This was the end of it. My life as a college student was over as soon as it started. I hadn’t even been at Whatcom a full month, and already the Army had “ordered” me back. The Army’s decision to recall me – and only me- out of all my “battle-buddies” was flattering, it was also depressing.
The self pity set in. I pulled at my hair, I cringed, I laughed in hysteria, I sobbed at my reflection in the mirror, I babbled in tongues, and in between, I looked up and shook my fist screaming “Why, God? Why me?” If I live, I’ll end up a disgruntled old sergeant with about 79 different stripes up and down my arms.
Once you sign your name on that infamous dotted line, you have an eight year obligation to the United States Armed Forces. Many who enlist serve the full eight on active duty. Those who are discharged before that, usually spend their additional time in the Reserves, or in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR). I had been naïve enough to think I could serve three on active, and the rest of my “obligation” in college. In the one month I had been at Whatcom I began to realize everything I had been missing out on in my early 20s.
Sure, Whatcom has its weirdoes, but what school doesn’t? In fact, one of my favorite aspects about Whatcom is the diverse personalities. Being part of the Horizon staff has allowed me to dip my fingers in some extra-curricular activities and get a more thorough idea of what students at Whatcom are like.
Additionally, the curriculum has been fun and even entertaining. I wake up five days out of the week and actually look forward to going to school. My instructors have been extremely cooperative and thorough in their teaching. I’m not just looking to score brownie points here; I am sincere when I say Whatcom is a really great school.
When Cutter and I covered the Martin Luther King Day of Service: A Call to Action, in downtown Bellingham, I was amazed to see students from the school participating. I’m not a leader in civil rights, but seeing that students actually cared about eliminating poverty is exciting.
Even the campus itself a great place to be. The sound of the courtyard’s occasional minstrels or the smoker’s strange conversations always catches my interest walking to and from classes. Even the far off Roe Studio, with its eclectic variety of students, is an interesting place to visit.
Sure, it doesn’t have the hustle of Western’s campus. But who needs that anyway? At Whatcom I can at least recognize people’s faces. There is a real sense of community here. Hence the name, community college.
After all my lamenting, I decided to go to school the following day, despite it not making a difference in my future. I stopped at the veteran’s office with one last hope that someone who knew more about the Uniform Code of Military Justice than I did would tell me some good news.
I walked into the veteran’s office a marked man. I asked if any of them had heard of such a letter. One of the staff members told me that I don’t actually have to go. After a little further investigation, it appears that it’s not such a big deal. If I do go, the Army is just going to update my personal information, and they’re even going to pay me. Muster duty might actually turn out to be a good thing.
But mainly, I’m just glad I can stay at Whatcom… for now.