I'm a veteran myself, but between wars, and from a time women were just recognized as powerful defense resource. We've been in wars throughout history, and certainly bore their burdens, but it wasn't until somewhat recently we were allowed the right to serve in a broad range of occupations.
I went through boot camp with one of the first waves of new women recruits, in the same camps, doing the same exercises, obstacles courses, six a.m. runs, swim tests and chow hall five minute meals, as the men. It didn't take long for the military to make note that women and men are different. (yes, a big organization can be slow, like that).
In my squadron, in boot camp, two men often ran to the side of a petite woman and literally supported her as she went that last half mile. Not because women can't run, lack determination or are out of shape. But because they cannot run, most of them, at the same pace and speed as men. They can run LONGER....but not as fast. Women, they discovered, have better endurance. For distance, for pain, for standing in the soaking rain, for 80% humidity at 101 degrees, for just about everything. But in general, we can't lift the weight men can, or run as fast, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. So in future camps the men and women would have separate requirements and routines.
There's wonderful stories to be told, about the military experience. It does change you, entirely, and forever. One my most beloved and closest friends today is a gal I met in boot camp. How I met and came to love her is a story. How I met the man she called "jailbait"--he was a year younger than me--and fell in love, is a story. How I had opportunities most often denied to women, back then, maybe still--I learned how to drive a 4 ton truck; how to do a pre-flight check on a major aircraft; how to inventory aircraft parts; how to lie on my stomach in a parachute craft and watch the world go by below, through a special window on the floor of the airplane, my husband in his flight jacket beside me. The flight was a sort of wedding present from our crew. ALL the women who go into the military marry, and soon. Well you figure there's YOU, and then there's...hundreds...of single men. Odds are good one of them will sweep you off your feet.
Now...I share many things with anyone and everyone who has served in the military, whether for five months or 25 years. A good soldier can spot me at 20 yards, a fellow soldier, because we have that walk.
There's a joke about a guy who skipped duty one day to have fun at the beach. He's walking around in his bathing suit, having fun, his posture perfect, his sun visor exactly level over his brow, a towel hung over his arm, perfectly folded, his arm at correct angle, held out three inches from his waist. "How did you KNOW I'm a soldier!" he asked the man who turned him in. Maybe you had to be there. For us it's hilariious.
We did lose a helo. One of our helicopters went down, right at the base, as it came in to land. Lost all the men. My husband and I were on security watch and we all had to do what we had to do. For months every person in our squadron scoured their minds, wracked their brains, could not sleep. Did I do something wrong? Did I miss something? Could I have prevented that crash? In the end it was found helo's of that age were crashing all over the country, because of a single nut and bolt, which simply had overaged, and would at some point crack and fall off.
I have known accidents, death, people who risked their lives and lost them in various ways. I was on the Drill Team and we'd stand out there in the Black Flag heat...over 102 degrees, until some passed out. We were not allowed to move, to catch them or break their falls. The Drill team was about discipline. About a mass of people operating as one, to accomplish quite a feat. The steps were so much part of my brain, I could still do those routines, twenty years later. Talk about Train the Brain. There's a fine example of what happens when you repeat the same actions and words, over and over. They do become automatic. A real part of you.
I read today that only a very few species go to war-- A few types of ants, and our relatives the chimpanzees. To most of the 30 million species we know of on this planet, war does not exist. So what IS this war, we humans seem driven to, again and again? What is THIS war, going on, today? What should or can we at home be doing? Between celebration and picnic, water sports and the laughter of our kids, we might think about that, today. Talk about it together. It's not enough to just wave a flag.
I share little experience, possibly none I don't even know, with the men and women who risk their lives in battle. To go to war-- right or wrong it doesn't matter I think to the person who is there, dealing with day-to-day battle and commands--is its own world. And so I'm thinking about all of them, known and unknown, from around the world, today and deep into the past. Just...wanting to acknowledge them and send them blessings--hell most of them are or were barely adults--and/or have families--left lives behind. Our hearts and good will must go out to them. Yet also needing to ask myself what is MY duty, here at home, as a member of our planet, on this, our Memorial Day.
Tags: War, boot camp, soldiers, military, Memorial Day, picnics, battle, Ants, Species, drill team, Stories