Friday, November 12, 2010

The life of a Military sorta wife

In the event that this week happens to be host to Veteran's day and the 235th Marine Corp Birthday
I wanted to share how the military has had a personal effect on my life.
From a young kid to an adult, it has always been there. 
Little me
Growing up, the only person I knew of who had anything to do with the military was my grandpa. He served in the Marines when he was a youngin’ and fought in World War II, Guadalcanal and was called back for the Korean Conflict. Even though he was long retired from a civilian job when I was little, there was a tone in his voice and crease in pants that reminded you where he came from. You could bounce a quarter off the beds in his house (in fact my mom and her siblings had to when they were growing up!) He still sported the High and Tight hair cut and had lots of military paraphernalia around the house. He was a stern man and I remember he was the one person growing up that I was scared to mouth off to, interrupt or misbehave around or I would surely get a harsh punishment.
Grandpa & Grandma

Grandma Ellen

 As I grew older, I learned of other family members who were part of the military as well. 
My grandma was part of WAC (Woman's Army  Corp.) during the war while grandpa was deployed. She lived in San Diego in Ocean beach doing paperwork. Their son, my uncle, who went to war to fight in Viet Nam as an Army helicopter mechanic that doubled as a door gunner when needed. Sadly it seems he has dealt with the repercussions of that war ever since. My own dad, who was drafted into the Navy but able to get out after boot camp since he was needed at home.

I remember finding his Navy Peacoat in the closet when I was younger and my mom telling me he had been a sailor for a few short months. It seemed so unreal, and almost unnerving that there was a past that I didn’t know about it.

Dad in his Uniform
In high school the recruiters would come and talk to students. I took the ASVAB with some friends just to see what we would score but never intended to enlist. Recruiters called my house and mom would tell them she would NEVER allow her daughter to join. A few guys from school did after graduation but living in Seattle, a pretty liberal and democratic area… joining the military at 18 isn’t the norm.

Flash Forward 2 years, I am going to college and working at Ace Hardware. My best friend Amy, who has plans to join the police academy, comes to meet me in the parking lot at closing. This is when she tells me she joined the Marines. I am speechless. She explains that she just decided it was a good move and will help her later on in her future career as a cop. She didn’t tell anyone this was even on her mind. She just went down to the recruiting office  one afternoon and signed over her life.

Amy in Iraq
I remember going home and telling my parents that night. My mom cried and asked if Amy understood what she had just done. This was 2003. We were in a war. Amy was reassured by her recruiter that there was NO WAY she would get deployed. First of all she had to go through boot camp which would take months, then get assigned to a specific job, sent to somewhere else for training…. By the time she was deployable, we would be out of the Middle East.
She didn’t have to worry about a thing! HA.
They also told her since she was a woman; she was less likely to get sent as well. Double HA.
Flash Forward 8 months, Amy gets out of boot camp and is immediately deployed to Iraq.
Surprised? Me neither.

After she came back to the states, she was based at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside ,CA. My friend Rindi and I went down to visit her for a long weekend. We met all her new friends, people we felt like we already knew because we had been hearing about them for the last year in letters Amy would send us. 

Liz & Tasia in Iraq ( The friends we would read about in Amy's letters home)

It was my first time in San Diego and I was in love immediately. On the flight home, Rindi and I decided we needed to move. We told our friends and they laughed, we told our parents and they laughed and told us they wouldn’t support us financially. We told our work and gave notice of 6 months. They realized we were serious. This would give us enough time to save for the move and find an apartment and new jobs in California.

Me & Rindi in San Diego for the first time

Our first Visit. Who wouldn't want to move here?!
April 2005 we loaded up the Uhaul and headed South. Arriving 2 days later in Oceanside at our little apartment with job interviews lined up for the next day.
We did it. (this is another blog in it’s self)

It was living here for the next 2 years of my life that I really learned what the military was all about. We made friends who we will have for life. We learned about what it is like to report to “the man”, go to war, say goodbye and lose loved ones. We watched new recruits join the battalions and old ones get promoted and move up in rank. We went to the Marine Corp. balls and pinning’s when promotions happened. We cut hair on Sunday nights and waited for Friday pay days to go out dancing .I hate to use the term " Groupie" because that gives the wrong idea. We weren't sleeping around or tagging along in envy. It was basically like Rindi and I lived as “Military Wives” but weren’t married to anyone. We partied with them, hosted thanksgiving dinners for them and tried to be family when they didn’t have anyone else around. Throughout it all, I watched my friends become something special, something honorable and courageous. We watched the wives we had become friends with send their husbands off on deployments. I even experienced it first hand with my own boyfriend at the time.

Let us reminisce

Toga Party at the Barracks

The girls- Marines not wives

Tasia deploying for the 2nd time

USMC Ball 2006 Amy, Rindi, Sara, Logan and Josh

USMC Ball 2005 Sara, Mae, Rindi, Amy(preggo) and me

Hanging out at the Barracks

Country dancing at the Stampede


Throughout all the good times Rindi and I were having, the bad times some of them were having never went unnoticed. The group of friends we made consisted of  people who had deployed together to Iraq the year before. It was evident the effect the war had on a lot of them. I could never imagine what it must have been like for them. We heard all the war stories that they joked about as they told them, but you know they were shitting themselves when they actually happened

Amy and Liz in Iraq

Tasia, Liz, Sara

Liz & Amy
I think it really hit home one night when we had a sleep over after a party and one of the guys next to me woke up in the middle of the night with Night Tremors and flew off the bed. It scared the crap out of me. These poor guys, they would never be the same. They gave more than their 9 month/ 1 yr tour; they gave their lives, because there is trauma they will deal with forever.

As my grandpa got older, he also showed the effects of PTSD. It can creep up on you at anytime and sometimes takes years. He had trouble going in the walk in closet in his bedroom. It brought flash backs from Guadalcanal, when he had to enter enemy caves with no weapon but a knife in his hand.

Grandma came to visit me while I was in San Diego and we went to her old apt where her and grandpa lived while he was stationed down there. She was excited that I was living in the same area and around Marines like she had .

As always, with the good times, comes the bad. I learned it was more than just a saying. I saw it play out in real life. So this Veteran’s Day, I want to say thank you. I have learned what it means to “serve your country” and to do the job that many of us are far to scared to do ourselves.

We wouldn’t have what we do today without you.

That’s my story and I’m stickin to it.


Lindsi said...

Thank you for this insight!

Becky said...

I love this post!!!! I feel we both have the same outlook. Very touching!

Angela said...

Great post Gracie! Really makes you think about all the woman and men that have put their lives on the line for us.

Anonymous said...

hi i just came across your blog- if you keep in touch with any of your friends from SD, or for your uncle- vets get 5 years free medical care at the VA, try to encourage your oif/oef vets to take advantage of that. Also, the last few years we have seen excellent progress in treating PTSD- mainly with Prolonged exposure therapy (PE), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), or EMDR. Also there will be an excellent inpt program opening soon in SD. PTSD is terrible, but it does not have to be lifelong. Thank you for your story and your support of your friends

Anonymous said...

sorry, post-9/11 vets get five years free