An Open Letter to Children of Combat Veterans (take 2)

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

I remember being a child and loving this weekend.  It was the best weekend of summer!  I was already well established into my sleeping in late/staying up late, lounging around, playing outside and swimming schedule, so 4th of July just meant parties!  Parties and Fireworks- and food!

There will be plenty of awesome activities this weekend- cookouts and barbecues, block parties and pool parties.  People will grill burgers, dogs, ribs, chicken and steak.  Watermelon, cake (often decorated with strawberries & blueberries to resemble the flag) and ice cream will be consumed by the ton.

Still, if you’re a kid of a Combat Veteran, this weekend might be a little different for you.  Dad might not want to go to the barbecues and parties,  he might want to stay in the safety of your air-conditioned house.  He might not want to scroll through his Facebook feed and see all the pictures of people eating the aforementioned hot dogs and watermelon.  Worst of all, he might not want to go to the fireworks show.

We all know how awesome fireworks shows are, especially on post.  I can only speak of Ft. Bragg’s, but I’ve been going as long as I can remember.   The 1812 overture with cannons, the Golden Knights jumping in,  the parade of flags, and of course, the fireworks, once it’s dark.

And Dad.  Sitting in the cab of the truck, ignoring the excited demands that my sister and I would shout- “Dad, get out here, you’re missing them!”

See, 4th of July might not mean the same thing to your Dad as it does to you.  He likes the barbecues and the watermelon and the long weekend, but he doesn’t like the memories that he might associate with the day.  Independence Day (4th of July’s REAL name) is about gaining our independence from England. It’s also a lot more than that.  It stands for freedom.  You might have heard “Freedom isn’t Free” or “Some Gave All” growing up.  While we formally remember fallen Service Members on Memorial Day (in May);  it’s hard not to think of all the brothers and sisters in arms you went to war with when everyone is talking about freedom, America, and waving the American flag.

Your Dad might even resent some of these people.  He might feel that their patriotism only comes one day of the year, when he and his fellow Service Members fight for our country EVERY day of the year, in many countries and many different situations.  That’s ok if Dad feels that way.  He still loves YOU.

You are one of your Dad’s most prized possessions.  He wants to protect you and make sure you’re safe at all times.  This is why he might seem overbearing at times- not giving you the freedom that your other friends have.  He loves you, trust me.  Despite the yelling and the arguing, he loves you.

So what about that fireworks show?  Why doesn’t Dad want to go to that? Being courteous when it comes  to fireworks & Combat Veterans has gained a lot of press this year.  It might not just be the fireworks themselves.  It could be the heat, the traffic, the having to go on base.  All of these things could be triggers, or make your dad uncomfortable.  All of these reasons might also be why Dad isn’t excited about all the cookouts and parties this weekend either.

It can be difficult to be the kid of a Combat Veteran, trust me, I know.  Never forget that your Dad loves you, and that you mean the world to him.

4 July 2015

(Author’s Note: as in my previous version of this, the Combat Veteran is “Dad” not Mom.  While this may seem sexist, I assure you it’s not.  While I understand that many females are Combat Veterans and serve, females are less likely to express their PTSD towards their children, or aggressively.  Females’ PTSD tends to look like depressive symptoms.)

I no longer think I’m going crazy…

I know it!

I would have bet large sums of money that a year or two ago, I wrote an open letter to all Children of Combat Veterans for 4th of July.  My plan was to re-post that today.  I have now looked on my 2 wordpress blogs (one of which I forgot existed), 2 hard drives and 3 facebook accounts.  Alas, no letter.

I have some theories about this.

1) It was all a really vivid dream

2) It was so spot on, that the government didn’t want to anyone to read it and erased it from all of my computers.

3) Aliens.  (This should be on all lists of conspiracies)

I wanted to text a client of mine to ask her if she remembered the letter, because I remember discussing it openly with her in a counseling session.  But what if THAT too, was a vivid dream?

Can’t have my clients thinking I’m crazy!  I have one more hard drive to check, then if I can’t find I, I will try to remember and re-write it because I think it’s really worth mentioning.

Pins and Needles

To use a cliche, I’m waiting on pins and needles.  I’m living on coffee and little sleep.  After lots and lots and lots of rejections, a small press company has expressed interest.  I spent a good bit of time last night formatting the entire manuscript to their submission requirements.  It took a really long time for me to hit “submit”.

I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next 4-8 weeks!

Dating after 8 years of wedded bliss…

No, my sweet, sanity inducing husband didn’t leave me after all of this time (we celebrated 8 “official church years” yesterday). I feel like I’m back in the dating scene again though, specifically the online dating scene.

As my friend and mentor, Sharon, and I sit in the coffee house caffeinating ourselves, I am pouring over literary agent websites.  Apparently, with the tenacity of a 40 year old with her biological clock ticking, reading E-harmony profiles.

“Oh!” I’ll exclaim, “this one is taking new submissions! He wants non-fiction”, my voice rising with excitement. “oh, wait, it says ‘no memoirs’. Sigh. I’ll try another one.”

The rejections come in without even a first date- too short, not the right genre, or sometimes the generic “thanks but no thanks.”

“READ ME!” I want to email back to them. “at least the first few chapters.”  No, they have already moved on, eyeing the cute blonde with the cleavage shot in her profile.

And the rejections keep rolling along…

(Sorry, US Army for taking some liberty with your song.)

Ok, seasoned writers.  The rejections are starting to roll in.  The thank you, but no thank you emails are hitting my inbox so quickly, I’m afraid I will break the internet.

How do you stay sane in the face of all the “No!”?  Do you work on a different project, do you find even more publishers, agents, etc. to submit to?  Do you visit a witch doctor and promise your 3rd born child in exchange for a publishing deal?

Seriously, y’all.  When I feel like giving up I think of all the Service Members that wanted to give up and couldn’t.  If they can march across a combat zone with 55 pounds on their back, I can surely handle rejections.

Have a great week and keep writing!

Purple Up- Military Children

When I was growing up, I had to walk to school two miles, barefoot in the snow.   No, just kidding.  Fair warning: this is a “when I was growing up” story though.

When I was growing up in the 80’s/90’s there was no focus on the Military child or even the Military family. Soldiers were recognized for their bravery and sacrifice, maybe not as much as they are today, but they were recognized.

Over the past 14 years, the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has changed the tempo and duration of deployments.  It’s not unusual for Soldiers to have 24 out of 28 months of deployment.  This puts a toll on all of the family, but can be especially hard on children.

Young children might not remember their deployed parent.  Re-integration can definitely be difficult if your baby/ toddler has no memory of you and shrieks  whenever you come near them.

School age (grades K-5) kids might start showing signs of anxiety, as they don’t quite grasp the concept of deployments. The 3rd, 4th and 5th graders of this group might here stories from other friends or the media of the horrors of war and not know how to process them. “Is Mommy/Daddy going to die?” might become their main focus.

Middle school kids (grades 6-8) might start to challenge authority.  They might not want to listen to the parent at home, or try to get away with more.  When the deployed parent returns. they might not want to listen to them or argue “that’s not how we do it when you’re not here.”

High school kids usually challenge authority, but might also be struggling with their own thoughts, feelings and values about war.  They might be considering joining the Military themselves.  They might be hearing anti-war messages from teacher or friends and feel confused.

In the midst of all this, one or more parents are deploying and re-integrating.  Kids are being shuffled from either a single parent household or a relative’s house, not having the full support of two parents.  The spouse at home is also stressed with their new found “single parent” life.  Even the Military spouse that’s weathered many deployments know the stressors that come with deployment and re-integration and work their hardest to make it easier on the kids and the deployed spouse.

Remember Military children this month and always. And remember those grown up Military children too.

The More Things Change..

I know it has been a while since I’ve written a blog.  However, there is good news and good reason for my absence.

The book is complete, now I work on finding both an agent and a publisher. Fingers and toes are crossed!

I’ve been busy with  a few charity events lately.  The Walk to Defeat ALS took place on 28 March in our hometown, I was very pleased that my family (minus the little sis, who is now OCONUS) was able to participate.  I also had some great friends and neighbors participating as well.   As the committee chair of this event, I was VERY busy (gross understatement) for the month of March making sure things were coordinated.  Food, volunteers, photographers, logistics of the actual walk, etc.  You would never think of all the “behind the scenes” stuff that goes on at one of these events- even the small ones!

I was also able to participate in the 2nd annual All American Marathon and Mike to Mike (that’s Iron Mike) half marathon. No, don’t be daft! I didn’t run.  I was a flag holder for the wear blue:run to remember non-profit org.  (check them out if you haven’t, especially if you’re a runner, a gold star family, or just a supporter of the Military). Mom ran the half marathon and it was great to see her and cheer her on.

So, the title of this blog “the more things change…” I guess we could say they still say the same.  My relationship with Dad has definitely gotten better over the past few years.  However, I don’t think he will ever *love* my tattoos.  Saying “my tattoos” makes me sound like I’m walking around with a full sleeve (I could only dream!).  No, I’m walking around with three SMALL tattoos, all easily concealable. So I had to laugh a little when he saw the large FAKE tattoo on my arm for the Mike to Mike Marathon.  All of the flag holders wear a “wear blue:run to remember” shirt when they partake in an event.  Some go a step further and wear a wear blue hat, shorts. etc.  I like to add one of their washable tattoos.  It’s a little ritual I have.  I have started to put it on my forearm and whether I’m running (read: walking) or holding a flag it keeps me mentally focused on what I’m doing.

Dad happened to get a smart phone the day before this Marathon event.  He was having a hard time dealing with it.  I volunteered to come up after the race and look at his phone, teach him how to text and answer the phone (yes, he was missing all calls and just calling people back from the land line). After a short tutorial (the man was a commo chief, he gets it!) he was ready to go.  I even downloaded an app for him to chat with my sister while she’s on her mission.

All is going well until he sees my arm. “WHAT is on your arm?” he practically yelled at me, when he saw it.  (I’m pretty sure the “I’m 35 and it’s my body” would not win in this case.)  “Relax Dad, it’s fake! It was just for the run today!”

You could see the relief on his face.  I guess I won’t tell him about the tattoo I’m thinking about getting when the book is published, in his honor.  That can just be a surprise 🙂

PS- one of the photographers at the ALS event got a great candid shot of Dad with his arm around me. You can’t see our faces (it’s of the back of us, showing off our awesome ALS shirts).  It makes me teary to look at it.  It might be the best photo ever for our book, to help with his anonymity. I don’t want to post it yet, in case it does become an official photo, but it’s good. Trust me.

Dad’s 75th Birthday Extravaganza (and — I did a 5K and lived to tell about it!)

All of my friends and colleagues that are familiar with my Facebook habits (documenting my life, step by step via Facebook) always say “you’re so busy” or “you never sit still on the weekends!”.  Looking at my Facebook, one would THINK that, but I will tell you what it actually is.  I seem to have the (mis) fortune of always having 19 events happen on the same weekend.  The rest of the month will be free and clear, but every birthday, baptism, class I need to take, party, etc. will happen on one weekend.  So I look like a social butterfly as I flitter in and out of as many events as I can.

This leads me to Dad’s 75th Birthday.  He turned 75 the day my mom, sister and I left for Disney World to particpate in the RunDisney events- Princess 5K for all of us,  Princess Half Marathon for those 2 crazy people that enjoy running.  Dad’s pre birthday family celebration was cancelled due to an ice storm, that left me without power for 16 hours.  Let’s just say I was never so happy to go to Florida the next day.

After an insane 5 days of buses, running, freezing temperatures (we ran the Frozen 5K in Wear Blue:Run to Remember t-shirts— it was 30 degress in Lake Buena Vista that morning!), hot temperatures (a balmy 82 degrees just two days later) and large perfectly dressed rodents, it was back to Fayetteville for me and then two days until Dad’s party.

I did it- here’s proof! i did it frozen5kmickey

Dad’s 75th party was a blast.  He had old Army buddies (that are mentioned in the book!) from his Korea days there.  There was an open bar.  We (my husband, sister and I) surprised him with a DIY photo booth, complete with props.  It was great to see my Dad taking pictures with his former SGM in oversized sun glasses and cowboy hats!

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There was a little negativity that I will choose not to focus on.  Let’s just say some important people in my dad’s life did not attend.  Whatever there reasons, I hope they understand what being at his 75th birthday would have meant to him.

Overall, it was so nice to see my Dad relaxed, enjoying himself with friends from olden days to friends that he met just last year.  For those of you that know my Dad, there are no strangers to him.  Just people he hasn’t met yet. I think that was perfectly illustrated at the party.

To be sappy and wrap it all up- thank you to my mom and little sis for getting me through that 5K with a decent time.  While at Disney, we ate breakfast with Lilo and Stitch at the O’hana breakfast.  They told us “O’hana means family and close friends.”  I think that’s exactly what Dad’s party was- O’hana! Thank you for those that came, the smiles that are on his face in every picture mean the world to me!

I think this split picture sums up my last 2 weeks of February! Then it’s Garcias with mustaches!

dads collageSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Chris Kyle

I saw American Sniper two weeks ago.  I’ve been too sick to blog, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie and I have been able to read all of the controversy on social media surrounding Chris Kyle.  What’s real? What’s been embellished, exaggerated or just down right faked? Was Chris really a hero?  Did he lie?

Allow me to add my opinion to this. I’m prefacing this by stating again, this is my opinion,

My first impression after watching the movie was that it was well done and that it showed the kind of person and warrior he was.

Then all of the controversy started with what might be real and what might not be.  None of that changed the movie or my impression of Chris Kyle.  The way I see it, if part of the movie, or the book, or the stories were embellished, they didn’t happen to Chris Kyle, but they happened to some SEAL, some sniper somewhere, sometime.  I’m not trying to take anything away from Chris, because he obviously accomplished and sacrificed a lot. What I’m saying is- let’s not split hairs.  Chris could be the embodiment of all of the Special Forces that leave their families behind, that sacrifice, that miss their children and spouses. Many have had their breakdowns, their struggles off and on the battlefield.

For those of you that are familiar with the 82nd Airborne, you know of Iron Mike- the statue of a paratrooper. I remember being a little kid and asking my parents “but who is Mike?”  My parents explained that Iron Mike was every paratrooper, every Soldier that came through Bragg.  In a way, I think that Chris Kyle’s  American Sniper is the SEAL’s Iron Mike.  It happened- to someone, somewhere.

Thank you, USS Yorktown Veteran

I am spending my 3 day weekend enjoying what SC has to offer.  I started the weekend in Charleston, SC with my younger sister, who is on a 4 day weekend pass. The second half of the weekend is to be spent with friends in Myrtle Beach (aka, my second home)

On my way up Highway 17 North, towards Myrtle (a route I’d never driven before) I stopped at Patriot’s Point (the USS Yorktown and Museum) with a mission- find a model Osprey for my husband’s display case at work.   Having not been to Patriot’s Point in several years, I got somewhat lost in the maze of traffic circles, signs and hotels (many of which were not there several years ago).  I somehow found myself in the employees’ parking area and knew I needed to turn around.  I rolled down my window to enjoy the warm, Charleston air and was met with an unpleasant sound.  The loud sound of propellers from what sounded like several helicopters was very close.  A bit surprised, I parked the car (in the employee area– sorry!) and began to look around.  Their was a static Marine helo in front of me, very much grounded and unoccupied.

I glanced across the parking lot, about 30 yards from me and saw several more helicopters, a tank or two and a guard tower, all surrounded by barbed wire.  I realized the noise was coming from there, so I drove closer.  Ignoring the large “No Trespassing” signs (sorry again) I pulled into a gravel parking lot adjacent to this blocked off area and climbed out of the car.

The noise grew louder, with some unintelligible radio chatter added in for effect.  My head began to pound (I do not do well in war simulators- the noise bothers me more than anything).  I noticed a sign “US Naval Support Base. Somewhere, South Vietnam”.  I knew instantly that this had be the “Vietnam Experience” that is a rather new attraction at Patriot’s Point.

Let me stop here to say that I can only imagine what a Vietnam Vet feels/thinks when he sees “Vietnam Experience” as a tourist attraction.  I have nothing to compare it to, having never been in combat, but I have a feeling they find it nightmarish and unimaginable why anyone would pay money to simulate it.

Having not purchased a ticket, I began to walk away from what I can assume was the back side/employees’ area of the attraction. There was a lump in my throat just looking at the makeshift  base and its simulations from outside the fence. Last night’s rain had main the grass slick and the ground muddy, so I was carefully making my way back to my car, when a man came seemingly out of nowhere.

“Can I help you?” He asked, in a friendly tone.  He was wearing a USS Yorktown Veteran hat and some sort of badge.  I wondered if I was in trouble. I started to stammer a response about looking for visitor parking, when the overwhelming need to talk to my dad surfaced. I just sort of gestured to my car and the tears began to flow.

This poor, poor man. I don’t know when he served on the Yorktown, but he has probably seen some bad things.  He didn’t know how to handle crying, sputtering me.  He just smiled and said “you can go in if you like”.  I was able to shake my head and say “no thank you”.  He turned to leave and said “take all the time you need”.

I took a few pics and walked back to my car. I located the visitors parking, parked and called my dad. I had calmed down by then.  I just told Dad good morning, and that I missed him. I didn’t offer any explanations and he didn’t ask any questions. I think he just knew.