JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nearly eight years ago Alecia Calloway was given a neatly folded American flag at a military funeral.
Her husband, 23-year-old Cpl. Isaiah Calloway had died after being wounded in a firefight while serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. During the 2006 funeral service in Jacksonville, Alecia wore a set of metal "dog tags" around her neck to remember her husband's commitment to the Army.
Soon, Alecia will be wearing her own set of ID tags as she joins the Florida Army National Guard.
On Aug. 27 Calloway took the Oath of Enlistment at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Jacksonville, joining the Florida Army National Guard's 2153rd Finance Detachment. Once she graduates from basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., and completes advanced training, "Pvt." Calloway will serve as a Financial Management technician in St. Augustine.
Calloway said some people were initially shocked by her decision to join the Army National Guard since her husband had died while serving and she is raising four children.
"They think I'm crazy," said explained. "They keep saying '(Your children) already lost one parent. Why try to risk your life?' and stuff like that."
According to Calloway, her three girls and one boy - ages 6-12 - were very concerned about the decision to join.
"In the beginning they weren't happy about it because they thought I would be doing the same job their daddy did," Calloway said.
Eventually the children warmed up to the idea and gave her their blessings, as "'long as Mommy doesn't get into harm's way,'" she explained.
Besides it being her life-long dream to join the military, Calloway said her enlistment may also afford her an opportunity to eventually pursue another passion: helping wounded service members. In 2012 she was employed as an Army civilian at Ft. Sam Houston in Texas, working with a medical board helping wounded service members. She said that her experiences with wounded Soldiers were priceless, and she would like to once again try to help "them as they transition to civilian life."
"A lot of them need someone to talk to," Calloway explained. "I was able to listen and they were willing to open up to me because of my experience with my husband."
Although to date, Calloway is just one of the 1,350 Soldiers who have enlisted in the Florida Army National Guard this fiscal year, her willingness to join is an inspiration to Florida Army Guard recruiting force.
"We are proud to have Pvt. Calloway in the Florida Army National Guard's formation, and more importantly we are excited for her to become a member of the Florida National Guard family," said Florida's Recruiting and Retention Battalion Command Lt. Col. Robert Kuster. "She brings enormous attributes to the table such as empathy, resilience and bravery. She is truly an inspiration to us all."
Calloway said her biggest concern about joining will be missing her children during the initial training, since the longest she has been away from them was 2-3 weeks. But in the end, she said she believes the sacrifice will be worth it so she can serve her state and nation in uniform.
"I'm very excited about this," she said. "I've wanted to do this ever since I was in elementary school."