Missing the Combat Boots

Going from waking up in the morning at 0400-0500 hours to get to work in military uniform to waking up at 0500 hours and dressing in civilian khakis and polo shirt for my cafe job. From and hour and half lunch breaks to half an hour. From 24-48 hour shifts to 6-8. From talks about missing home and the civilian freedom to having second thoughts about leaving the military.

This is what my life is starting to become. A doubt. An emptiness and lack of purpose. I am sure this is only a phase and will quickly burn out of my mind because in all reality the only time I'm ever doubting my leaving the Army is when I'm working my new job. My co-workers are the typical college students that stress over the dumbest of things in life and find myself not being able to relate to any of them.

I have no doubt that this will pass with the aid of my husband and awesome new friends. I remind myself the only time I'm unhappy is when I'm working in this cafe and it isn't permanent. Getting paid $9.00 per hour for only 6-8 hours is really an ideal job for someone who has exited the military and shouldn't be upset.

I am stronger than this.


Not the Army Anymore

My first day at work in the cute cafe was quite a culture shock. Things that I couldn't do in the Army, I now can in my civilian job. But there's quite a similar aspect between jobs as far as professionalism. There's a uniform/behavior code, there's high expectations of employees to exceed the standard of excellence, and there's family feel to the job.

Some of the things that I can not get over is how much the co-workers complain about working the weekends or during holidays. There really isn't a big deal because it's not like they're working 24-48 hours shifts straight in a foreign war. In the military we're trained to not expect days off during holidays, it was our duty to make sure the people were safe during the special days. I'm used working the holidays like it's a normal regular day. What some people do not understand is that they're only working 3-8  hour shifts on holidays. I don't think they'll ever realize how fortunate they are.

Speaking another language while on duty was another no-go in the military. On my first day I overheard people speaking Spanish though they were just as fluent in English. I must have seemed like an alien when I asked them if they would get in trouble for speaking Spanish while on the clock and around other non-Spanish speaking co-workers. I come to find that the manager is trying to learn Spanish thus enjoying the jibber-jabber the co-workers create in the back area of the cafe.

Some of my new co-workers go in a bit of awkward shock when they hear I got out the Army. They can't relate to me much like I can relate to them.

I gotta admit it was interesting day. Someday I'll get used to being a civilian again without having flashbacks of my former life.

For now I'm looking to continue my self therapy in my new sewing hobby.


Holiday Miracles

What seemed to be the old blues funk, I found myself in a better state of mind when Halloween and Thanksgiving rolled along. Not even realizing that I became a part of a crew; a sort of small family away from family if you will. You see, my husband is a nerd and on numerous occassions his buddies would all congregate in a man cave to play Dungeons and Dragons type games but with DC/Marvel/Star Wars theme to it. It is within these long hours the wives of whom have been dubbed the "DnD Widow Society" would come together and poke fun at the men we married. We all agree it's a defnite bro-mance going on. But I don't mind it all. I simply think it's awesome that we're all military affliated. My new crew is a mixture of those currently serving in the Army and others who recently completed their duties with the service.

In short, I love my real Army Wives and thankfully we're not like the pathetic, sleezy trolls on TV.

For Halloween and Thanksgiving my new crew were a perfect substitute for family. It was amazing seeing everyone come together and bringing holiday cheer. I look forward to Christmas and New Year with them.

I was recently offered a job in a cute cafe. Not having a job since I've gotten out the Army has been one of my setbacks in life. I've always been used to working and earning my own way through life. I couldn't stand living the life of full time house wife. I felt I wasn't contributing just cooking and cleaning. My foremothers didn't fight for women's rights and equality just to be thrown all away and settle for what old school society deems appropriate for a woman. My grandmother will always be an inspiration to me. She made sure I knew how fortunate I was in being able to attend school and becoming a career woman.

In all the four years I was in the Army, I would think of my grandmother and her strength. When I was going through a terrible year when deployed in 2009 I'd think to myself "If my grandmother can bust her ass off with no formal education and be able to buy a house on her own with years of saving; I can do anything."

And here I am. An OIF veteran (still can't used to that title), an Army wife, and now a full time college student to major in Information Network Techology. I am a career woman.

It's amazing how people can lose sight of what life really is. I have broken my golden rule of never taking life for granted. Changing from negative to positive thinking really does help the soul adjust to pain.

I once again feel like I have purpose in life. And that's something I do not want to let go of.


A new kind of war

It's been months since I left the Army yet I can still feel the same anxiety from when I was waking up every morning deployed in Iraq for a year. Being a civilian isn't easy but I am working on it. I find myself not being able to socialize like the other Army wives. They do it with such ease that it can be annoying at times.

I've come to the conclusion that I need help yet again. I thought I was over talking to a shrink about my fears and concerns from being back down range. But I feel that I must seek the help otherwise I think I may fall into the dark hands of alcoholism and depression again. Such is a past nightmare I do not wish to relive.

I understand this is a phase I must go through. The phase of loneliness, of not being sure what to do with my time, or knowing what's out there for me to accomplish---but these are phases I wish I didn't have to deal with. I wish there was a fairy Godmother to swing her magical wand and make it all better. To take away my feelings of not knowing what to say or do around women who have never experience military from the other side of their vanity mirror.

For now I can hope with my decision to go back to college as a full time student can help. I'm even thinking about buying a sewing machine to keep myself locked into focus.

Who knows? Maybe venting through this blog has helped. 


Fate at Starbucks

She introduced herself to me as simply Nancy Sanchez at the local Starbucks inside Fort Gordon's on post hospital. I went in to order my typical white chocolate mocha and relax while I wait for my battle buddy to finish up with her appointment. I looked over at her table and noticed that she was sitting alone. I believe that when in a coffee shop of any sort, no senior citizen should sit alone. Almost all have fantastic stories to share.

Well, ... as fate would have it, I came across my ultimate inspiration since I enlisted in the Army. After a quick polite small talk about our Starbucks drinks, she brings light chit chat to a stop. It was something like this:

Nancy - White chocolate mocha is one of my favorites, as well.
Me - I've never seem to order anything else, no matter how much I try to convince myself I'd try something new.
Nancy - I noticed your patch. Did you just come back from a deployment?
Me - *stunned silence*
Nancy - Bless your heart. I know the pain you are experiencing. I served in Vietnam. I wish that you didn't have to go to Iraq. This thing with Iraq and Afghanistan has got to stop soon.
Me - It's an honor to meet you, Ms. Nancy. You're the first female veteran I've met since I enlisted.

Nancy and I - *momentary silence of appreciation and understanding*

It is here where she begins to tell me her raw stories of Vietnam. As she was talking, she began to tear up and I found myself getting emotional for the first time about the war I had just endured. In no way shape or form are my nightmares equivalent to the hardships Ms. Nancy had to face. But the very last thing she told me was that I had to find faith and understand that life has its blessings in a world so consumed with hatred, violence, greed, and ignorance.

I wish I had contributed to the conversation more than I did but somehow I believe that my tears said it all. As if she just knew what I was feeling. She looked at me with eyes like she knew exactly all the demons I had to face down range from sexual harassment/discrimination to severe depression/homesickness to near death experiences/the lack of desire to live.

This was the first time that I had thought about what I've gone through and the sacrifices I made that I believed were of no value to anyone. The heartbreak of waking up every day in a foreign country without a true friend and suffocated by a majority who heavily pressured the new troops to conform in the unfavorable ways ill-suited a leader or friend or alleged Christian soldier. Friends and family that had falsely made promises of sending letters or keeping in touch while I was away were only heard from once or never at all. Loving support was found through organizations like Adopt-A-Soldier or Soldier's Angel where complete strangers had shown more love in one hand written letter then a friend or a certain family member did in a lifetime.

Sad, indeed.
Finally, the lights in Starbucks begin to turn off and so Ms. Nancy and I were forced to bring our newfound sisterhood to an abrupt and bittersweet halt. This woman from Puerto Rico who served twenty-five years in the Army I fear will never get to see again. I'm grateful that I was allowed to be photographed with her. You can't really tell in the photo but we quickly dried our eyes to pose the nothing-is-wrong-we' smile. It was her order. : )

I'll never forget her. She was the best therapist and chicken soup for my soul... EVER.

Curiosity hit me after our encounter and decided to research her online. Here's what I found:

Amazing, huh?