I look back on my days in the United States Army and remember what so many of us women went through during basic training and AIT. Our basic training was during the height of the summer; we carried rucksacks and tall black weapons, wore black leather boots that initially were too heavy and camouflage uniforms too weighty and hot. These things bonded us. We were gassed together, and watched as snot and spit ran from every orifice. We realized in that moment that no matter our race, our bodies reacted the same. We were all sick and ugly that day, red-faced and lungs heavy.
The training made us strong, even when some of us wanted to be weak and retreat into femininity. I made it through and from there became a reservist. After three years I went on active duty, with my first duty station in West Germany. It was a wondrous experience; the people, the food, the culture, the technology, it was all superior to America in my young 21 year old eyes.
I was there when the Wall came down and the country unified. I watched as shoe-sized cars with suitcases stacked taller than most small businesses pass through, heading to meet long lost family, heading to meet almost forgotten friends, and many more heading to meet an unpredictable future and a new unexpected destiny. Some would decide not to leave; they were home, but now free. I witnessed it all in utter amazement; I was there for a world changing historical event.
I wanted to stay, but when my time was up, fear sent me back to America. By this time I had a four-month old baby girl in tow, born on the soil of West Germany.
I look back on my Army days and realize that the memories are bittersweet. I neither gush over the experience nor rail against it. The experience was what it was. I see the world through a different lens now. I am here.
Nineteen Eighty Six seems so long ago.
November, 11 2016