I have spent the better part of my life, over half in fact serving my country while enlisted in the Air Force. I joined to “Fly, Fight, and win.” Yet although I DID enlist, I found myself in a hospital job that I did NOT want, or love at the time.
I joined to serve, to have boots on the ground, and to embrace the blood, sweat, and tears of the war our country has been fighting for nearly as long as I can remember. My dream was to be on the flight line as an Air Traffic Controller. I had dreamed of this for years while sitting with my cousin Don in the control tower, watching him command the planes over head.
Yet I joined “Open General” because I wanted to leave for basic training at the earliest date possible. I knew I wasn’t ready for college, and I knew I needed to get away and find out who I truly was as a woman. My parents blessed off my on my enlistment, and I left for basic training just a few weeks after graduating high school. At the age of 18, I was off on my own, alone, and searching for my goals.
My orders came out the week before we graduated…Sheppard Air Force Base was listed, and I was appalled. WHAT? That’s where the medical Airmen go for training…THIS CAN’T be right. Yet it was…and I shipped off shortly thereafter for Medical Lab Technologist training. And although I made dear friends, I can honestly say I hate nearly all of it…this is NOT what I joined to do as an Air Force service member. Yet sadly the decisions aren’t always ours. My country needed me, and I decided I would do what I was called upon to do. I specialized in histology, the study of tissue and cells, and found myself excelling in a field I pointedly had no interest in originally.
For years, I excelled in the Air Force. It was the one thing I found myself “good” at…probably because I loved it so much, and also due to pride. I found myself winning countless awards, medals, and getting promoted at a decent rate. I was not a “fast burner” by far, but I made rank accordingly, along with very unique special duty assignments along the way.
Yet the one thing missing for me was that I had never deployed. I never was able to deploy to a foreign country and fight this everlasting war against our enemies. I watched on the television after a 12 hour blood drive, bodies falling from the top of the twin towers. And the only thing I could think of, was “Damn, I wish I could be there fighting.” Regardless if my small part in the blood drive ‘helped’ I sure as hell wished I was fighting, working, and helping the lives that were lost.
I am now a 20 year veteran…Years stolen, but not without a fight. I truly try to make the best living possible for my family even if it calls for lack of sleep, fun, or extra activities for me. My sleep schedule is minute. I am aware that I probably drink too much, drowning the memories of my past…what I did…what I didn’t do…and what I wish I’d have done.
I now live through my husband, who joined after 9-11 and has served proudly and successfully ever since. Yet my war, within, is still a battle this veteran will continue to fight.
And now, it is time to poor out the wine glass filled fully to the brim in hopes of drowning what I didn’t do…and fill it with crisp cool hopes for the future. This war. Will. Be won.