Kenisha Wilkerson was drawn to military service, despite some initial uncertainty.
"I was a little confused at first," said Wilkerson. "I was going back and forth, like, 'uhh, I might not be built for the Army.' But I knew I wanted to serve."
Growing up as the daughter of a veteran, Wilkerson saw firsthand how military service could provide a steady paycheck, educational opportunities, and a dependable pension. Now a 29-year-old captain, she values the sense of stability, self-sufficiency, and purpose the Army has brought to her life.
"I like being able to give back," she said. "It may not be directly to every individual citizen, but I feel like I'm a part of something that's greater."
But she's also acutely aware of the stress it puts on her family, separating her, at times, from those she loves most.
"I was deployed, and my great-grandmother passed away, and I wasn't allowed to come back," she recalled. "There's guilt that comes with not being there for your family when they need you."
Looking ahead to the next chapter of her life, she's weighing how her commitment to the Army fits into her future. Wilkerson hopes to serve another fourteen years but says she'll have to make the hard choice to step away from military service if it comes at the expense of her family life.
"I don't want to go twenty years, retire, and I have nobody to my right and my left because I've neglected them by constantly putting the Army needs in front of my personal needs," said Wilkerson. "My healing is my family."
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org