Enlisted Essay Contest, Second Honorable Mention
It all started with a foul odor that hit me like a brick wall. My eyes began to water; my throat tightened. On this 115deg day, I couldn't begin to imagine its source. I stepped onto the main deck of the ship, unaware of the horrific and exhausting events that were unfolding. Before me was a 60-foot, makeshift sailboat overloaded with 300 Haitians. They were stacked three high, screaming, crying, and dying. There was the source of that foul odor: stagnant, salty air, feces, and death. That Fourth of July was the most difficult and heartbreaking, and also the most educational day of my life. I needed to experience death and deprivation before I could truly appreciate all the things I always had taken for granted, and which things are most important in the long run.