Leading up to today's holiday, I have been telling my girls of the service that both of my grandfathers had provided for our country. My grandfathers risked so much - their lives, their families, their wives, their children. Some of their stories not only bring tears to my eyes, but they also make tears flow from my eyes. Flipping through the latest status updates on Facebook, one of our mama friends said that she:
went to the Veterans Day Assembly at [my daughter's] school today...and cried like a baby. ha! So proud of my baby girl singing her heart out...and she was so proud to tell her teacher her mommy was a Veteran. So sweet.
I asked if she would share her story of her service with us, and she writes:
I joined the Air Force right out of High School. I wanted to go to college, but my family couldn’t afford it. The Air Force seemed like a good way for me to a.) get the heck out of my small Missouri town and b.) go to college. I was a Personnel Specialist in the Air Force—which in civilian terms is kind of like a Human Resource Specialist. After Basic Training , where I learned how to fold t-shirts and underwear into precise, perfect squares(even using tweezers to make sure all corners were “flushed”), I moved on to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS for my job training. I then received my assignment to Beale AFB in Northern CA, where I would spend four years. It was my first time being on my own and I was thrown into life. I loved it! I made friends for life there and that, in itself, I am truly grateful for. I was a member of the Base Honor Guard and got to perform at a lot of the Base Functions and I also participated in many many funerals. I was one of the service women who stood on the sidelines at Veteran funerals and paid tribute with the 21-gun salute and would help fold the flag and present it to the next of kin. I silently cried every single time. Those were amazing experiences for me.
My goal of going to college didn’t happen in those first four years…so I decided to re-enlist and make going to college a priority during my second enlistment. I received orders to Okinawa Japan and served my remaining four years there. The island of Okinawa is so beautiful and it was so awesome living among the people there. I worked in the Special Operations Squadron there and really enjoyed my job. The good thing about my job, is that it was pretty 9 – 5ish. There were a few times I had to be away for deployments—I spent some time in Guam as well as Hawaii—but for the most part, it was kind of like a normal job. The whole time I was in Okinawa, I worked during the day and went to school in the evenings. The University of Maryland had a campus there and would take over the on- base schools in the evening and offer classes to Military personnel. After my four years there I was able to complete my BS degree from the University of Maryland. I decided then to separate from the military and move on with my life.
I didn’t have children while I was in the Air Force, but so many of my friends did. I remember the sacrifices that they had to go through when having to be away from their families. In the military, you get 6 weeks of maternity leave…I think about that now and can’t even imagine only having 6 weeks with a newborn before having to go back to work full time, sometimes twelve hours a day. It truly is a sacrifice that these men and women make .
I still have so many friends who are still serving this great country of ours. To be honest, there are days where I miss the “family” feeling of being in the Air Force. If I would have stayed in, I could retire next year. Ha! It was truly an amazing experience for me and I look back at that time with so much pride and gratitude.
To the mamas, papas, grandpas, and grandmas among us who have served or who do serve our country, we thank you. We welcome you to share the stories of your loved ones who have contributed in this way.