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Army Provides Soldier With New Sense of Normal

 

Compliments of: Our Oustanding Military

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Army Sgt. Julienne Ashby, former 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade property book noncommissioned officer-in-charge, raises a barbell over her head during a CrossFit competition at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Sept. 12, 2015. Ashby, a native of Casa Grande, Ariz., took third place in the event. Ashby encourages her fellow soldiers to maintain their physical fitness. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

By Army Staff Sgt. Kelly Carlton

35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade

May 17, 2016 — The Army is full of people with diverse backgrounds and different childhood experiences, but it develops its ranks with consistency and trusted battle rhythms — things Sgt. Julienne Ashby grew to depend upon.

Ashby, a property book specialist who recently departed Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, here, grew up in Casa Grande, Arizona, and spent her childhood coping with a family that suffered from addiction. Joining the Army was a means to make enough money to take care of herself and help her mother, who by the time Ashby graduated high school, was sober and trying to rebuild her life.

“At the time, I wanted to join [the Army] to take care of my mom,” Ashby said. “I was in my first year of college and working two jobs because my mom lost her job as a teacher.”

She said she tried to join the National Guard so she could stay close to home, but it just wasn’t going to be enough money to make a difference.

Joining the Army

“I didn’t want to leave [my mom], but there were times I couldn’t pay car insurance or even get gas to get to work and school. It was never-ending, and I just couldn’t keep doing it,” she said.

Ashby, who married her high school sweetheart shortly after joining the service, didn’t realize that normalcy was what she was seeking in her life.

“People tease me because all I want is normal. When I joined, I knew I wasn’t going to stay in forever, but I went to some schools, did the board and got promoted,” Ashby said. “In the Army, that’s the normal thing to do and I was looking for normal. I found my normal in the Army.”

Getting married and having a son are more steps in Ashby’s quest for a normal life.

Wanting a Normal Life

“A lot of people tell me there is no such thing as normal but all I want is a normal life,” Ashby said. “It seems funny but I don’t want a lot of things. My husband and I would like the whole ‘house, car and dog’ thing, but in my mind I don’t want my son to ever need something and not get it. Just the normal stuff parents do for their kids.”

Another part of becoming “normal” for Ashby involves doing CrossFit-style exercise.

“I started doing CrossFit not long after I had my son in an attempt to lose baby weight,” she said. “My friend had a daughter two months before I had my son, and told me she started doing it. I heard many people get hurt doing the exercises but my friend told me it was because people go too fast and don’t follow their coach’s direction.”

Ashby was convinced, and gave it try at a weekend program near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where she and her husband were stationed at the time.

Getting Into Exercise

“I have been doing CrossFit since then, and got really into it since arriving in Korea and I plan to continue as a civilian,” she said. “My husband purchased some gym equipment, so I almost have to continue since everything I need will be right there in the garage. Plus, my son thinks it’s cool that mommy works out so hard.”

Although Ashby relished all that was normal about being on active duty, after having her son, there was one aspect of the Army which helped her decide a long-term career didn’t fit into her new definition of a normal life.

“I had been on the fence about getting out or staying on active duty when I found out I was going to South Korea for a year. My son had just turned one and I was about to leave him,” Ashby said. “The second I got on that plane I made my decision. I never wanted to have to get on a plane, on a bus, on an anything to leave my son again. It was the toughest thing I have ever done.”

Many people may have grown up with a quiet, predictable life and seek adventure as an adult. Ashby had all the turmoil she could handle as a child and now seeks normalcy.

“The Army is normal. I will take the normalcy I have grown to depend on with me; the predictability to provide for your family without many issues,” Ashby said.

Being a mother echoed some lessons Ashby learned while on active duty and she plans to pass them on to her son.

“There is something more important than just you. I think I knew that and it became more instilled when I became a noncommissioned officer with soldiers,” she said. “Then, I had my son and it wasn’t about me anymore. In my family it was always about them, what they needed. That’s not normal and I don’t think like them. I want my son to strive to be like the normal I found in the Army.”

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