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Cook column: A unique learning experience

Beverly Sloan dropped by the Post Thursday with two surprise visitors ó sons Willie and Thomas.
That is, Airman 1st Class Willie R. Sloan and Petty Officer 2nd Class James Thomas Sloan.
The 23-year-old twins have been thousands of miles apart ó Willie stationed with the Air Force in Japan, Thomas with the Navy in Hawaii.
They don’t land in Salisbury very often, but you should see Beverly beam when they do.
She introduced me to Thomas several years ago, and I met Willie soon after that.
Thomas and Willie have a message for young people worried about what to do after getting their high school diploma.
Join the military.
When they graduated from North Rowan High School in 2004, Thomas had already talked to a Navy recruiter at a career fair and made up his mind.
“I said, ‘Mama, I’m joining the Navy so I can go to school and help out.’ ”
Beverly remembers. “Everybody said, ‘You going to let your baby go?’ ” she says. And her answer was yes ó not that she could have stopped him.
Willie opted for the Air Force a few years later and finished basic training in January 2008.
The twins say potential recruits should not assume they would have to go to Iraq or Afghanistan. That’s the biggest misconception about the military, Thomas says.
They have only good things to say about being in the service.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Willie says. “You get to explore, get an education …”
Thomas chimes in, talking about medical and dental care, “a guaranteed paycheck,” time off and other benefits.
He feels so strongly about it that he sent me an e-mail on the subject recently. Here’s part of what it said:
“I am proud to say I have been serving my country since June 2004 and have been to many different locations around the world. Being stationed in Japan for three years until October 2007, I had the opportunity to visit China, Russia, South Korea, Australia, India and a few other countries. Each culture is unique in its own way.
“It’s great to meet new people around the world who love America and what America stands for. Each and every day, soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen serve with great distinction, defending freedom and democracy around the world.
“If you are looking for a great job with great benefits and more responsibility with a chance to be promoted, now is the time to sign up. Have you thought about earning extra money for college, or time to complete courses on active duty? Or maybe wondered about on-the-job training with medical and dental benefits? Look no further.
“The military is looking for personnel just like you who are highly dedicated, highly motivated and ready to serve their country. … Learn many new skills from highly trained personnel and you will enjoy the job you are selected to perform. See a recruiter near you today.”
Or, if you want to see living, breathing proof, see Thomas or Willie. They’re making careers out of serving their country. And their mama could not be prouder.
– – –
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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