Airman Laura Bergeron did not think graduation day would come.
But the first lonely, addled weeks of basic military training had given way to resolve, then confidence.
"You make friends, build relationships," the 26-year-old from Connecticut said in an interview with Air Force Times. "You build a backbone you didn't know you had. You see yourself progressing, your trust building with the MTIs. It becomes addicting. You want to know how far you can go."
Bergeron came from a military family: Her grandfather had served in the Air Force, her father and a sister in the Navy. Another sister is in the Army. Her decision to join them was a long time coming. But after five years of thought, of working two jobs and going to school and trying to do it all, Bergeron wanted something more. She visited a recruiter; on Sept. 9, she arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland after a long day of flights and layovers.
The initial sternness of her military training instructors gradually softened. One day, after she and her flight gave a poor performance during physical training, they braced for a chewing-out that never came.
"We expected to be yelled at," Bergeron said. "Instead, he talked to us like a father."
She worked all the harder so as not to disappoint him.
On Nov. 7, Bergeron marched along the graduation parade field. As she stepped up to receive a coin from MTI Tech. Sgt. Enden Harrington, she caught a glimpse of her teary-eyed parents and that same MTI.
She was overcome.
"You could see his pride and why he enlisted," she said. "It made you want to make him proud."
Bergeron will serve in the Air National Guard.