A little late with writing today, but all is well. I actually slept a good 6-7 hours. Which has not happened in ages. Guess I wore myself out cleaning out storage bins. Y’all, I am an organized mess. Lol! The bins look nice and neat until you lift the lids. They are filled with items from my military career, undergrad and grad school, bills, letters, pictures, magazines, books, movies, etc. When I say I keep everything, I keep EVERYTHING! Ugh!! I rarely throw anything away. Which is funny because I found a letter from one of my sisters that was written in 2001. She sent me a picture of my nephew and wrote, “I’m sending this to you because you keep everything.” Wow! That’s what I do.
I guess I should attempt to explain why I hold on to so many things. First of all, I shouldn’t refer to all of the items as “things,” but memorabilia. The majority of the items I don’t believe I’ll ever throw away. I have letters from friends and family dating back to 1980s. Last night I found cards my granddaddy sent me for holidays and birthdays. Something I will always cherish. These came from someone who spent his entire life trying to live up to his reputation of being this hard, cold individual. But later in life he would call just to say hello and tell me he loved me, and he would send cards. Then there’s my military memorabilia. I have uniforms, orders from different assignments, awards, evaluations. You name it, I probably have it. Will I part with them? Probably not. As I mentioned, I have work from undergraduate and graduate school. I worked too hard on some of those projects, I just can’t throw them away. My magazines! My magazines date back to the 90s. I have Jet, Essence, Ebony, Sister-2-Sister, Time, Legacy, Sports Illustrated, Beckett Sports, and a few others. I have local magazines. Newspaper articles of events or people I know. Honestly, I do not know what I’m going to do with all of these things. I told my kids that when I buy my forever home, I am going to have a room where I can display everything. I can see myself walking through the room with my grands (children, nieces, and nephews) telling them stories about all of the items. To me, that’s heaven.
Okay, as usual, I got a little off track. I also have pictures.. tons of pictures! I took pictures of everything!! I have pictures from high school. Pictures from basic training. Y’all, I was in there just snapping away. Lol. I have soooo many pictures. Right now I have over 17,000 images stored between my phone and cloud. I just can’t seem to bring myself to delete many of them. They are so much more than pictures. They’re memories! They represent times, places, and feelings. As a child, whenever I would visit family, all I wanted to do was look at old pictures and ask questions- “Who’s this?” “Where was this taken?” Those questions usually led to great stories. Now I have my own stories.
Anyhoo.. as you can see this Hello Sunday is very random. Just felt like sharing. I’m going to glance over it to make sure it somewhat makes sense, but I’m not going to do much editing. This is how I typed out my thoughts so I’m going to leave this as is. Authentically me.
I was 19 years old when I joined the Air Force. Believe me, I had no idea of what I had gotten myself into; however, I knew I had to do something. At the time, I was heartbroken, too grown to continue living with my mother, and I was failing my first semester of college. Yeah.. I needed to do something. So I spontaneously joined the Air Force. Really! I put no real thought into it. As Nike says, “Just do it!” Well.. I did it!
Up until my first full day of basic training, I had no clue of what I had done. I had actually signed eight years of my life away– four active and four inactive, and it was all because I wanted to get away from home. Little did I know that I was giving up my freedom for the sake of others. That at anytime within those eight years I could possibly go to war. So no, I did not join because I was patriotic, I joined to get away.
Anyhoo.. It was during basic training that I discovered my true strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I had no idea my left arm was so strong! Well, I found out my first night/early morning at basic training. You see, my recruiter told me I needed to pack for basic training and technical school (which was to come afterwards). And pack I did! I brought two bags with me, one of which contained laundry detergent and an iron. I had clothes, makeup, shoes and purses. For some reason I had packed like I was going on vacation instead of boot camp. For years I blamed the recruiter when in reality it was all me! All Shaun!! I was like, “I’m not buying stuff I already have.” Too funny! Well, I paid for it.
That night (which was the only time) my training instructor/drill instructor got in my face and yelled at me. She asked me what was I thinking bring all that s**t with me. Y’all, I was soooo embarrassed. I was this 5’1 3/4”, 100 lb, sleep-deprived female being yelled at by a woman at least twice my size– okay, might be over exaggerating, but just a little–in front of over 100 airmen in my section. There were even more airmen further down. Well, of course I wasn’t the only one being yelled at, but it sure felt like it. As I said, I had no idea my left arm was so strong. She made me pick up both of my bags with my left hand and carry them around the building (which I later learned we were already at the entrance but they had to make everything DRAMATIC) and up five flights of stairs without dropping or dragging them. She put me at the end of the line because she didn’t want me “holding up” her line. That was the day I learned to pack light. Carryon luggage, only! Bae-bé, I can pack several days in a carryon. Skills!!
I have so many other stories about my eight weeks at Lackland AFB. To this day, I have no desire to revisit San Antonio. That one stay was enough. Overall, I am so grateful for the experience. Joining the military was like extending my family. The people I worked with, lived with, went clubbing and church with, toured with, all become part of my family. As many of you know, Ramstein, Germany was my first duty station. I knew absolutely no one when I got off the plane. However, I was greeted with so much love and camaraderie. Everyone, from my Chief to my roommate, made sure I had everything I needed. They were my family.
I could write sooo much more, but I don’t have time. Maybe one day I’ll write my memoirs. I’m so grateful God granted me that opportunity and experience. So grateful for all of the wonderful people I met along the way. We really had some good times.
For the past few years I have celebrated Veterans Day with my little sister, who served in the Navy. This year, because of COVID-19, and a few other things, I won’t be able to spend it with her. Our ritual is to get as many freebies as possible. We usually spend the entire day hitting up one restaurant after another. It’s pretty awesome, and even more awesome because we spend the day with our fellow veterans. So I am dedicating this blog to her. Thank you for your service, Shartese! And you too, Sarah!! She’s my other little sister who served in the Army but acts like she didn’t. Lol!
Happy Veterans Day to my fellow veterans; and from one vet to another, thank you so much for your service!
Have you ever felt as if part of your life was missing? Not a person, but your actual life. Yesterday this feeling of loss and sadness overcame me. I couldn’t pinpoint it at first. Then it came to me. I missed being in the military.
I retired almost a decade ago, and yesterday was the first time the feeling hit me so hard. You see, I grew up around soldiers. My first exposure to military life was through my Uncle June. He was in the Army and he made it seem like fun. Probably because he goofed off most of the time. Lol. At the time, he was stationed in Fort Riley, KS and we were living in Topeka. When he visited, he never came alone. He would always bring a few of his Army buddies and the women in our Deer Creek apartment complex would go crazy! Uncle June, Tillery, and another friend would come up on the weekends, drink, play cards, and tell all kinds of wild Army stories. Little did I know, a few years later our family would move to Ft. Riley with my stepdad.
From sixth grade until I joined the Air Force in 1992, I saw soldiers daily. Hence the reason I chose the Air Force (smile). Honestly, I never considered joining the military or being associated with the military. I did not want to go to war. This was around the end of the Gulf War. I did not want to go to the field (military training for war). I did not want a cheating husband (cause they all seemed to cheat). And I definitely didn’t want to take orders from anyone (Ha! Nothing’s changed).
Anyway, about a year before I joined the Air Force, my boyfriend asked me to help him study for the ASVAB (military placement test). He had decided to join the Navy and needed a certain score. I helped him study. He passed the ASVAB, but due to a previous knee injury he couldn’t join. About a year later, I took the ASVAB and joined the Air Force. I had no idea that while I was helping him study, I was actually studying for myself. Crazy, huh?!
I’m smiling as I write because God will give you exactly what you ask for but it is not always what you imagined. When I was in high school, I wrote how I wanted to work for a major corporation, travel the world and speak different languages. Well… I joined the Air Force (major corporation), my first duty station was in Germany (traveled the world), but I never got to speak different languages, something I have always regretted. You see, over the course of middle and high school I had taken four years of Spanish and three years of French. While in basic training I was given the opportunity to take a language test. Taking the test meant another skill set would be added to my profile. Y’all, I was so afraid of failing that I did not take the test. I backed out at the last minute. Funny thing is, I knew both languages almost as well as I knew English, probably better. You know, it amazes me how fear.. little old fear.. can change the entire trajectory of your life. Throughout my career I had other opportunities to take the test, but decided not to. Mostly because I felt as if I was not worthy of the additional opportunities. Like, if I didn’t do it the first time, why would I be given other chances. It was like I was punishing myself for my failure to act. I am so grateful for growth. I have now realized God will give us opportunity after opportunity to fulfill our dreams and purpose. However, it is up to us to recognize them as such and grasp them. They are gifts. Yes, I’m learning.
Anyhoo.. back to missing my military life. Y’all know I get sidetracked. From the moment I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base for basic training, until the time I retired, I wanted to get out. Every day I asked myself why I joined. The ONLY answer I could think of was it was better than joining the Army. Really?!
I cannot lie, I LOVED every moment. I enjoyed the camaraderie. Having a steady paycheck and all of the extra perks. Opportunities to visit different countries (some I took, some I didn’t). Interacting with so many people. Pilots in flight suits (yesss). Fighter jets. Cargo planes. Beefing with ATC (they thought they were God’s gift to the Air Force). My Weather buddies. House parties. Squadron parties. Riding on the airfield when I needed to get away. Yes, that was the life!
Of course there were things I did not enjoy, but looking back, they were minute. Y’all, I am just grateful for the experience. If I had to do it all over, I would. BUT.. I would do it bigger and better. Thinking back, God always placed people around me who encouraged me to aim high (the AF motto). To tap into my full potential. Little did they know, I was too afraid to aim high because I hated the recognition. I hated receiving awards, and I received quite a few. I only wanted to do my job and go home. But they wanted to recognize me. Why? To me, I was doing what everyone should have been doing. It was nothing special. But.. it was!
I received my first commendation medal for my actions after a Boeing-747 cargo plane slid off the runway at Ramstein. It had been snowing heavily all night. The plane was scheduled to land as soon as quiet hours was over at 6:00 a.m. Before they even entered our airspace I had the pilots contacted so they could divert to another base because the snow wouldn’t be removed before they arrived. I even spoke with the crew. They said that they had enough fuel to divert to Frankfurt. Plus, I had already contacted Frankfurt and they had the ramp space. I asked the crew about their crew rest hours. They were good. So nothing was stopping them from diverting. They informed that they had landed in those conditions before. So I informed them that they were landing at their own risk. Tower cleared the snow removal crew from the runway. The plane landed and slid off the end of the runway. This led to the runway being closed for several hours. Which caused other aircraft to have to divert to other bases. At that time, I had only been on the job (in the Air Force) for a year, and the only one on duty. Looking back, that was pretty awesome. I stayed calm the entire time and did my job. To me it was no big deal, just another day at work. I will tell you I am thankful it was recorded because they tried to blame it on me. Bae-bé, I knew what I was doing! I had already made 100% on my 3-level course exam. Lol!
Listen, from now on I am going to seize opportunities. When God opens doors, I will walk through them. Also, I am going to humbly accept all accolades. I’m not going to shy away from them anymore because I am a display for God’s work.
Thank you for reading. I guess you could say this blog was about me coming to terms with a part of my life that I took for granted. A part of my life that I cannot get back, but I can learn from and do better.