When I joined the military, I went into a career field that had just opened to women. My recruiter told me I was going to be a pioneer “paving the way” for other women to follow. It sounded quite grand. Me? A pioneer? How thrilling. I didn’t realize the constant uphill climb such an undertaking would become. It was a tough new world I entered and holding my own took maximum effort and sacrifice on my part. I remember calling home those first few weeks in basic training and crying pathetically on the phone. “I can’t do this,” I’d sob or “It’s just too hard and they are so mean.” My technical instructor (TI) at basic recognized my weaknesses and he exploited them. I thought he was picking on me. And he was. That was his job. The military couldn’t cater to sniveling, I-can’t-do-this whiners. Our country depends on a military that is strong and does what needs to be done to protect and preserve its liberties. By the time I left basic training, I was standing tall, proud and feeling more confident than I’d ever been. I, after all, was a member of the armed services. I was an airman in the United States Air Force and proud of it. Yeah, they did a good job of tearing me down and building me back up into a confidant, can-do woman! They brought out the best in me and showed me that I could believe in myself. I was part of something magnificent, an elite force, and I could do anything!
Unfortunately, the world I entered after basic training didn’t get any easier. Before I go on here, I have to tell you what my new job consisted of: bomb building. Yeah, I was now an “Ammo troop” (the nickname we proudly called ourselves). We were responsible for building, storing and maintaining the Air Force’s explosive inventory. How brave I was to be doing this dangerous thing! I felt strong and invincible. I was pretty proud. Who would have thought it? A small-town girl, shy, quiet, a bookworm and writer wannabe, and I was building bombs and working with all sorts of things that exploded.
But, it was a man’s world I entered and they didn’t let me forget it. Quite often I was the only female on a crew or in a particular unit. I didn’t have the men’s physical build and stamina and so was often put down for it. I tried to make up for my structural inadequacies by knowing more than they did about the explosives for which we were responsible. Knowledge is power, my friends. Oh yes it is! I also ended up doing more. It was to me that all the paperwork often fell, and let me tell you, the military can go overboard when it comes to paperwork! I might have had a tough time lifting things but I could inspect, assemble, perform testing procedures and conduct maintenance just as well if not better than “they” did. I quickly discovered that I had to know more, do more and give more just to get a small modicum of respect from my supervisors and the guys I worked with. It was a tough life I lived. Frustrating beyond measure at times. I felt like I had to constantly bust my butt, and for what? To be sneered at, belittled, overlooked and put down because I was a lowly woman? Seriously? Geez.
I don’t know how I managed to survive the constant struggle of holding my own when I had so much against me all the time, but I did it. Yes I did! I had to. The worst was dealing with family separation. Six months after giving birth to my first child, a son who was at once the center of my world, the military sent me to Korea for a year. Leaving him behind was the worst thing I ever had to do. It was like living with a heart gripped by a merciless fist. God, it physically HURT. I didn’t know how I was going to survive it. But somehow I did. It bothers me even now (twenty plus years later) to think about that awful time and all that I missed out on.
Another tough thing for military members to maintain successfully is marriage (tough in any case to be sure!). Divorce is quite high in the military. I was just as much a victim of that statistic as anyone. A huge reason I stayed in as long as I did (twenty years, five months and 17 days) is because I was responsible for my kids, my life, and I wanted to maintain my independence. But, my word, the sacrifices and crap I had to put up with to do it!
The thing is, you know what I got out of it all? I learned that I’m tougher than I thought. I learned that I can do anything I put my mind toward doing. I learned to adapt and overcome. I learned to stand on my own and stand up for myself. I learned that what matters is how I feel about me, not what others try to make me feel. It took me many years to get those lessons through my thick skull and I hope to share how some of them came about in future posts.
The point I wanted to get across in all this is that you can do anything you set your mind to doing. You CAN! I’ve wanted to be a published author since I was eight. I’m now a published author. It took me a while to accomplish that but that’s because I didn’t focus on making it happen. I let other life issues sidetrack me for awhile. My new goal is to make Amazon’s top ten fiction list. I’m totally focused on it. I can do this. I CAN! Just you watch and see! As for you…well, you really, truly can do anything you want to do! Focus on your goal, actively work toward it and don’t give up. Above all, most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t!
Blessings to all and Peace Out!