Military career turns out to be right choice for Perrizo
July 30. 2013 9:40AM
When E7/Sargeant First Class Dani Perrizzo hears the “Star Spangled Banner” these days, the country’s anthem gives her chills.
“Every time I hear it, it gives me goose bumps,” she said. “That’s my proud moment.”
But Perrizo, a 1998 Brandon Valley High School graduate, has achieved numerous “proud moments” throughout her 12-year military career. Most recently, she completed a nine-week drill sergeant school. The course, she said, taught her to learn how to instruct – to be more of a teacher – or drill instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, beginning next month.
Her duties at Lackland will largely entail marching soldiers to their classes at U.S. Army English School. She’s one of 12 drill sergeants to land the position and will stay there through August 2015.
But life in the military hasn’t always been a “cushy” profession for Paul and Glo Perrizo’s daughter.
She’s experienced four tours – three to Iraq and one to Afghanistan – and since February has been living out of a suitcase.
A myriad of badges, patches and pins decorate her military attire. The Air Medal, she said is her highest honor. “It’s very rare that people of my job have it,” she informs.
Her drill sergeant medal also ranks high, she adds.
Perrizo’s post-high school plans didn’t initially include the military. But after giving college a try for a semester, she knew she wasn’t ready for that avenue either.
“If I would’ve known what I know today, I would’ve went into the military right away,” she said. “I tried college, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea at the time.”
And not every one is cut out to for the military, she’s learned.
“I struggled,” she admits. “I couldn’t run. I wasn’t physically fit but you just have to say, ‘I have to do this’ and now, it’s easy.”
Perrizo enlisted in the Army after some encouragement by some friends in Air Guard. Three weeks later, she signed the paperwork.
“I needed to leave,” she said. “And I haven’t looked back.”
Her parents, were nothing but supportive of her decision.
“I was supportive, and her dad was, too,” Glo tells.
At that time, Perrizo believed three years would be her limit. But in 2006 with 90 days to decide her future, she re-enlisted.
“I didn’t want to move home and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” she said, “so I re-enlisted for another three years.”
A $19,000 bonus, however, enticed her to re-enlist for another five years.
She remembers signing her enlistment papers in February 2001 and a month later, left Brandon to experience the world via the U.S. Army. These dates are engrained in her mind, as her first day of active duty in Germany was Sept. 1, 2001 – just 10 days before the 9/11 fiasco.
“I remember that phone call well,” says her mother, Glo. “She told us we wouldn’t hear from her for six to eight weeks.”
That was before the Internet was big and Smartphones existed, Perrizo reminds.
“But it really didn’t affect us in Germany. We were safer than anybody in the U.S.,” she said.
While a typical college experience wasn’t in the cards for Perrizo, she has gained a college education while in the Army.
“I knew I needed a college education so I started playing with it,” she said. She considered business administration but went back to pursuing her original degree in psychology.
It was during her second deployment in 2006 that she began online college courses.
At just 32, Perrizo has already begun looking forward to retirement. And she’ll get that opportunity in seven years and eight months when her military commitment comes to a close.
“I’ll be done with my first job,” she says. “Then I’ll find another career.”
That career will likely be in psychology, her major.
“I definitely want to get a master’s in some sort of counseling, possibly working with soldiers with PTSD,” she said.
Because Perrizo hasn’t “looked back” since she signed her enlistment papers in 2001, she encourages other young women – and men – to consider a stint in the military.
“Do it – you only live once,” she says. “It’s a free ticket to see the world, and I’ve learned so much that I don’t think I would’ve learned being a civilian.”