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Inspired by his family and his love for his country, Josh Sweeney joins the military

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From the day his big brother walked into his first-grade class, senior Josh Sweeney knew he wanted to join the United States Army.

“I remember it was then because, in 2005, my brother became a ranger,” Josh said. “On one of his first trips home, he took leave, and he came into Mrs. Gerst’s class at Pine Ridge Elementary. I got to bring my big brother [Pat], who was an airborne ranger into my first-grade class, and I felt like the coolest kid in school because I was walking around with this big guy in camouflage. I didn’t know what he did, where he was stationed, or what all he went through, but I was so proud to be his brother. I just knew right there.”

Since then, his brother has been a huge role model for Josh, motivating him to pursue similar goals within the field. Even with the big age gap between the two, their relationship has made a world of difference in Josh’s life.

“I feel because when he graduated, I was too young to understand how amazing it was and how much of an honor it was,” Josh said. “He has always motivated me, and I hope I can make him proud one day.”

Growing up in a military family created its own difficulties, but it was a huge inspiration for him and changed his perspective. Motivated by the dedication from his family, his mind was already set on being a ranger and serving his country.

“[My parents] are very disciplined when they need to be, and in other situations, they also give me a lot of freedom,” Josh said. “I matured very quickly when I was growing up, so they just knew they needed to pump the brakes with me. They let me make my mistakes, and ultimately, they knew I would turn out okay.”

His passion and excitement about the military pushed him farther than most of his peers, leading him to pursue new training and programs to test and strengthen his leadership skills.

“I’ve just always had to jump the gun,” Josh said. “I’ve always very much looked to the future and said, ‘Hey, how can I improve myself so I can be a better leader?’ I put myself in different situations that not a lot people would put themselves in, and I chose paths that put me in leadership roles.”

In terms of leadership, joining Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a U.S. Air Force auxiliary program, offered Josh new opportunities. Through his training, he stepped into different roles and developed his budding confidence.

“At the end of my freshman year, I was commanding my own squad within [CAP],” Josh said. “I had people who looked up to me, and putting myself in those situations made me mature a lot faster because I had people depending on me. I couldn’t just be a kid who was messing around.”

Considering all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into Josh’s training and enlistment, he is proud of all he has accomplished over the past four years. As his ship date gets closer, his excitement for the near future is palpable.

“I have a countdown on my phone that I’ve had ever since I enlisted on April 26 for my ship date, which is technically June 3,” Josh said. “For the longest time, it’s said the year and ‘x’ amount of months, but now it’s down to only a few days. It makes me want to enjoy every moment that I can with the people I love.”

Although he doesn’t regret any of his decisions, a difficult part of leaving for the army is lost time with his close friends and family.

“The hardest part about graduating will truly be separation from friends and family because I don’t have a lot of leeway between my future career and the end of high school,” Josh said. “A lot of people have this summer as their last hurrah, and they’re going to spend it sitting with all their friends and barbecuing it up. Literally, two weeks after graduation, I’m headed out and saying goodbye to family and friends. [Within my friend group], we’re all so different, but when we come together, we’re family.”

The goodbyes to all he’s ever known will be a hard reality to swallow, but his future holds a lot of untapped potential because of his resilience. For Josh, the grit and sheer toughness required for the army is what he loves most as it pushes his limits and abilities.

“[I loved] the suck,” Josh said. “[It’s was] being out at three a.m. in the blistering cold with barely any cold weather gear, looking for ELTs [Electronic Locating Trackers] in the middle of the night on military bases, and being with people who were like brothers to me. We were all just embracing this horrible lifestyle and the fact that we were suffering together. We were all suffering together, and we all just laugh because we’re thinking ‘How can it get any worse?’”

Going into the job with numerous experiences involving less than comfortable positions has successfully prepared him for all that the army has in store for him. Even with his experience and intense levels of training, however, there are uncertainties that Josh will face.

“Failure,” Josh said. “That’s my number one fear. Having all these expectations and having all these people look up to me to be motivational for other people. I love having other people look up to me because I’ve looked up to people before, like people in CAP who make me say, ‘I want to be like him.’ And now that I’m in that position for someone else, it makes me all the more afraid of failure. I just don’t want to let anyone down.”

Facing his fears will be a huge battle for Josh to overcome, but through the support from the military, it is one he can overcome.

Many influences have shaped Josh’s worldview, and for that, he is eternally grateful because it has made him who he is today: a true American.

“[To be American is be] accepting of other people,” Josh said. “No matter what their race, creed, or who they vote for, they’re here. There is no set ‘American’ person because we’re all just this big combination of people with unalienable rights. That can’t be taken away from us. That’s why I want to serve. I don’t want those rights to ever be taken away from us.”

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Inspired by his family and his love for his country, Josh Sweeney joins the military