Oh Father, Where Art Thou?

Then there was the time I joined the Army. Throughout my 10 years, I was often asked “Why did you join?”

The easy answer was that I ran out of things to do. In retrospect, at the ripe old age of 19 I find it extremely hard to believe. But looking back at my options at the time, if I did not get out of that tiny town, I would have never left. I miss that place, but it was too small for me.

The real answer and my driving force to join the Army was a Hail Mary attempt at connecting with my father. Growing up, I remember him always coming or going. We would record our voices on cassette tapes and send them to whatever country he was in that year. He would send some back with souvenirs, some I still have to this day.

I remember the way my dad smelled when he would come back from the field. All of his gear would smell like camouflage and sweat. My brother and I would try to hold his feet while he did sit ups and then he would leave the house and run for miles before coming back drenched and out of breathe.

I remember Christmases were the most magical time. Mom and Dad would go all out, rearranging the house and adding decorations we have no idea existed. I never really felt the tinge of needing. I’m sure they went without before we ever did.

2002 sent my dad to Korea. I completed a year of Bible college where the focus was on finding the love of God as a Father. This bought about many glaring daddy issues I never knew existed and a driving need to rectify them.

 

I enlisted in the Army while my dad was at war. I knew he could not tell me “No” once I had done it. Looking back, being in the midst of death and violence, I am almost positive it broke his heart to imagine his daughter in such a place. He was nothing but supportive, and even was able to make Christmas special from where ever he was:

 

“Hello Everyone,

Sorry I’m not anywhere to get you a nice Christmas card. They did finally get some Thanks giving ones in.

A lot of fighting in Ramadi these days. We continue to take casualties, but I think we are doing well. Your Dad is “A Fighting First Sergeant”. I’ll be glad when this chapter in life has concluded.

I miss you and love you. Your invisible Father,

Love, Dad”

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I received a couple of letters from my dad prior to this at boot camp. The Drill Sergeants would call us out of formation to collect our mail. One  day I was questioned as to who the letter was from, seeing that it came from a military base over seas from a First Sergeant with my last name. I told them my father was at war. They let me go without consequence, and I found that quite strange. On Thanksgiving, as we all stood completely still and silent, that same Drill Sergeant called upon me as we waited to enter the dining facility for our holiday meal.

“Private Gilliam! Who is your father?”

“First Sergeant Gilliam, Drill Sergeant.”

“Now listen up, pit stains! While you go inside and file thru getting your fatty-cakes and licky-chewies, remember that there are Soldiers far more discipline than you, eating MRE’s or nothing at all. Private Gilliam’s dad is at war. He isn’t eating turkey. He’ll be lucky to get  peanut butter on a stale piece of bread.”

As “tough” as I wanted to be, I cried. He was right and I felt so ashamed for never realizing that he was not away from home because he wanted to be. That day I realized where he had been throughout my life.

When I went home for Christmas break, I was able to check my email and found that he had sent a mass email to the family.

 

“Hello everyone, It has been a while and communications will continue to be sporadic like this for a while. There has been a great deal of fighting and it is not over by a long shot in this country… Please pray for them [his Soldiers]. I am fine. I am currently on my third hummvw. The first one was blown up an 2 Sep. The second took 2 rpg rounds in the left rear door and out the back of the vehicle in Oct. Now I’m down to a haji armored cargo. It has already been hit by a proximity mortar round which shredded my cooler in the back. Up until that point I hadn’t gotten angry. However, I had hopes of cleaning that cooler up and setting it next to my recliner full of light beer from Miller after I retire. It was more important to me than the big screen TV I am going to buy. Oh yeah and a few new bullet holes in the front windshield, but it is bullet proof so long as we don’t take too many more. We are back to living without electricity, water, the usual. My company has commandeered a large castle (Keep) looking building. The rest of the battalion is holding up in a small post a mile or so down the road. I tell ya, it has been fifteen years since I had to burn human excrement. But it was a most humbling and almost spiritual ritual… Anyway, I am good and all is well today. Never take your life for granted. Love, Jim”

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Not many people know that my dad is a funny guy. In the thick of all that had and was happening, he did not want us to worry but he did want us to know what it was like. I also want to add that he lost his first hummvw the day before his birthday and the second when I left for boot camp. None of us (family) had any idea.

When I returned after Christmas, I found out that both of my feet had stress fractures and my hips were not much better off. I was 5’2″ and 120 pounds tops carrying the same load as the 6’2″ guy next to me. Okay, maybe his boots weighed more than mine but  you get the idea. I had never been athletic in my life. I was struggling to even walk some days but trying to make it through with my peers. Dad sent me this:

 

“Dear Dacia, It was great to get your letter. I mean REALLY GREAT. Glad to hear basic is going well for you. It is a steady paycheck. Do the best that you can and even if you do recycle, it’s that much more money in the bank.

I love you and miss you. I am very, very proud of you. With the way things are  you could probably transfer to Active Duty if you like it. I go along your thoughts and try the part time thing first.

Here in Ramadi we are preparing for the upcoming elections…  We will never make the news though because Ramadi is the political capital of the Anbur Province. So there is too much of our own politics at stake here… Never forget what your job means  in the Army. You take care and do your best. I love you sooooo much. Love, Dad”

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I carried this letter into my own war. In 2007, I deployed to work in Baghdad ER as a medic. For 15 months I witnessed the atrocities of war. I would look into young Soldier’s eyes, talking to them, trying to calm them as we tended to their fatal wounds before they slipped off to sleep and up to the operating room for a last chance at some sort of life beyond their wounds. I never followed up to know if they made it home. We would already be onto another set of young men and women mangled from a fight. Children would come in the same way.

I pushed through that time in my life because I never forgot what my job meant. I had also not only witnessed but experience a small fraction of what my dad went through while his little girl prepared for the same.

The day my father announced his retirement, I cried. Could my father truly be a mortal being? Would he still wear his uniform as a Sergeant Major as he walked me down the isle and give me away to my husband?

Yes, yes, and yes. Over twenty years of an infantry career, took its toll on my father’s body, but he would still dawn the uniform with his rows and rows of ribbons perfectly straight and right shoulder insignia proudly displayed. As we stood at the closed door that represented the rest of my life, the other side a gentleman sang “Lady” by Styx, my dad looked at my and said “Are they going to change the music or are we walking out to this?”

“No, Dad. We are walking out to this.” He smiled and the door opened.

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In his loud, clear, and stern Sergeant Major voice, he announced “Her mother and I” were giving me away.

Later that evening, the moment came to dance with my dad. I do not recall this ever happening before in my life. “We Belong” by Pat Benetar played and I cried.

“How did we get here, MeMe?” His little girl who had shitty handwriting in third grade and who hated to do homework had been to war twice and was now married.

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Even in his retirement, my father has been the one I have turned to for life advice. He would offer it knowing I was going to do what I wanted anyway. He was supportive and always proud even if the road I took to success was not the easiest. I made it work, I made a family, and I grew into a happy successful adult.

I attribute my resilience to having to do things for myself. Needing to find my own way to get there. My dad really is a funny guy. No one else would no that. He has always been my hero. Love you, King Daddy.

 

Poet and Didn’t Know-et.

Aside from class assignments, I cannot currently write poetry. But there was a time when I could. When my adolescent and young adult demons where well fed and I struggled to find myself. This past weekend, my husband and I went through our basement and years of boxes we have packed around our adult lives from houses, cities, states, and failed relationships. I stumbled upon letters from my father (another post for another time), letters from my husband when we were deployed to two different countries, and old poems I had written many lifetimes ago that I would like to share.

I am not sure who this poem is about, but goodness I was in a horrible place.

“Showcase”

I hate the way you love me

The way you feed on my misery

Thirsting for my tears and sweat that fall to the ground, watering the garden of your ego

I am your accessory

I smile for your convenience

Standing on a pedestal you placed me on to drink freely on the attention from other men.

I cannot leave you.

You have taken all from me.

I cannot breathe without you.

Yet when you sleep, I am alone again.

You hurt me when you tore down my walls

I cry when you touch me.

I kept you at arms length, but you still broke through.

It’s not okay. I’m not okay.

What you have taken from me, I can never give again.

But still you ask for more… more…

I only have but one soul.

Now I am a ghost who sleeps in your bed

A memory of who I used to be and who you tell people I am.

Dreams of Grandeur

I have every intention on being a full time writer. I swear once I can get some sleep and able to put my thoughts in some kind of logical order, I will actually get something published. My first will probably a compilation of my real life posts titled “Memoirs of a Dacia” (see what I did there).

In the writing world, there are events each year that support hobbyist and professionals alike, and for the first time, I plan on participating in a few. But I need help.

The first challenge I plan on undertaking is “10,000 and 10”. Basically, in the month of march I will produce a work of 10,000 words.

Then, I need 10 people to read it.

My hope is to gain insight into my writing style, learn what works and what does not, and ultimately become a better writer.

I understand that reading 10,000 words (about 30 pages) is a task. That is why I have shared this post with so many people. When I did direct sales, the odds were 1 of 10 would say yes. And we have a month and a half to complete it.

If you’d be interested in being one of my 10 for this challenge, please let me know. My slate is currently blank and am open to ideas. I have not even decided if it will be fiction or nonfiction, but if you could spare an hour of your time to read my writing to help me reach a goal, I’d appreciate it.

 

And this is what you’d be supporting:

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via Daily Prompt: Expectation

Hey Jude…

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Some weekends I get a sudden burst of energy and use crafts as an outlet. Here are a couple more, but this is a new one that speaks far louder to me than the simple words shadowed by the shelf.

“Take a sad song, and make it better…” Most everyone is familiar with the song “Hey, Jude” by The Beetles. In this one line sits many devastating stories of my life, some of which I have shared with you in earlier posts, and others maybe not.

My Willow Tree collection started accidentally. During my first deployment, my very best friend sent me two friends holding hands (second from the left). This is now my memorial for her as she was taken from this world only weeks later.

My second Willow Tree statue (center) was a gift from my husband for Christmas when I was pregnant with our little guy and our first child. I usually have to tell my husband what to get me for Christmas, but this was completely on his own and seeing as how Sami’s statue held such a strong position in my heart, it only made sense that our growing family sit right there with it. Its present position on the shelf is very important, as we walk through this life together, the rest of the world happens around us. The puppy to the right of center is our family pup, and trial child, Watson. The little boy angel to the left of center presents the 3 little people that we never got to meet.

I purchased the sisters statue (second from the right) because of everyone in this world, my sister has always been a support and friend. My cheerleader and sounding board. (Love you!)

The last two of my collection were recent gifts also from my mister. The far left is the little boy and his mama and the far right, a little girl and her mama.

I’ve had many sad songs play in my life, but turning them into something so incredibly beautiful has been a welcomed journey.

 

 

I’m raising my own pep squad

A recent victory in the world of my 3 (almost 4) year old… We went #2 on the potty for the first time ever. It has been a struggle in which pull-ups have won, until this week when I “threw them all away!” (I moved them to a different cabinet). So just has little guy has his hands over his bottom and a distressed look on his face, I rushed him in and set him down and PLOP! Sweet Victory!

So, this morning in the rush of getting everyone out of the house on time, I took a minute to use the potty. This is never a solo task and hasn’t been for as long as I have been a mother. In comes my little guy and he smiles so big and says “Great job, Mommy! You did it! You’re the BEST!” Thanks, Kid. *high five* Now let Mommy go potty in peace.

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True to life picture of my son’s fingers while I’m trying to go potty February 2014. He was 1 y/o.

It seems like I just blinked and went from hosting crazy parties, to shuffling these two little people through life, hoping they are happy and satisfied with themselves. Trying to build them up to be proud of themselves and have the confidence to truly do anything they put their mind to. I know one day someone will tell them they can’t, and I hope then I will have the answer to guide them to continue to see the positive. As much as I would want to pop that person in the mouth that told them otherwise, I want them to have the confidence to solve their own problems.

Wow. That got off topic. I am glad my son is able to see the good jobs of other people and recognize them for it. Makes me feel like I’ve done something right.

 

Syrian Babies

I am reluctant to write such a confrontational post, but the more I hold this in, the more it eats my soul.

Lately it has been a thing to post photos of injured/ dead Syrian children on social media. For the love of everything I just can’t.

I can see why one might feel that this is justified: They are raising awareness of the atrocities that are occurring in Syria and the need for liberation, They are angry at our president for banning further refugees into America, They want to shock people into action.. However they wish to justify sharing these images, I am not in the least bit concerned.

Have you ever seen an injured or otherwise mangled child? Have you been to war and seen first hand the “collateral damage”? Have you treated a little kid whose abdominal contents sit visible while that little one is in so much shock, he does not even realize the extent of his ouchy? No? Never? Then stop fricken putting these photos on your FaceBook! You are not creating a soft spot in people’s hearts, are you making them numb to death. You are turning a subject that should outrage people into another make up tutorial.

“Dacia, how can you just stand idly by while these horrible things are happening to babies?!” I will tell you how. Because hearing the screams from these babies killed and maimed over a war that is not theirs saying “Where were you while we were being slaughtered?!” is too much for me to carry emotionally.

When I see these posts and these babies, all the memories of real children that I have touched, held,  and carried to the morgue come rushing back. AND THEN, the faces of these teeny babies are replaced with the faces of my own children and I suddenly understand that I cannot, no matter how much I love them and try, I cannot protect them. Not my kids. Not Syrian kids. Do you think that the parents of Sandy Hook thought that their kids were safe when they dropped them off at school? Of course they did. I live everyday terrified that the things I had seen and experienced at war, will one day follow me home and show up on my door step. I daily use methods to keep PTDS and obsessive actions at bay when it comes to my children.

So PLEASE, stop don’t share these photos. I have experienced war. I know what happens. It is disgusting, and horrible what is happening but FaceBook is not going to contact your city representatives and voice your opinion about your city’s stance on refugees. FaceBook is not where you go to open your home to a family or even an orphan of a war torn country. FaceBook is not going to donate money to replace what was formerly subsidized by the Federal government to house these people.

 

Drumpft

Despite your views of today’s ceremony and what it means to the people, I challenge you to be a better you in order to extinguish what people think lies ahead. Such a good read by Katherine Fritz.

My heart is breaking again today. I’ve been cycling through those first four stages of grief on repeat and on shuffle for the past few weeks, and the last few nights have been restless and fearful. I know I am not alone in this, but it’s hard to remember that sometimes, when everything seems so big and […]

via This I Swear. — I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog