Army Reserve veteran Alisha Guffey, 35, had just graduated from Indiana University when she heard the call to serve in 2003. While many of her friends and family questioned her decision, Guffey knew that she had made the right choice when she recited the Oath of Enlistment. The day after her 24th birthday, Guffey, a Greenfield, Indiana native shipped out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to begin basic training.
Older than her fellow recruits and unprepared for the climate and difficult conditions, Guffey struggled initially. Finding the proposition of returning to her hometown a quitter unacceptable, Guffey persevered and became a recruiter for the Army Reserve. In her new position, Guffey was sent to New York City, where she was exposed to a much more diverse population than she was used to.
In 2010, Guffey was sent to Kandahar City, Afghanistan, where she worked with the locals to aid in the Army’s reconstruction efforts. It was there she forged deep bonds with her fellow soldiers and several Afghans, in particular, a young Afghan girl who came to view Guffey as a role model. After her time in Afghanistan, Guffey got more international exposure as she was sent the Djibouti as part of the Army’s Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, where her knowledge of the French language proved useful.
Her horizons now greatly broadened after her time in the military, Guffey returned to academia. After earning a bachelor’s degree in French at her old alma mater, Guffey decided to pursue a master’s degree in International Business at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. It was there that Guffey faced a new kind of cultural challenge: Being a die-hard Colts fan in the heart of Patriots country.
Once she finishes her post-graduate studies, Guffey said that she plans to pursue a career in film and television. Just as those closest to her found her decision to enlist curious, they were also confused by her interest in the entertainment field. Guffey revealed her interest stems from her time in the military. “We think of film and television as entertainment in the U.S. But when you’re far from home and there’s no internet, you live in a tent, it’s amazing what a little DVD can do. It can transport you back home. It’s a little bit of relief.”
Lastly, Guffey reflected on what being a veteran means to her personally. “A lot of people tell me ‘thank you’. And I always gladly accept it, but the funny thing is I often feel like I don’t deserve it because I’ve been given so many opportunities. I’m thankful for being given the opportunity to serve. I’ve traveled and I’ve made friends with people all over the world. As a veteran, you give so much, but you get so much in return.”
Mario McKellop is a freelance writer who has covered the pop culture beat since 2010.