A Call of Duty

Duncan Rivers

My journey to join the military was inevitable.

I can’t think of a specific event that pushed me in that direction. It’s more of a collection of things that fed into a desire that didn’t manifest until I was a freshman in college. My dad was in the Air Force for 21 years, and my grandfather was in the Marines.

So you could definitely say it’s in my blood.

But there was also simply a desire to serve my country. I felt like I had an obligation to pay it forward for all of the opportunities I’d been given in my life. I realized there are a lot of other people—complete strangers to be exact—risking their lives to give me the freedoms I enjoy on a daily basis.

I won’t rest until I do my part to give back.

I can’t rest.

The garage campout

Maybe some of that passion comes from my time as a military brat.

I remember the anxiety and concern when my dad was away serving his country. It’s a heavy, yet necessary, debt paid by countless families. But I’m also fortunate enough to remember the relief and happiness I felt when he returned from deployment.

One particular year, my mom took my siblings to stay with my grandparents in Rhode Island, and I stayed behind at a friend’s house to finish up my sixth-grade football season. My dad was away for his last deployment that year, and we were renting out our house.

When he finally got back, our tenants were still living in the house, and me and my dad spent the rest of the year basically camping out in the unfinished upstairs portion of our garage. It was just two guys hanging out and trying to get through it, you know? 

It’s one of the best memories that I have.

Some might think those moments of separation would drive a family further apart, but it was the exact opposite for us. It always brought us closer together. My mom was always there when we needed her, and in so many ways, she stepped up and fulfilled both roles as a parent when our dad was away.

And then there were the moments when we were all together again. 

Those moments, if anything, just make you feel thankful and appreciative of the time you have.

They help you put everything into perspective.

A calling out of the blue

Those memories are one of the main reasons why I chose this path to walk on.

It was also the college atmosphere and realization that I had to start working towards a career and pick what I wanted to be in life.

I have Presbyterian College to thank for that.

College was really the first time I was living on my own, and even though I was only an hour away from home, my parents encouraged me to stay on campus in my freshman year. They wanted me to have my own experiences and learn what it’s like to make my own decisions.

So, me deciding on a career in the military wasn’t my dad twisting my arm or anything like that. He served his country while he was gone, and when he came back, he was just a normal dad watching his kid play football.

Who would have thought it would all come back full-circle.

Football was my biggest passion growing up, and I pursued it all the way up to being offered to play at PC. My parents did a great job of providing me with all of the opportunities they could and giving me as many resources I needed to get to where I wanted to be.

But once I was on campus, it was all on me.

Just being there in that atmosphere really made me think about my future beyond school and football. It made me think about the sacrifices my dad and so many others had made.

And then, out of nowhere, that garage campout came to mind. It all helped me put things back into perspective. The path was laid out in front of me.

I just needed to start walking.


Those memories are one of the main reasons why I chose this path to walk on. It was also the college atmosphere and realization that I had to start working towards a career and pick what I wanted to be in life. I have Presbyterian College to thank for that.

A stranger in the line

Since my freshman year, I’ve talked to multiple recruiters, gone through my physicals, and worked to get all of my medical documents cleared.

Now, the goal is to finish up school and see if I can join the Army.

It won’t be long from now.

I’m just thankful that I’m using the time I have left to just enjoy the journey. I’ve met so many new friends along the way through my time with the football team. The days in the locker room of just grinding it out with the guys is something I’ll keep with me forever.

I never understood real work before I got to college. There were so many challenges along the way, but I accepted every opportunity I had and worked as hard as I could to take advantage of them. It wasn’t just about proving it to others. It was more about me wanting to prove to myself that I was willing to sacrifice everything for the team to get the job done.

That’s the mentality I plan on taking with me into the military.

In so many ways, my college experiences have served as mental hurdles to help prepare me for that next chapter in my life.

Now, it’s my turn to pay it back.

I’m ready to be a stranger helping another stranger. I’m ready to protect the same freedoms I’ve enjoyed on a daily basis. I’m ready to risk it all so that some other kid out there will have the same opportunities I had growing up.

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