Sierra Leone | A Memorial Day Tribute to Military Service

"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." -Jose Narosky

Since 1971, the last Monday in May has been observed as a day of remembrance in America. This week, in the run up to Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, hundreds of events will be held across the country to honor fallen men and women of the armed services and remember veterans. On Sewa News Stream, we’re joined by New Jersey resident Osman Kabba in tribute to the national observance.

Sewa News Stream: What inspired you to join the United States military?

Osman Kabba: Like most immigrants, I came to the United States with big dreams. I had planned to go to college and return home to contribute in development efforts. Well, that was easier said than done. You hear often that the United States is a land of opportunity…you have to seek them.

I wanted to go to college but could not afford tuition. I was in between jobs because I did not have any skills. So I found myself having to balance my needs against my future aspirations. The United States Military provided the right opportunity to achieve my goals.  So you could say that I was inspired by my desire to succeed by using the U.S. military to get me there, even at great risk and personal sacrifice.

Sewa News: How did you get started?

Osman Kabba: Military service is not for everyone. I am not suggesting that it is reserved for the special few. However [some] natural attributes are required to have a successful career.  Also, one should not join solely as a means of seeking employment.  Even though it provides great opportunity and benefits it must be something you want to do and would enjoy doing otherwise you won’t get too far. I got started by doing my research on all the branches of service in order to determine which one would be suitable for me.

My fact finding mission started with a visit to the local recruiting stations for all the branches and I spoke to recruiters without making commitments or signing any documents. I then talked to trusted members of my family to seek their input and advice. Sometimes you need the moral or emotional support of loved ones.

 After I decided on the military branch, I gathered the required documents, i.e. birth records, social security card, immigration records (if applicable), marriage certificates (if applicable), dependent (spouse, children, others) records and educational records. Then I started to study for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Test. This is a required test that must be taken to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. The score will determine your enlistment status i.e. the kind of job you will be assigned in the military, which could range anywhere from a soldier or deck hand to a more technical and/or tactical assignment. The higher the score the better your chances of getting a better assignment.

Sewa News: What did you like about military service?

Osman Kabba: I loved the training, vocational and academic; the discipline, the many great opportunities, travel, medical benefits and also the fact that I had, and (still) have a steady and secure income both during active service and after my retirement.

Additionally, I enjoy the prestige that accompanies the recognition for my service. Particularly after 9/11 each time I showed my ID card anywhere―say at the airport, local grocery store, motor vehicle or even during a traffic stop, I am always treated with respect, dignity and admiration for my selfless service to this country. My college tuitions for both undergrad and graduate were fully paid for by the military.

Sewa News: Who inspired you the most as a soldier?

Osman Kabba: During various stages and challenges in my career I was inspired by people who were above me in the chain of command.  However, their inspiration was based on their authority. Other people can inspire you but there are limits to how far they can push you. The extra miles that you go would depend upon yourself, your faith and personal convictions. So the most important inspiration came from my faith in God, my personal desire to succeed, and my trust in my teammates.

Sewa News:  When problems came up along the way how did you keep from getting discouraged?

Osman Kaaba: Not to preach a sermon, but no one should undertake any task without seeking the blessings of God or whatever faith you practice; there is always a power higher than you. So always depend on Him for all your needs and He will see you through.  The key to sustainability is tenacity; do not entertain the company of negative people; particularly those who see the glass as half empty.

Sewa News:  What tips do you have for people who want to do what you did?

Osman Kabba: First and foremost be true to yourself.  Assess your strengths and limitations. Ask yourself what is it that you hope to achieve by joining the military, in addition to it being an enterprise that you would love to be a part of.  Do your research. Then, join the Navy!  On a serious note all branches are equally as good, challenging but also rewarding.


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