OKEECHOBEE — Dana Goulette joined the Army immediately following high school. She was 18 years old and left for basic training about three weeks after graduation from Okeechobee High School. She was really excited right up until the moment it was time to leave, she said, and then she told her recruiter she didn’t want to go after all, but he talked her into it. It was probably the best decision she ever made, she said.
It didn’t take long to convince her parents to allow her to join the military. She actually signed up at 17, and they had to sign a waiver for her. She left in June of 2007 and went to Saint Louis, Mo. for basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. She spent about five months there doing basic and AIT. She was training as an MP and they were held to a higher standard. There was no break in between trainings to go home, but that was okay, she said. It was probably for the best.
After she finished basic and AIT, she was sent to Korea and spent two and a half years there before being sent to New York.
While in Korea, most of her time was spent working in admin. Unfortunately, she said, she didn’t get to work as an MP much. Although they did patrol the base and outside in the Korean population at different clubs and things just to make sure no one was getting into trouble. Mostly though, she did admin, and she enjoyed it. “Korea is amazing. I wish I would have gone over there with more of an open mind, especially about the food. I wasn’t really open to trying a lot. I wish I could go back and explore more, especially within Seoul, which is like the New York City of Korea. They had everything, eight floors of malls, and the roads were six or eight lanes across. There is a lot of poverty and homelessness, especially war vets. We ran across them all the time in the streets. The first Christmas we were there, in 2007, we fed the homeless, and we ran out in probably 15 minutes. We fed over 100 people. I hadn’t really seen anything like that before, living here. It was very humbling,” she said.
Korea has a lot of pollution, she explained. They have what is called yellow dust season, when all the dust from the factories in China falls onto the cities in Korea, and everything is coated. There are times when it is blowing over, and they weren’t allowed to go outside because they didn’t want them to breathe it in. But it was still beautiful, she said. She got to see Seoul Tower, and just found the people themselves very interesting she said. Korean people have to serve two years in either the Korean army or the American Army. It is mandatory. In order to join the United States Army, they have to meet certain requirements. They are called KATUSA.
There were a couple times she was set to deploy but it never happened, she said.
She returned to the United States in 2009 and was stationed at West Point. There they did a lot of patrols. They did Honor Guard and funeral services. West Point is a very prestigious college for those wanting to become officers, and they did a lot of funerals for military members, she said.
In 2012, she came home. She thought she was done with the military, but she realized she missed it. She ended up joining the reserves and worked in supply for three years. This brought her total service to eight years.
Her original reason for joining was for college. She said she thought about it a little too late and decided that if she wanted to further her education, the military was probably her best option. She had always wanted to be a police officer, but, once she tried it out in the military, she realized it didn’t really fit her personality and wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. When she came home off of active duty, her mom, who is a nurse, suggested she work as a nursing assistant at the hospital and see if she liked it. “I fell in love,” she said. Her military benefits helped pay for all of her nursing degree, her associates, her bachelors, and all but one year of her masters. In mid-August, she will graduate as a nurse practitioner, and the next step will be to take her boards.
She and her husband have twin baby girls, Olivia and Lyla. Mrs. Goulette began clinicals when the girls were only three weeks old. “Working on the last year of my masters with twins was quite an adventure,” she said, “but they are my greatest blessing.”
She has considered going back in as an officer now that she has her masters, but she would have to leave for months on end for training, and she just isn’t ready, she said. “I don’t regret going though. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t gone,” she said.