First came the paperwork – and this is tricky. We were taken into a classroom, handed a stack of papers and told to fill in the blanks on everything that had ever happened to us. Officially the armed services only accept recruits who are in perfect health with no criminal record. Or at least, it seems that way. At the very least, they want to know about everything that might be a problem, and there is no statute of limitations. If you’ve ever had surgery, a childhood illness, or a speeding ticket, they want to know about it. If it’s no big deal (and they’ll decide), then they’ve got a waiver for it. Except for asthma. There is no waiver for asthma. At least, I think there isn’t. There might be one if you haven’t had it since you were 13. I wasn’t very clear.
And this is the part that was probably the most frustrating, and not because it was every bit as tedius as it sounds. The problem is that I had been prepped for this. Before I had left for the hotel, the recruiters gave me a little pep talk. You see, the military is full of acronyms, and the two acronyms that are most significant at the MEPS are NO and YES. NO stands for ‘Numerous Opportunities’, and YES stands for ‘Your Enlistment Stops.’ Because, of course, if anything weird shows up on your paperwork, everything freezes until it’s fixed.
So I was told specifically not to lie, but that there is a certain threshold below which information wasn’t beneficial to anybody. For instance, (as I read in a book on enlisting), if there isn’t any medical record of the event, as far as anybody is concerned, it didn’t actually happen. That time I fell down and bruised my tail bone and my mom refused to take me to the hospital even though I couldn’t sit up straight for weeks? Didn’t happen. In fact, as far as the military is concerned, I don’t think I have a record. I’ve been to the doctor 3 times since I was 10. Nevertheless, guidelines like that are hardly ever clear, and it was some cause for anxiety. I kept hearing people called up and asked, “why did you lie about the foot surgery you had two years ago?” Lying is frowned on in the military.
We were told all of us to put down if we had had chicken pox, and the treatment we received for it, so I guess there’s a waiver for that.