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?