Forget about posterity. Writing is about here and now. Some of my friends would take issue with what I’m about to say, but writing is, or can be, a form of therapy.
We began, 22 miles, from Bridgeport Connecticut and kayaked across the Long Island Sound. The wind against my face, the sights and sounds of ducks dancing and fishes doing the moon walk across the green, blue, and black of the water was not only breath taking but also calmed my PTSD symptoms.
Three Asian ladies
with bent and twisted frames
youth long gone
gathering bottles and cans
from the streets of NYC,
a scene that transports me
back in time
to the tangled maze of rivers and
vast rice paddies along the delta
Military spouses often have to find creative careers. Or rather, creative ways to reinvent and keep their careers thriving throughout a lifetime of moves.
In the military, when someone outranks you, you keep your mouth shut and you keep working. Even when it means losing your lunch.
Yes, World War II vets had it hard, but they also had it easy compared to most, if not all, generations to come before or after. Sure, their war was long and tough, but their homecoming was, and still is, unmatched. A popular war, or more like a war with a clear purpose and victory, will do that, but in many ways, World War II veterans are the beneficiaries of failure.
I'm not saying life would be better without the military, I'm saying it would be easier.
Our recent move has been particularly hard because we went from being close to a military community to living in a civilian population. We have no access to any military services or to military spouses who can relate to what I am going through. But I found acknowledging the feeling of loss as a great start and an opportunity for me to focus on finding a way to get over this “grief”.
...we have an example of history repeating itself—or at least rhyming. No, not the history that Trump and his ilk espouse. That one is full of ignorance, even if it’s an ignorance that, one assumes, helps them sleep. It’s a history so filled with lies that one has to assume, as the saying goes, that they want to be doomed to repeat it.
Ultimately, it's not up to the soldier as to how much stuff they're assigned.
This is a question I'm often asked. What part is the hardest about being married to a military man? For whatever reason – probably curiosity – people ask, thinking they can better understand the armed forces (or maybe just me) by hearing my answer.
the latest craze
it's all the rage
from network news
to the front page.
I've been very vocal lately about the recent race riots in Virginia. I am vehemently opposed to the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, and a bit conflicted with my chain-of-command, mostly with the Commander-in-Chief. For those that have asked why, I recite here:
It wasn’t so much that, but rather the book itself spoke of hidden currents in Europe. It exposed the lie that during WWII it was only the Germans who had carried out race-based atrocities and any non-German collaborators were long dealt with, when this was not the case. In France and elsewhere there was a collective guilt that had not been properly dealt with. It’s amazing how some people can voice something already in your mind—something that hadn’t yet been formulated into a thought—and almost rearrange your worldview.
My favorite movie is Good Will Hunting. I saw it for the first time shortly after the movie was released in January of 1998. I was 16 years old and found myself enjoying everything about the movie; pretty soon I was able to quote whole scenes much to the delight (and shortly annoyance) of my friends and family.
In April, I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was not my first visit, and I’m sure it will not be the last one. I visited with a group of fellow writers, and we took the subway down. Even though I live in the Bronx, I had not taken the subway in quite some time, a year or more. I simply had no need. Where I was living at the time, driving became more important than using the subway.
Where am I now? I am twenty-four years old, in a nonsensical Balkan country, wondering, what’s next? In the upcoming months, I’ll be with my girlfriend on some beach in South America, getting ready to come back to the states and then moving into an average sized apartment with her, only to go to a butt-fuck Middle Eastern country again to make a little bit of cash.
Recently a friend of mine took his own life and joined the ever growing number of veterans who take their lives daily. I wrote this in his remembrance, due to the fact I’ve been so down on life and constantly have thought of my own personal battles and thinking about taking my own life because of what I’ve perceived as failures and shortcomings.
In January 2006, ABC reporter Bob Woodruff found himself in the wrong place and time in the Middle East. He was reporting from the hatch of an armored vehicle when a 125mm shell, also known as an IED, exploded. Mr. Woodruff and his cameraman were filming when it happened, which is quite possibly why they were attacked. Their bodies were sticking out of the vehicle like a sore thumb, which made for an easy target.
As a society, we have placed a premium on education. It is seen as transformative, able to elevate people out of difficult circumstances, and the catalyst for improvement in both individuals and communities. Today, in the United States, education is a fundamental quality-of-life issue. But the ways in which our culture discusses education are highly limited.
As a child I used to believe in just wars, trusting my elders and being able to isolate evil people in the world. All part of my miseducation, I suppose. I’ve come a long way and now look back at this time as an odd dream. I think back in anger at all that was fed to me through school and elsewhere. This is not to say that I am simply some malcontent.
Perhaps I was shipwrecked, philosophically speaking, but I managed to take in the glorious north with its iced hills shimmering under the low and golden light. On the hike back out I realized that I hadn’t had my heart in the hike. I was hit with a harsh sense of loneliness and nihilism, which the desolate Arctic air only exacerbated. I longed to see my friends back in Denali and to have a few beers, though this time I wouldn’t have any stories to share.
There is much talk about the veteran civilian divide. Indeed, there is plenty separating those from Sparta and those from Babylon—to butcher a pair of historical metaphors—but as a writer, I know there’s plenty they have in common, and one thing in particular: their reaction to writers, negative, as it were.
After being accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman while on temporary assignment in Virginia Beach, Petty Officer First Class Gregory Kyle Seerden, 31, of Missouri, had his cell phone confiscated by the he Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Iraq was the prime mover. Sure, my ex kicked my ass, and boot camp also put my butt into gear. But Iraq was the tipping point. It’s what politicized me. So much so that I have changed my legal middle name
When I left the Army, I confused physical courage with some of the greatest aspects of this country—or humanity, for that matter. I think many veterans share this sentiment, as it’s part of the culture we’ve given so much to.
If a man says he is going to kill himself, we have a straightforward piece of information to work with. If a man is at risk for a fatal disease, like a heart attack or lung cancer, and refuses to change his behavior, how should we consider that?
Adulting is hard. If you have lived on this earth at least forty years or more and engaged in the hopes and failures of this world, you know this. You also know that it takes unexpected kindnesses to make the super hard days tolerable and the next day “get-up-able”. Community is key.
Veteran privilege. This a phrase that invokes a broad range of reaction depending on who the audience is. From bland nonchalance to foaming mouth religious fervor, the American public’s feelings about veteran privilege runs a gamut of emotions. Does veteran privilege exist? Some people would reason that yes; given the advantages veterans have in obtaining government employment, the almost automatic respect veterans are given, and the retail discounts that many corporations are generous enough to offer military warriors, veteran privilege exists in many forms.
Sometime in early ebruary I first came across the phrase " veteran privilege" in a comment on a Blog Entry -- the location of which now escapes me. I was immediately taken aback because I related it to the current references to the phrase, "white privilege," which apparently means that just being white as opposed to anything else confers, in and of itself, and regardless of any other factors, privilege.
It takes a strong personality to be a military spouse. Even the quiet ones have to build up a confidence in knowing they can run a household – at the drop of a hat – while their spouse is called to duty. This can be for a few days at a time, all the way up to over a year. As a milspo, you never know what you're going to get. However, there are some things that can help make life easier.
There's no denying that Tricare is one of the biggest benefits of becoming a service member. Now that premiums are hitting all-time highs for mediocre coverage at best, it's a huge advantage to have top-notch healthcare for your family- especially when it's paid for. While in years past this was still a positive, as insurance markets and healthcare changes, it's become more and more valuable.
As a milspo, frequent moves are a given. Every few years you'll switch duty stations through a full-on move.
For some of us in the military, this is the time where we get reminded that we are out there living in a foreign town or country with no family living close by.
... I get the whole military haircut thing. Long hair is distracting. It's messy and it makes you stand out in all the wrong ways. It's absolutely a rule that should be enforced. But so are all of the rules.
As a Milspo – that's military spouse – I'm often thanked for "my service." It's a statement to which I never know how to respond. I'm not serving … unless I brought you a stack of pancakes and refreshed your coffee (which, BTW I haven't done in years).
...I learned of free spousal classes. Offered on post for newbies (as well as those who are "nearly new"), it's put on by the MWR. (Morale, welfare, and recreation) It comes with a tour, rundowns of the area, an overview of services, and the ability to meet other newcomers while you're there. A priceless resource, I now realize.
To remove abstraction and create clear delineations between two sides is the most efficient way to distract and maintain order. To give room for nuance is to give space for a questioning of systems of oppression. Without shades of gray, blacks and whites crush the other hues.
No one can ever prepare themselves for a deployment, not even spouses who've experienced it multiple times; it's a level of stress that the brain tends to discount for sanity
Being a new military spouse can be a huge change in one’s life. I am now a military wife of 12 years and though we married young, we have survived all the challenges. I would love to share what worked for us.
In my just-over-two-years as a military wife, my life has completely changed. I've learned "the system," moved states away from "home," and taken on an entirely different form of reality. No, I didn't change my morals or beliefs, nor vastly adjust spending habits – the military still leaves you with an identity, after all.
In Tim O’Brien’s masterful, short-story collection, The Things They Carried, the first-person narrator talks about returning to Vietnam with his daughter twenty years after he was a foot soldier there. While fictional, the story isn’t too far off for many Americans, who have returned to Vietnam on vacation
One of the worst things about being deployed was being trapped on the base all the time. On the occasions that I did get to venture out, I was restricted to when and where I could go. I understood the necessity of the restrictions, but would have really liked more freedom to explore my surroundings.
In the military world, there's a certain pattern you get used to. You go somewhere new, knowing nothing and no one; it's terrible. Then gradually, over time, things get to be not so bad. You make friends, you find hobbies and stores you like. Then, about the time you're used to your new home, it's time to up and leave and start the whole process over again.
Propane in kitchen over
Hot bread over propane
Donkey pulls cart of propane white, seeds road with stink bomb
Shit piss dishwater stream from compound gate
Skinny crooked river
Pool in center
Weapon points level behind armor
Ragged edges of faded photographs crumble
from my touch as I try to pry them loose
from yellowing plastic protectors, all still held
prisoners in a decomposing album
The contract that I signed when I joined the Army reflected that I would serve no more than the four years that I signed up for. I put in a little overtime during that stretch (in those days you had to treat the military contract like a + 1 wedding invite; the + 1 in my case reflects the extra year of overseas duty after I got stop-lossed).
Long-distance relationships are hard under any circumstances. Add in stress of danger, work, separation of home life, and more (you know, the other stuff that comes from being deployed, not just on a work trip), and it's a scenario that's downright painful. Yet there are plenty of spouses who live this reality every single day.
Back when my husband worked in TRADOC (that's training + doctrine), he told me a story I've never forgotten. It was about a call they got at basic training: a wife called because her husband wasn't getting his mail quickly enough. His drill sergeants had a field day. The man got in a world of trouble, and his mail never came any faster – it simply took as long as it took.
The military life is not an easy one, adding parenthood to the mix complicates it even more. As parents we have a huge responsibility to raise our children to be the leaders of this world and in my opinion, it is our responsibility to expose them to the world, to teach them to think outside the box and to appreciate the little things in life
In today’s world raising children is not an easy feat. There are a lot of external factors that affect parenting styles. Adding the adversities brought on by a military lifestyle complicates everything even more. Our military children are forced to deal with a lot of life challenges at a very young age and it is our job as parents to help them overcome these life stressors and teach them how to be resilient.
My better half thinks my aversion to taking hikes is a little odd. I try not to say much, but for the most part being amongst the splendid silence of nature does nothing for me and even less for my soul—assuming I have one. This isn’t just a function of my relationship with my significant other. Many others have recommended hiking or backpacking to me as a prescription for an obvious illness that I have, and yet which no one can name.
Like any responsible fashion-conscious New Yorker, I follow every luxury retailer on Instagram. It is a hardship to keep up with all of the trends, a social media minefield of knowing things like what is the current it-bag and making sure not to carry it, myself. The goal after all, is to be trendy without being like everyone else.
I decided to go to Barnes & Noble during my lunch break. I usually tell myself I’m just going to browse but wind up spending money I don’t have and adding to an ever-growing unread book pile. During the visit, I picked up Portraits of Courage, a book by former President George W. Bush
“Oh, you were in the Army? I could never do that. I can’t even do a pullup. And, I like to wear makeup.” I might be paraphrasing just a bit, but it’s pretty similar to the response I hear after a new female pal learns that I’m an Army veteran. No questions or curiosity regarding what life in the military is like, just that immediate barrier thrown up between us.
When I was a grunt in the military, I remember our reaction to the now still ubiquitous “Thank you for your service” (TYFYS). It speaks to the element of Sparta that I was a part of that few people around me were not against the war and in the particular unit I was in, to include myself, many were for it. I won’t bother with the anthropological explanation for this phenomena, but I do want to paint the background to our reactions.
As the oldest of four kids, and second oldest of twenty grandchildren, I’ve had my share of opportunities in leading others. Accountability rested on my shoulders. My elders directed their questions to me if we did not complete our chores
Whilst in a heavy dream state, the kind that weighs your head down with pressure, I nearly poked my eye out with my thumb. This awakened me. A reflex reaction, similar to a mosquito bite, or an inner itch in the ear - the jerk surprised me more than the piercing pain.
After much deliberation I decided to leave active duty military service and return to my mother’s home in New York. It was March 2002 and I was an E-5 sergeant and had been one for all of six months. Back in the unit I should still have been considered a buck sergeant but I do not remember ever being called one following the attacks.
These United States of White America, my Drill Sergeant barked at us one day. If you can’t tell, this DS’ bark marked the start of the block of instruction meant to teach us about race.
Political opinions are formed in many ways- personal beliefs, experience, and more all play a role. Oftentimes we agree or disagree with an issue almost immediately, without taking the time to stop and think, "Why do I feel this way?"
To make a villain of the “other” is not a foreign American concept. Sure, xenophobia has its roots in the pre-colonial destruction of indigenous culture. Fast forward through the American Revolution and the heinous nature of both past and modern day slavery of the African people, to the treatment of the arrival of other immigrants.
I hoped that Kaepernick’s protest would shed a light on the legitimate fears of the African-American community; I prayed that Trump’s spoiled special sauce of racism, misogyny, and fear mongering would prove to be too outdated to win the presidential election; and I wished my feelings of trepidation, concerning the direction of this country, would disappear and prove groundless and without merit because my country was inherently good and blessed by God (or so I was force-fed as a youth) and thus this blip of national selfishness and demagoguery would dissipate.
And once again, I must point out how Trump is merely a symptom of a greater sickness now flaring up in our great nation—and across the world, as it were. The Muslim ban, in direct contradiction to what the first amendment states, puts to lie the idea that the right ever cared about the Constitution.
With the election of Trump and the dismemberment of our freedom of religion clause, I’ve heard more and more people, people of color especially, talk about not feeling at home here in America, that this nation was slipping from their hands.
It's the ongoing question that doesn't seem to have a right answer, or really, an answer at all. What should happen to Bowe Bergdahl? The Army soldier who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was captured/imprisoned by the Taliban for five years.
And as we make sure that millions, if not billions, are subject to the twin horsemen of our bombs and climate change while also fearing their exodus (or rather, escape) as a “horde” (or “rapefugees” as the alt-right and pro-Trump crowd calls them), anyone with a shred of humanity should understand how these fears are akin to “reasonable” fears of the past. Fears that led to the Nazis and their ilk.
There is a steep cost to having the luxury of free speech. As a nation we praise the first amendment; believing that people having the right to say what they want is the first step in building a democracy. I’ve seen both the scholar and the fool expound on their constitutional right to speak their minds...
...I saw that even if it isn’t veterans in the force causing this latest attack on oppressed people, the system that so easily labels terrorists overseas is now labeling these BLM activists in the same way.
It takes, I suppose, a special kind of ignorance to “find” or “discover” slavery, and even to pretend to think about it in a visceral “real” way.
“Where were you when the towers fell?” That question was meant to be the defining question for our generation, or so said the older—and upon the current evidence, much more solipsistic—generation. It turns out the true defining question was, what did you do after?
In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, heart in mouth, I immediately reached out to my friends who lived in that beautiful city. A city in whose cafes I’d written much of my first novel. A city whose museums still sent sparks flying from my bourgeoisie soul and one which I wish to visit as often as possible. Luckily, everyone I knew was unharmed, though all were shaken up.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, David Fagin published an opinion piece titled Becoming a Racist: The Unfortunate Side Effect of Serving Your Country? about a group of veterans that served as armed guards for Nazi protestors. Noting that this group of veterans claim their deployment experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan radicalized them towards racism and hate, Fagin quickly draws a link to the epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and a lack of support services on the part of our military and government, for spawning this ugly display.
I believe that my duty as a writer is to expand minds so that people see the world differently and, hopefully, change their minds about it. This includes trying to change the minds of people who think as I once thought, who think violence begets peace. Yes, it is a work in progress—to say nothing of people’s desire to attack the messenger. In fact, I’ve only recently understood both fiction and non-fiction and some blend thereof—fake news not withstanding—as vehicles for this goal.
In the aftermath of the latest attacks in Europe , the usual platitudes and xenophobic accusations were launched. And as everyone tried to act as innocent as newborn babies—I’m speaking historically here, though I suppose it could count for the blood currently wetting our hands as well—I felt once again as if I were living in some matrix where people are surely possessed.
I want my military back. The military that was used as litmus test for a higher social good that affected the entire country. I want the military that slowly but surely refused to discriminate because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation or creed. I want the military that gave me so much heartache but nonetheless blessed me with so much
Last year, I met two people in Coeur d’Alene who seemed all normal, friendly, possibly new lifetime acquaintances. Then: “when are you going to evacuate?”Oh, dear reader, these otherwise normal people were certain that the government was going to herd gun owners into concentration camps.
I'm an Iraq War veteran who is a trans woman, and let me tell you: banning transgender people from military service is morally wrong. In 2003, I enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard at the age of eighteen. I knew I needed to pay for college, and I needed some money to live on
Classes and finals are over and, on a college campus that usually means the great exodus of students and very quiet days on campus.This seems like the right time to reflect on this past year and some of the trends and challenges we saw on campus as well as some of the success stories as I sit in an empty Student Veterans Resource Center.
Sometimes, our species’ darker side sneaks up on me and ends my attempts at an “ignorance is bliss” lifestyle. This tightens my grip on reality, or rather reality’s grip on me. It was a beautiful day in Seattle—the normally smeared gray ceiling shattered and now a light blue sky cut shadows short and crystallized the edges of the cloud shards, now white and billowing.
Body bags laid out like black piano keys
The somber discordant score of war.
Brought up on the dream
The impervious fighting machine
The American soldier, G.I. Joe, now Jane
Gladiator, warrior, hero of the world.
We were picking up a friend when I saw a man pushing down a woman. I walked over and managed to pull him off of her. Of course, he wouldn’t leave her alone, a little too much alcohol on board. I told another bystander to call the cops, after asking if she wanted them. I asked because it was Seattle, they were minorities, and I was hesitant to add cops in the mix, especially since I wasn’t sure what would happen next
This spring, I attended an interreligious peace conference in Pakistan. When I landed, I thought that Spring would bring fighting season soon, just a few hundred kilometers north. The late March heat in Lahore and Islamabad thrust me back into the sights and sounds of Central Asia, the smell of korma, the wail of the Azan at prayer time, and crowds clad in traditional shalwar kameez
I was not surprised when I learned that the Marine Corps’ nude-photo-sharing story proved to be just the beginning of an even bigger problem – encompassing all the major branches of the military in a sexual scandal that has rocked the nation. I thought back to the time of my own Army service when a new female colleague’s “hotness” was instantly up for debate and where pornography was enthusiastically collected – “I’m almost at a terabyte!” – especially during deployments.
I refuse to be disgusted or outraged by the revelation this week that thousands of Marines and other military members actively violated the privacy of their “sisters in arms” by posting their naked pictures online without their knowledge or consent. I refuse to default to the usual complaint about the top brass doing absolutely nothing while their subordinates engage in predatory behavior.
When veterans return home from war they are left with physical and mental scars that hinder life significantly. PTSD and TBI are a string of letters that need no introduction in the acronym overdose of military jargon – and these have unfortunately creeped into civilian speak because of the large scale of these issues.
Growing up in the third wave of feminism during the 1980s, girls of my generation were taught that not only were we able to do it all, we were able to do it all without men, and that in fact, doing it without men should be our #1 goal as strong, modern young women.
I knew that the 2016 Presidential Election would be contentious; the change of power in the highest office of global influence always is, especially when there has been a controversial leader in power for two terms and reelecting an incumbent is no longer an option.
Each day in this election season there were articles and stories aplenty that highlighted our veterans and military. It feels like they are being used as a political football these days. It got me to thinking about the new crop of student veterans on campus this fall who are looking to navigate their way through college.