America's Military

Pfc. Calla Ann Armenti is a mortuary affairs specialist assigned to the 111th Quartermaster Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Trans. Brigade (Expeditionary)

Unit: 111th Quartermaster Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Trans. Brigade (Expeditionary)

MOS: 92M - mortuary affairs specialist

Hometown: Sterling, N.J.

Age: 25

Time in service:  17 months

Describe yourself: “Hardworking, short (in height), kind and very pragmatic. I tend to be a little bit of a know-it-all because I do a lot of research.”

Pastimes: “I read and I have this terrible habit of picking up new (musical) instruments for about three weeks, then putting them down.”

Does this mean you’re not committed to things? “I wouldn’t say that, but I’m fascinated by so many things that it’s hard to focus on one.”

Worst fear: “Fully trying and failing.”

Favorite quote: “I don’t know the specific words right off the top of my head, but it is a Marlene Dietrich quote. It’s something about … ‘How I absolutely love quotes because there something so simple about another person phrasing up what you’re thinking.’” (Actual quote: “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.”)

Something that would surprise people about you: “How many different interests I have – I like studying psychology, philosophy, writing, reading and art. I like to think I’m a Renaissance woman.”

A celebrity or historical figure you would like to meet: “I would like to meet Rebecca Sugar. She is like a cartoon creator, musical artist, illustrator and writer.  She’s so influential, but she’s not very well known. I would ask her how she decided to do everything rather than narrow it down to one thing.”

When you have been most satisfied: “Being home with my family.”

A life-changing event: “It wasn’t one event but a group of things that all happened at once. My uncle was in a life-changing motorcycle accident about three days prior to my 20th birthday, and he was left comatose and severely brain damaged. Even now, he’s wheelchair-bound and completely dependent on others. He is too bad to be even put in a home. That has put a lot of strain on my family. That same night, I had a cousin who slipped into a coma. She was battling cancer. I actually went to her funeral on my birthday. About two weeks later, a different uncle suddenly passed away. So, all those things kind of culminated around the same event. The experience grounded me more; I realized I had to get to work on progressing my life and not just floating around. I’ve always been appreciative of life, but I think it made me focus on the fact that all these people I love in my family … they can just disappear tomorrow.”

What you believe in: “I believe in myself, my family and my personal faith; I’m Catholic.”

Talk about your upbringing: “I grew up in a great small town. We are a very tight-knit, Italian group. I grew up thinking my cousins were siblings because we were all so close. I think of my uncles as my fathers and my aunts as additional moms. Same thing with my grandparents.”

Why you joined the Army: “I always wanted to join. My original goal was to enlist at age 18, but my family was dead-set against me ever going into any military branch. Eventually, I just didn’t let their decision affect my life choice.”

It took you seven years to muster the courage to confront family members? “They stole my passport and Social Security Card so I couldn’t enlist.”

Were they against women joining the military? “It wasn’t that in particular. They find women in the military extremely brave. It was me – their daughter, granddaughter and niece.  They didn’t want me putting my life at risk. Now, they’re proud of me.”

How did they indicate their pride? “On Main Street, they hung a banner for Memorial Day with my name on it. It included the names of my grandfather, my cousin and my uncle – all of whom had served.”

Your expectations upon joining the Army: “I definitely thought it would be less like an everyday job. I thought we would be doing more of the bigger-picture things on a regular basis.”

Why you chose your MOS: “I was on rotation at the Richmond morgue, and prior to enlisting, I had been a funeral director and worked on remains all the time. I realized just anyone doing this job probably wouldn’t get a lot out of it. For somebody like me, however, especially somebody who’s worked with loved ones, I think it is so important the care you take with each and every set of remains. It’s important to me because it’s a pride thing.”

What it means to wear the uniform: “It’s like being a real-life superhero.”

Best thing about the Army: “The opportunities.”

Worst thing about the Army: “The young people; the 18-year-olds.”

Where you see yourself in five years: “Finished with my bachelor’s degree in business management while transitioning to the officer corps.”