Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier!

Almost 18 years ago, I was driven to Ft. Jackson South Carolina on a Grey Hound bus alongside 3 other young girls who were just as anxious as I was to get to Basic Training started and over with. We heard nothing but horror stories and were ready to take on this new chapter in our lives like any soldier would, with bravery and zeal! I still remember what it felt like to see my drill sergeant for the first time. He was a 6 ‘1”, muscular African American man. He put the fear of God in me from the moment I saw him. My heart sank as I heard him step onto the bus and scream, “You have about 2 seconds to get your butts off my bus and help me start earning my pay…NOW MOVE!”
Needless to say, I moved alright, but apparently it was not quick enough because before I knew it I was faced down in the front leaning rest position staring at his nicely shined boots! I remember him screaming at me to get use to my reflection in his boots because that is where I will stay for the next 8 weeks! And believe me he was right!  I was an Asian version of a Private Benjamin. I had a cute bob  hair cut that hit just above my collar, always had a tube of lipstick handy in my BDU jacket and marched my cute self around like I was something! Oh, I was something alright, I was a mess! I had no clue back then!! But life was about to change for this Southern Bell and fortune cookies and fried chicken would not be there to comfort me any longer!
I quickly learned to obey all orders and listen to detail (something I still struggle with-lol). Making beds with hospital corners, scrubbing the grout between bathroom tiles over, over and over again, and dusting in places you never dreamed of were just a few things that made Basic Training….not so fun! Then there were those long runs at 5 a.m. after only 2 hours of sleep, not to mention long road marches in the rain, through sand and with 30 pounds strapped to your back, carrying an M16 while holding back tears from your back aching and blisters on your feet(Gosh, I sound like my parents talking about their past days-lol).  You get what I am saying….So, many times, I wanted to give up and go home. I missed the comfort of home, mom making my bed and doing my laundry! I remember thinking so many times, “Why did I sign the dotted line for this, I am a woman, I could be at home getting my nails done and enjoying a latte!”. But no,  I wanted adventure, I wanted a challenge, I wanted the honor of saying, “ I am an American Soldier!” . Well, now I can say that! I served for 6 years. My MOS was a dental hygienist. I know what some of you might be thinking…easy job! I am here to tell you that the medical people in the military have long hours too and serve in ways that most people take for granted. Sure, we had tents in the field but we would see hundreds of soldiers in just a couple of hours all through the night.  Not to mention that looking into people’s mouths all day long is not what I would call a glorious job.  Who likes looking at blood filled spit and smelling horrendous breath? Believe me; you see things that would make you gag and think twice about kissing another human being…just saying!-lol
I was blessed to serve in Wurzburg ,Germany with 3rd ID  on my first tour for 3 years. I loved that assignment. Thankfully, I did not have to deploy during Desert Storm because of pregnancy.  I met some great friends that even today I am still in contact with. After that, I was in Fayetteville, North Carolina for the last 3 years of my commitment.  I know 6 years is only a drop in the hat for most career soldiers but it was long enough for me to appreciate the role of a soldier and what their families do on a regular basis.
I learned that a heart of a true soldier is commitment to his or her country. Let’s be real, there is a lot of “stuff”( this is a nice word to replace the profane 4 letter word)that you have to do.  Of course, at the time you don’t know this or it doesn’t make any sense, but there is always a purpose to the constant drills and exercises you do.  Kind of like life is now when you are enduring life’s struggles, you have ti trust in the process. Trust, now there is a word! It was about being stretched beyond myself at times and trusting in the people who were in charge of me. It was about being able to be flexible and redirect at a moment’s notice. Ask any soldier and they will tell you that it is always, “Hurry up and wait!”
At the time, those things just seemed like things you did, but what I learned as a soldier was something that I would gleam from the rest of my life! Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and I am honored to say that I served my country for a short time and more so I am the wife of a soldier!!  I put the uniform on, trained with the best and believed in a cause bigger than myself….Freedom!
I look back and reflect with a smile. I have a ton of stories, being abandoned in woods for hours, having a 4ft  black water moccasin fall into my water filled fox hole, throwing hand grenades, and driving a Bradley tank one mile with style!It was all an experience that I will never forget. But mostly, I remember the camaraderie I formed with fellow soldiers, the encouragement, the tears and the moments shared while wearing the uniform. We held a special bond that was connected through a commitment to defend and serve our country no matter what orders came down. There was a purpose and we were all moving in the same direction with unity.  You don’t find that often these days. Mission accomplished is what we wanted to hear at the end of the day! Or, “Well done, good and thy faithful servant!”
The Apostle Paul tell us in 2 Timothy that we all need to be like soldiers, to take on our trials with bravery and perseverance. To know who our real Commander and Chief is and please Him with obedience.  We can learn much from our soldiers in the military. They serve selflessly every day, they sacrifice a lot and all because they believe in a cause, they believe in something bigger than themselves.

My prayer this Veteran’s Day is that we can be thankful for all those that have given their life for freedom. Also, I pray that we can gleam from their daily examples of obedience, commitment and sacrifice. Hug a soldier today, let them know that they are important and that they make a difference. Don’t take them or your freedom for granted because it was bought with a price!  Pass this gift on by educating  your children on the history of this great nation. Pass the gift on of what a soldier did for you today!
God bless this great nation and God bless every soldier and their families, both present and past!!!