Military members serve their country on and off the battlefield in various branches, but not all servicemen and women dedicate their time right out of high school like 16 Waxahachie students plan to do.

Every student has a compelling story to tell, and a unique reason for joining. For two graduating seniors, the decision to serve was a choice to give back to their families who sacrificed everything for their children.

Bryan Cruz Sanchez, 18, would not have been presented the opportunity to contribute to his country’s freedom had that freedom not been provided to his immigrant family.

He now gets to return the favor to the country he was born in and provide a more sustainable life for his family and a brighter future for his little sister.

The grandfather of Dylan Lovett, 18, served 12 years in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Vietnam War. The occupational experience from the military helped establish the family business, Lovett Electrical.

Lovett witnessed that same business carry his family from low-income, living in trailer homes to a two-story, five-bedroom home.

Instead of running the business, Lovett will challenge his future in nuclear engineering to give back to the service that helped his family stay afloat and later prosper.

TOY SOLDIERS

Cruz Sanchez can vividly recall "playing military" growing up, often hiding in the bushes to ambush his friends. He will soon be the first in his family to enlist.

“My parents came over looking for the American dream, which has several definitions,” Cruz Sanchez said. “I guess one of them was having a house with land and animals. We’ve already got the land and I want to help finish building the house.”

Cruz Sanchez is passionate about contributing his benefits to his family and passing off his GI bill to his little sister. To provide the full context of his decision, Cruz Sanchez spoke of his childhood working with dad in the late nights and learning to make an honest living.

“I remember waking up in the morning and there not being anything to eat,” Cruz Sanchez said. “So, I thought maybe I should go work underage. Later on, my dad started molding me and later on I learned how to work. My dad calls it clean money.”

Childhood stories continued with his Army recruiter by his side, Sgt. Maribel German, who also enlisted immediately after high school.

That would not be the only thing the two have in common.

She too was the first in her family to enlist. She too came from a low-income family being raised by a single parent. She too comes from a Spanish-speaking heritage and was inspired to serve by contributing to her family and long-term success.

“Just by hearing that he values his family and he did it for family, I can honestly say that I can relate to that,” German said dressed in her Army Service Uniform. “I grew up in a single-parent household and my mother worked very hard from sun up to sun down to support us. I remember seeing her working in the fields and she always wanted better for us.”

German has over 18 years of experience in the U.S. Army and admitted to not being able to do a pull-up in basic training. Unsure where she would attend college, German enlisted in the Army in 2001, shortly before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

She joined as a supply specialist and served a six-month deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She eventually served as a drill sergeant as well, which she never saw herself doing before she was provided the leadership skills and training.

Cruz Sanchez, a lanky and still growing young man, admitted to his shyness and mentioned he is often the quietest student in the classroom.

“They get surprised when I talk,” he noted.

He would like the Army to break him and influence him to get out of his introverted shell. Cruz Sanchez already had the opportunity to experience the military lifestyle while on a field trip with German and other students and recruiters at Fort Hood.

“They yelled at them,” German explained. “They did the shark attack when you get off the bus and the sergeant says, ‘Hurry up! Get in formation!’ They got a taste of what it is so it’s not a shock to them.”

The visitors learned “drill and ceremony,” how to march, weapons training with mock artilleries and participated in a friendly competition on the obstacle course. Cruz Sanchez found the on-site museum the most interesting.

“They had vehicles there like the first ones used to semi-modern ones they have. I saw vehicles that I might be fixing on the job,” Cruz Sanchez said.

He is assigned to work as a diesel mechanic and was able to identify parts of the vehicles right away. Cruz Sanchez also noted he liked the organization and structured lifestyle on base.

Cruz Sanchez will graduate on May 31 and will leave June 10 for training in South Carolina.

PAY IT FORWARD

All Lovett has known his whole life is work. He even joked that he was probably going to work after the interview with the Daily Light. To prove a point, he subliminally laid his Lovett Electrical labeled hat on a conference table in the Career Technical Education wing of Waxahachie High School.

That electrical company and his grandfather who established it, along with Lovett's father are the key factors for his enlistment in the military.

Lovett was joined by his U.S. Navy recruitment officer Stephen Nanney, who he communicates with every Monday and sees in person every Thursday. One of the more recent Monday phone calls involved Lovett explaining the car accident that left him with 13 stitches in his face after being t-boned crossing U.S. Highway 287 near Reagor Springs.

“It was kind of a miracle that it wasn’t more serious,” Nanney said as he flashed a bloody photo of Lovett’s face in the hospital.

The life-threatening accident did not interfere with Lovett’s commitment into the Navy but did provide a different outlook on life.

“This entire time his commitment has not wavered and that is what sticks out to me,” Nanney emphasized. “Sometimes with future sailors I have to get onto them about learning the creed or general orders — I never had to do that with him.”

Lovett detailed all the tasks he has committed to since September 2018, one of them memorizing the Navy creed. He muttered the creed to himself and stated the line that meant the most to him.

“I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those that have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world,” he recited.

Lovett prides himself for his work ethic and values that are attributed to his father. In fact, Lovett said once he retires from the Navy, he plans to fill his father’s boots.

After six years in the Navy, Lovett will leave with a knowledge in engineering as he was assigned to the nuclear engineering program due to a high ASVAB score.

He wasn’t expecting that high of a grade or joining nuclear engineering. He wanted to be a construction electrician.

“He scored in the 90s and in any given year we will see six to eight scores that high (at the Cedar Hill office). We get hundreds of applicants a year, so it’s very rare to score that high,” Nanney said.

The Navy utilizes carriers and submarines that are powered by nuclear reactors and the nuclear engineers are responsible for maintaining equipment. Nanney noted the two-year education training for this program was designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With this distinction, Lovett will enter the military with a $30,000 enlistment bonus. His normal paycheck is based on his rank, and since he will enter as a higher rank, E-3, Lovett will be paid more.

“Going forward if you were to decide to re-enlist, you’re looking at $80,000 to $100,000, and that’s every time you re-enlist,” Nanney noted.

Lovett was given a final chance to express the opportunities the military will lead him to and took a long pause to articulate his thoughts.

“There’s always a way out. That’s the message,” he began. “The first probably six years of my life was trailer parks. Low-income has an effect on you and there’s plenty of people that live paycheck to paycheck. We are not quite that way now. Eighty-hour weeks pay off and when you do it for 10, 15 years, you find that you make it out and now we are living in a two-story house with five bedrooms. You can make it, you’ve just got to work.”
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450