Category: US Air Force

”]Cover of "The Shining [Blu-ray]"In the literary world Stephen King is a name brand for horror writers.  I imagine there are few people in existence who don’t recognize his name or not know what he writes.  Until I picked up my first Stephen King book, Carrie, I was mostly reading romance books and anything I could get my hands on concerning paranormal phenomena.  Yeah, two very different genres I know,  but one was for enjoyment, the other for survival!  You see, I was living in a bona fide haunted house at the time and dealing with dead people.  I needed to know how to protect myself from things going bump in the night (and sometimes during the day), and I needed to understand just what, exactly, was going on.  Why was our house haunted?  What on Earth did they (the ghosts) want?  Why didn’t they float off to heaven and stay there?

But, I digress.  I read Carrie when I was in the eighth grade.  My homeroom teacher was disgusted with the book and ordered me to take it home and not bring that filth back into his classroom.  True story!  He only read a few random pages, not sure what part turned him off so badly but needless to say, I was pretty surprised by the reaction.  Can a teacher do that?  Can they tell you what you can read on your own time even if you are at school?  This, folks, was many years ago.  I hesitate to admit how many but it was long before all the crap going on today in which every aspect of our lives (or so it seems!) is under attack by someone!

I told my mom about my teacher’s reaction and she just piffed (my own word but I think you get the picture) it away.  “Who cares what he thinks.  I’m your mother and if you want to read that book, then read it.”  Yeah, my mom was a great one for going all “mother bear” when it came to defending her “babies”.  In any case, I did read the book and I enjoyed it so much that I went on to read more of King’s work.  One of them became very influential on my life…The Shining.  Speaking of which, I recently learned that King has a sequel to that book coming out in 2013 titled “Dr. Sleep“.  I’m quite excited about that and can’t wait to read it!

When I read “The Shining“, it scared the crap out of me.  And strangely enough, I’m not talking about the mallet bashing psycho intent on whacking his poor family into the afterlife.  No, it was all the ghosts hanging out at that hotel that scared me to death.  I was, after all, living with a bunch of ghosts myself and here was a book where a family is dealing with the same thing.  On a more evil scale of course.  Thank God for small mercies, right?  I have to admit, the one part that scared the bejeezus out of me was that danged dead woman in room 217.  That, my friends, totally creeped me out!

The Shining spurred my interest in reading other works of fiction in which ghosts were involved (it is only natural, is it not, that I would go on to write ghost stories myself?).  You want to know a really cool thing about all this?  I met Stephen King the summer after I read that book!  I lived in Maine, he lived in Maine (a mere 15 miles away…not even a stone’s throw by Maine standards!).  We were bound to meet at some point, right?  Not.  I got LUCKY!  I was waitressing at a really cool place right on the shores of Alamoosic Lake (my best friend’s parents owned the place) and King rented the facilities to treat his family and friends to a bona fide Maine picnic complete with lobsters, steamed clams, crabs, shrimp…you name it, he had it on the menu.  What a nice guy, right?  So anyway, I’m standing behind the buffet line keeping a close eye on the food levels, making sure nothing runs low, and this man starts by that looks awfully darned familiar.  My heart starts pounding (I was a teen at the time and quite impressed with celebrity anything) and I think to myself, “Is that Stephen King?”  Then, realizing the unlikelihood of such a thing, immediately dismissed the thought, “No, of course that isn’t Stephen King.  What would he be doing here?”  But then the woman next to him said, “When’s your next book due out?” and I KNEW!!  Instead of standing there gaping like a starstruck idiot, I ran for the kitchen and grabbed my friend.  “Stephen King is going through the buffet line!”  Of course she didn’t believe me and headed for the buffet line post haste to see for herself. Seconds later she returns and heads for her father (head chef for the day).  “Dad, is Stephen King supposed to be here today?”  Her dad is clueless.  “Who?”  And once he realizes how excited we are, he offers to go get the check because now that he thinks of it, he did seem to recall that the man paying for the event was somewhat well known.  Somewhat well known?  Seriously?  Once it was confirmed, my friend and I commenced to spy, covertly of course, on the famous man within our midst.  Was he normal?  Was he as weird as his books? He did write some pretty bizarre stuff after all.

Well, I’m here to tell you, we noticed nothing strange or unusual about this master of the macabre.  He was very friendly and attentive to everyone, especially his kids.  We wanted to meet him something fierce but didn’t want to bother him.  That didn’t stop my friend, however, from fetching one of his books from her room and asking her dad to get it autographed for her.  We peeked through the doorway as her father did her bidding.  King didn’t seem the least annoyed to have his meal interrupted by the request.  He happily obliged.  Then her dad points to the door where we were trying our best to stay out of view.  As King turns to look our way, we squeal (we were teenage girls remember) with embarrassment, pull our heads back into the kitchen and slam the door closed.  I was so danged jealous that my friend just snagged an autograph and it was me that started reading him first and who was the bigger fan and who wanted, after all, to be a famous writer someday!  Since we were not just the waitresses but the dish washers, food preparers, cleaner uppers and whatever else my friend’s parents threw our way, we began to wash the big pots waiting for us in the sink.  There we were, up to elbows in soapy water and my friend’s dad comes into the kitchen and says, “Ladies, guess who wants to meet you!”

NO WAY!  Oh yes.  Way.  Stephen King gallantly kissed our soapy hands, chatted with us for a bit and then thanked us for doing such a great job.  Yeah…(sigh)…he really is a nice man.

When the movie for The Shining came out, I went to see it for my birthday.  It was, I’ll admit, my first ever date (with a real boy and everything!)  The movie disappointed me somewhat because they (Hollywood) changed it so much but the scenery was magnificent!  I decided right then and there that I wanted to go to Colorado.  A year later, I joined the US Air Force.  I mentioned in another post (Military Lessons: Yes I Can and So Can You!) that I entered a career field which had recently opened to women, it’s primary job was bomb building and the like.  I wasn’t all that enthused to work with explosives until my recruiter said the magic words.  “You’ll be attending your technical training at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado.”  Colorado?!  “I’ll take it,” I said and just like that, I made a career decision that was to affect me for the next 20 years, 5 months and 17 days.  A decision, mind you, based on a Stephen King novel (because it was the book, after all, that led to the movie).

Shortly after arriving to basic training, I was pulled aside by an important looking official who proceeded to offer me a different job.  My first question, “Where is the school for it?”  The man, very obviously convinced that this other job was a much better career choice, said, “California.”  And I made another decision based on that dang movie (and thus, the book!).  “I don’t want to go to California, I want to go to Colorado.”  The man looked at me as if I were daft (and yes, I can say now that I was).  “You are basing your decision on the state in which the school is located?”  I could feel my face go hot because it did sound stupid and I didn’t like looking stupid.  Who does?  But I remained firm with my decision.  It was something I would live to regret but you know, things go how they are supposed to go.  Looking back, I wouldn’t change a single, solitary thing.

I do think it interesting how things can influence us so profoundly (though we don’t really realize it at the time) and how differently our lives can go based on those influences.  Mine took a pretty drastic turn because of a book I read.

That, my friends, is the power of a book!  Until another time, blessings to all and Peace Out!!

English: United States Air Force Basic Militar...

Image via Wikipedia

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!

United States Air Force Basic Military Trainin...

Image via Wikipedia

Veterans’ Day has come to mean so much to me, not just because I served in the Air Force for 20 years, but because of all the great veterans I’ve been privileged to know and meet.  It’s been eight years since I retired from service.  I admit to the fact that I was looking forward to being a civilian again, but it didn’t take me long to miss my military life and the camaraderie of the military “peeps”.

I joined the Air Force because I wanted to be part of something important.  I wanted to be useful.  I wanted to get out of Maine and “see the world”.  When I left for Basic Training, I knew that I was truly leaving my childhood behind and heading out into the world as a self-contained adult.  It was exciting and terrifying.  Basic Training was tough for me at first.  The physical demands were more than anything I’d ever had to endure.  My gosh, we RAN all the time, run here, run there, run, run, run!!  I must have dropped ten pounds and believe me, at that time of my life, dropping ten pounds was significant!  I remember writing home (calls were scheduled and limited), tears dripping on the stationary, as I cried my despair at the horrible decision I had made.

I spent my high school years reading and writing.  Those are pretty sedentary activities.  Being on the move from daybreak to sundown was tough.  I didn’t think I could do it, all the running and all the exercises.  And most terrifying yet…the obstacle course looming ahead.  I just KNEW I was going to fail.  I was the second shortest in our flight.  That meant that when in formation, I was all the way in the back.  The tall, long-legged girls set the pace for all the marching and running that we did.  I had a hell of a time keeping up with them.  My Training Instructor (TI) realized my struggle and was always in my face (literally!). He was short too so he’d stand toe-to-toe with me, spittle flying, as he yelled abuse…I was weak, I was useless, I couldn’t do it, I should just quit.  I was totally demoralized in those first couple weeks.

Basic Training Flight 108

My first few phone calls home were done in tears.  I wanted to prove I was worthy of the military, I didn’t want to be a failure, but I didn’t have any faith in myself.  My mom disagreed.  She’d say, “But you’re doing it, Deborah!  It’s been (x-amount-of-days) and you are still there!”   She’d tell me to not let that mean ole TI win.  She’d bolster me up and I’d get off the phone determined to do what I needed to do to live up to mom’s belief in me.  Let me tell you, those letters from home were my lifeline! Thank God for the support of my friends and family.

As the days passed and I accomplished each task, every push-up, every mile and a half run, every test, every inspection … I found myself walking around with a sense of WORTH.  Putting on that uniform MEANT something.  The military showed me that I could do ANYTHING.  The military showed me how very capable I am.  I learned that I could indeed offer something useful to my country.  I walked straighter, my head held high (not with arrogance, but self-assured and proud…not just of me but of each and every other person who had served in the military).  I felt a connection to them all.  We were a military force of ONE nation under God!

I realized in the last days at Basic Training that the military had tore me down, that weak shell of a person I was, and built me back up into a dedicated, selfless, proud-to-be-serving, STRONG individual.  I was a member of the United States Air Force and I LOVED it.

How long ago those days were.  Another lifetime.  So many things would happen to me in the twenty years that followed.  Lots of drama and heartache and hardships and struggles.  But it was all worth it.

What we do, those of us who have served and are serving, is a selfless thing.  It really is.  Even if we joined for the education benefits or to travel or because there was nothing else to do or for whatever reason, even if it wasn’t just for the right to serve our country, we all ended up doing just that.  We sacrificed and sacrificed and sacrificed.  And you know what?  Most of us were proud to do it.  I know I was.  And so was my husband who served in the Air Force for 28 years (my hero) and my father who served for 30 years in the Army (another hero of mine) and all my other family members who served and are serving (my son-in-law is currently in the Air Force).  It’s a big deal what we did, what those who are still serving are doing.  We are a necessary part of our nations continued existence!!!!

So, God Bless America and every single service member, past and present, who has kept her people living in freedom, enjoying the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!

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