My Favorite Hat

You know, I’ve worn a lot of hats in my 57 years on this earth so far, wife, mother, lover, nursiepoo, caregiver, volunteer, yet the hat that I’m most proud of is really called a cover…that of an Army vet. No, I was not a lifer, I only spent 4 1/2 years in…however, I did my duty, and I survived being a 4'9" woman and all that goes along with that, I overcame stigmas, and came out a stronger woman because of all I dealt with and had to handle while I was in.

I had several reasons for wanting to enter into the military. First off, I really wanted to join the Navy, my Dad was in the Navy and he really wanted me to see Italy. Well, that never happened. I got close I guess, I took German Head Start as I was being processed out on a medical discharge because of my stupid knees…which I am still dealing with today. I wanted to serve my country. I did that, I was a combat medic and then a laboratory technician/phlebotomist/mediacal assistant, although I was never allowed to finish my course and obtain my license. I never saw combat either, even though someone once accidently pushed the button at Norad and we almost went to Grenada. Lucky me. I also needed to get away from home, be allowed to grow up…and boy did I.

My “career” started out with a fight, I had to have the assistance of teachers, congressman, newspaper and radio to even get in. When the Navy wanted me to grow three more inches, I opted for the Army who only needed one inch more from me than I had to give. (of course I had stopped growing at this point). What they do is have you sign a waiver, then they put it through all the proper channels and low and behold, you are allowed to serve. Why the Navy wanted me to be taller I will never understand. Seems to me the shorter you are, the better you would fit in and around a ship.

My government teacher I give most of the credit to. She is the one who helped me write letters to my congressman about a man that got in and he was only 4' 7", so was this size or sex dicrimination we wanted to know? Next thing you know I was on the cover of the Star Telegram and asked to do a radio interview. Of course, this was 1979 and things were much different back then. Had I known that once in I would be training at a co-ed facility, I might have rethought the whole thing. As it turned out, I was accepted into the Army and 6 months later, my parents got the letter of acceptance from the Navy I’d been waiting for, but neglected to tell me. Their reasoning was that I had already started my career, why would I want to change now?

What they didn’t understand was that I might have recieved better medical training and been sent to a station that would have allowed me to obtain my license. We will never know that now, however, and as it turned out, I’m happy I went down the path I did. I might have never met my wonderful husband of 33 years had my life been different. (Even though I met him after I got out)I would not have had my firstborn son Sean either, or the two I have with David… Joshua and Christopher. I love my boys and my mothering hat is the hat I’m second most proud of. I almost did not have Sean, had it been for my top sargeant at my last post in Korea, he would have been aborted! I’m so glad I was strong in my convictions (that time) and had a mother that wanted to help me (what she really did was take over completely) because had all that not occured, he would never have been born, or he might have been born and given up for adoption.

I won’t go into that story right now, that is a story for another day (what happened with my mother and Sean) what I will say is that I went more places in my four and a half years in the service than most people go in their entire lives! My basic training was at Ft Mc Clellan, Alabama, from there it was on to AIT training in Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio, then on to my first permanent party station in Ft Carsen, Colorado. What adventures I had in all of those three places! Practically as I got off the plane in Colorado Springs, I learned I would be going with my new company to a desert training facility in California. Once I got back, I suffered with mono, so I was sent back home to recover for a month. I lost 14 lbs in 6 days! Anyway, after I returned to Colorado, it was determined I needed to change my MOS for a new one, due to my constant knee injuries. So I went back to San Antonio to go through Medical Lab Training. Then it was 13 months before I got out, so they sent me to Korea to finish my tour.

I got pregnant for Sean there though, so when I was 7 months along, after a huge fight with my top, and counseling from JAG (Army lawyers), I was finally put on a plane (just in the nick of time) and sent home to have my baby. Unfortunately, I did not know who his father was, so I had to go it alone…or so I thought. That is where my mom and family stepped in to help (read take over) and the Army in their infinite wisdom sent me back to Korea. From there I reenlisted for 3 more years and was sent to Killeen, Tx to Ft Hood. Ugh! This was an adventure of a different kind. I am loathe to tell you why, suffice it to say, I learned many bad habits, got in tons of trouble and wished I had never been sent there. My reasoning for picking that place was that I would be able to easily drive home on the weekends to see Sean since we lived in Ft Worth, just a short 3 1/2 hour drive away. What I didn’t think of at the time (being young and dumb) was that I could have gone back to San Antonio and could have flown home for less money than the gas cost to drive every weekend.

I finished my short “career” in Ft Hood, they would never let me go back to San Antonio to finish my schooling because this was once the largest Army base and they said they needed every soldier they had there to stay at their post, supposedly because they were understaffed. Whatever. I ended up going through Head Start because I had recieved orders for Germany (the place I always wanted to go) and then my knees became such a bad problem that the Army suggested a medical discharge or corrective surgery. Well, I was not about to let the military start chopping on my legs, so I opted for the discharge. It was supposed to come with a 10% disability on each leg, yet that did not happen either. Well…after I got married I went to the VA and finally fought for a couple a bucks a month. Now I am 57 and need a total knee replacement on my right knee, however, I decided to try the stem cell injection instead.

So as you can see, I saw many places and had lots of adventures in my 4 1/2 years in the military. I learned the trade I spent 22 years perfecting, I was an excellent phlebotomist and worked in a Cancer treatment center for the majority of that time. I learned teamwork, efficiancy, and time management. I learned that if anything ever happened to my marriage or my husband (God forbid) were to die, I can survive. I learned how to defend myself. I learned I can fight off a rapist. (twice) I learned how to stay true to myself, even when there were multiple chances for me to become someone/something else. I had a gay roomate for a year, that did not change me. I was a wild child, yet I did not view myself as a bad person, I just made a few bad choices. I ended up with a happy life, a fantastic family, three charming and good looking sons, and a career that I could be proud of. Going in the military to escape my home life turned out to be one of my best decisions ever and shaped the person I am today.