Not me. Not this time.

HappyBirthdayMy Love

I have never been the one to mess with. I have either always knew the rule or researched it enough to know whether my stance on the matter was right or wrong. Health/ dental insurance don’t mess with me.  I know my contract in and out. I know what I am “entitled to”.

“But Dacia, you’re a millennial, you’re not entitled to anything!

I am a ten year Army veteran. I have earned my health and dental plans. (But really they are my husband’s work’s so shut up. Yes I have ‘earned’ them)

So let me tell you women something. You do not have to agree with what they tell you.

You don’t have to go along because you don’t know any better

You can learn negative and detrimental things of you own past that bring to light something you held at high regard.

You can learn that ‘”protection” might not have actually saved you from the danger of your own family.

You can learn that after 32 years of existence, what you thought you had built your own foundation  on was a lie or was kept a secret from you, in hopes that it would go away.

I feel ashamed and defensive. I feel like I am owed the truth on the matter before I go chiseling at the details.

I feel that being so comfortably removed from the situation has, yes, saved me from the physical hurt that others have experienced but also left the remaining victims silent in their recovery, personal remorse, and unable to anonymously share their side of the story.

Ladies- You are not alone. Many have felt this pain. It is not my story to tell, but if you can help others by stepping up, then maybe it’s worth it.

It is time that you have felt this validation. That YOU know that you are loved despite the things that happened to you.

I grew up so far removed. My memories are locked in the photos I own. I try to apply principles to my own little family that has very different dynamics.

If you can please help me to understand why women lay so vulnerable to men;   not allowing their own voices to be heard. Why do you place your husband above the love of your children? Then I may be able to sleep tonight.

Just Jump

There was one time, I jumped out of an airplane. I had been on many before, even over a war zone when the turbulence was questionable to the pilot’s skill and flares shot out the back to ward off enemy fire. I would sometimes ask my fellow passengers if they would jump. Some looked at me wide-eyed and green-faced and shook their head no. Others would consider the question and without too much thought claim they would. I, however, had spend some time mulling the question over. I decided that if some one shoved a parachute in my arms, and had full confidence that I would live through the experience, I would absolutely do it. I think this is pretty consistent with most things in my life, though only a few where failure would mean certain death.

There is never a perfect time to have kids, buy a house, change jobs, get married. I mean sure, looking back everything fell into place, but at the time it was hard work and incredibly scary. I struggled and got hurt along the way, but every single thing in my life has placed my in the seat I am in (attached to this damn pump). Through all of these changes, one thing has remained consistent: my resilience. I never stopped looking up. I never kept trying for inner peace in the situation. I never let things consume me. And when it was hard to do on my own, I got help. I have been through some of the most horrible things. But I still smile and play with my baby girl when she wakes up, I still hug my son and tell him how handsome he is before school. I tell my husband how much I love him every single day. I come to work and put pride in every thing I do.

The other day I watched a video about Will Smith describing the time he jumped out of a plane. He said something like how complete and utter fear precedes unimaginable bliss. If you have children, those moments before that little person arrive are riddled with fear and anxiety. But the moment you hear that perfect sound of their cry, nothing ever comes close to the happiness and relief of that moment. Separated by milliseconds. Sometimes they are even all smashed together into one.

If this does not personify my message today, I don’t know what would. Thank you Kellie for letting me share this moment.

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This photo was taken by Jennifer Mason of Jennifer Mason Photography. The photo is of my friend Kellie and her brand new babe. (So many feels)

So if you’re on the fence of something incredibly scary and life changing I encourage you to take a chance for the better. (If you are on a literal fence and it’s a long way down, maybe you should reach out for some help like I did). Either way, change might be scary, but I think living the same day over and over is far worse.

 

Sneak Peek! (My Book)

So, I keep talking about writing a book. But for the last year and a half that’s all its been. Talk. So this month I am actually working on it. This is the second chapter. You haven’t missed too much, but if you absolutely need to read more you can click HERE for instructions on how to follow my March Writing Challenge. Feedback is welcome and appreciated, including grammatical corrections.

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Two hours into her shift, she still could not shake the doctor from her mind, so she kept busy. She completed her daily responsibilities including catching and fixing the errors in paperwork from the previous shift. She cleaned the entire facility and hoped that they would see at least one patient that day, otherwise she would need to find more to keep her mind busy. She reached for her coffee, and realized it had been empty for some time. She tried for her water bottle but was empty as well. Feeling slightly defeated, she walk past the nurse’s station with her rehearsed smile.

“Is it typically like this? Do you think we will get patients around lunch time?”

The middle aged man pulled the bud from his ear with an exaggerated smack of his lips and dramatic fling of his wrist.

“Girl, you need to download you a book or something. Nothing exciting is coming through that door anytime soon.” This made Valerie smile a true smile. “What’s your name, Girl?”

“Oh, I’m Val. I usually work up in Denver. I’m covering for Shawna.” The nurse looked up from the paperback book she was involved in. She looked old enough to be Valerie’s mother with a sweet smile and deep wrinkles about her eyes.

“Hi Val. I’m Betty.”

Of course you are, Valerie thought.

“…and this is Roy. Don’t mind him.” Betty motioned toward Roy like swatting at a bug.

“Well, Betty, it’s nice to meet you both. I’m headed to the break room for coffee. Do either of you need anything?”

“No, Honey, I’m good.” Roy replied as he replaced his ear bud and continued with whatever he was doing.

“Oh, you know, I will probably be back there in a few.” Betty smiled again. Valerie thought Betty was welcoming and genuine; rare in the profession of emergency nursing but refreshing.

The break room was spacious. It had two mounted TVs high on the wall. One played satellite TV; the other streamed various security cameras in and around the facility.   Neither TV seemed to be functioning properly. The one reserved for entertainment was static and the security monitor flashed black, to static, to a clear image and back to black. Lucky the windows lining two sides of the room allowed her to see if she needed to return to the front office to check someone in.

Hoping another cup of coffee and some water would ease her agitation, she scanned the choices of single serving coffee as there was no coffee pot. All the tiny cups boasted of Medium Roast or Breakfast Blends. She chose two medium roasts. Maybe if she concentrated them by using the smallest setting, they would be strong enough for her taste. As she grabbed the milk from the refrigerator, she noticed her hand shaking. This was now getting to an extreme that she knew could lead to trouble. She began to take inventory of herself. Cool but sweaty, shaky, dry mouth. Maybe she did not drink enough water or had forgotten to eat. She lost the grip on the milk which fell and exploded on the floor. Panicking, she began quickly rummaging through the refrigerator to find juice of any kind. She found sodas and flavored waters all open and half empty. She felt herself starting to become disoriented, and her vision was narrowing. She spotted it; a single serving carton of orange juice. Without caring who it belonged to, she sat at the table and drank at least half of it before taking a breath. She scooted her chair to the water dispenser, filled one of the plastic cups it offered and began sipping until the shakes were gone. For a split second, she considered telling Betty what had happened. The nurse would at least want her to get checked out. Valerie would be forced to be Dr. Wilkes focus for however long it took to run tests. This was not her first fainting episode. Aside from what she had done already, there was nothing a doctor would suggest differently. It was an easy decision for her to keep the incident to herself. She stood slowly making sure the worst was over, and proceeded to the storage closet for cleaning supplies, careful not to slip on the puddle of milk on the floor. Just as the door shut, the closet light got brighter and brighter until it exploded with a deafening crack. Everything went black.

When her eyes opened, the room was black. She strained for her eyes to focus and could make out a faint light being emitted under the door of the supply room. She lifted her face from the cold linoleum. She must have passed out despite her interventions. Going outside of her normal morning routine threw her off and that was why she had not eaten. The stress of avoiding Dr. Wilkes doubled knowing she should make sure she did not have a concussion from falling. She stretched her jaw, rolled her shoulders, tilted her head carefully side to side, and ran her fingers through her hair.  She found no signs of trauma. She stood slowly thinking to trigger the motion sensor lights, but it remained dark. She groped in the dark for the knob and pulled the door open. The only light was coming from the windows in the breakroom. She also noticed that it was profoundly quiet. No mechanical hum of equipment. Forgetting her original mission, Valerie walked back to the nurse’s station where Betty and Roy both stood looking as disheveled and she felt.

“Girl, what did you do back there?” As the words left Roy’s mouth, the lights and all equipment sprung back to life.

“Oh, the generator must have kicked on. That’s never happened before. I thought maybe something had blown up, it was so loud. I’ll call maintenance and see if we can get someone out here to check it out.” Betty said.

“No, nothing blew up. I was in the supply room. It was so dark in there!” Valerie tried to joke. “Everything seems to be working now. I’ll check and see how long the generator is supposed to last. Hopefully the regular power kicks back on soon or else we might have a short shift.”

“I’m not complaining!” With another smack of his lips, Roy disappeared into the x-ray room to check the equipment’s functions. Valerie returned to the front office. The sun had finally risen above the building, no longer blinding every one inside. As she walked closer to the window, she heard a faint whistle, like a balloon slowly losing its air. With each passing second and each step to the window it grew louder. By the time she reached it, the entire building shook and the sound drown out her every thought. She watched out the window just a moment longer to see the plane fly so low over the building and crash just out of site. She felt the impact in her chest. One after another, planes went down, and more that she could hear but not see from the window. With every explosion, she jumped. She did not even notice Betty screaming for her to get down under her desk. She was mesmerized by the destruction. With each plane, her stomach ached. She was horrified. At the first sign of panic, she switched her brain to turn off emotion. She must keep it together and act. So she began to count them. She counted twelve impacts and could see seven pillars of smoking rising from the various crashes. August spoke from behind her so loud that she jumped again.

“Well I guess there isn’t much we can do if one lands on us.” He said standing behind her looking over her shoulder. She moved passed him mechanically and grabbed the phone off the receiver.

“What are you doing?” He asked. Valerie picked up and slammed the phone three more times before answering the doctor.

“I was going to call 911.”

“No doubt those planes took out some power lines. At this point, I think we are 911. Start prepping charts and supplies. This isn’t going to be over for a while.” Valerie looked toward August for the first time since their meeting that morning. This time, it was not the stellar physique of the doctor that caught her eye. Behind him, through the window she watched a mass of people walking toward their emergency room through stopped traffic. They came from all directions. The crowd could have been two hundred people. None of them had any visible trauma. August turned around once he noticed Valerie’s confused expression was not directed at him and he saw it, too.

“If they are all walking, they can’t be that sick.” August tried to laugh, but he suddenly looked unsure. He walked to Betty who stood, mouth gaping, at the hoards. He delved out orders to his team of three. “Valerie, we are just going to assume this is a mass disaster. Stop them outside. If they are uninjured, not in labor, and are otherwise well, send them home. I will help you triage as much as possible but we do not have the capacity to treat someone that just bumped their head.” He paused and watched for her reaction, like he knew what happened in the closet. There was no way he could have known.

“I got it.” She said, hoping she was dismissed

“Betty. Roy. Split the patients up and collect vitals, medical histories, and get a basic idea of what ailing them.” He finally broke his gaze to collect his jacket, stethoscope, pen and paper before meeting back up with Valerie to walk outside.

“With the plane crashes, there were going to be people with real injuries that require attention. I doubt they come here. Most will go to the main hospitals, but anyone within walking distance will show up here. I have felt strange all day. Like static electricity in the air. It’s weird. It’s gone now but this and when I woke up…” he paused. “My parents used to tell me a story when I was a kid. I just wonder…” August trailed off again. Valerie had not noticed until he mentioned it, but she was no longer shaky or agitated. She felt grounded and strong, her mind incredibly clear. They walked in step with one another through the waiting room.

“Oh my garsh. Oh my garsh! I can’t believe this is happening. What is happening?” Betty kept on. She spoke mostly to herself, rhetorically which faded as they pushed through the glass doors that were not functioning.

As people started to gather in the parking lot, it became evident that there were no injuries. Even more strange was that they were all in exceptional health.

“Raise your hand if you are a patient.” She addressed the crowd. Fifty people raised their hands. All appearing healthy.

“Is there anyone here that is bleeding?” She paused but no one responded. “Anyone with chest pain?” Another pause. “Okay… Broken bones or pain in general?” Still no response.

“Have you done this before?” August asked with a smirk.

“Not in this capacity. When I worked EMS we had a Greyhound bus crash on I-25 north of Monument. There were forty-five on the bus. None of them pretty. Do you care to help me divide and conquer? Just let me know if you need to take someone inside.” They parted and began asking individuals why they were there. It was the same story. They passed out, fell, hit their head. Each one described exactly what she had experienced in the supply closet.

After the fourth repeat, August decided to begin seeing the patients that fell.

“Just bring a handful in at a time. If something more serious comes through, definitely take that in immediately.” She nodded in compliance and he went inside to let the others know.

Valerie led the first group of people into the lobby. It took Valerie two seconds to find the Maximum Occupancy sign on the wall. Eighty-nine. Four of those spots were taken by staff. The lobby held thirty in just a matter of a few minutes. The eleven chairs were more in the way than practical.

“Raise your hand, again, if you are a patient.” She could see out of the main doors more gathering outside waiting to be seen. There was no end in sight. She loudly called out instructions to the group as a whole, passing out forms and identification bracelets. Her biggest obstacle was that the computer and copy machines did not work.

Within fifteen minutes the first six patients were placed in their rooms and more people filtered in through the door. She repeated her instruction and triage questions with the same results. For the first time since the first plane crash, she pulled out her phone. The battery was dead. She tried the office phone, still nothing. Denver International Airport was a twenty minute drive from her home. If planes were going down, they might have gone down there, also. Caleb was her only thought. Her baby was home and she was a hundred miles away. If Scott were home, she would be less anxious, but Gia was just a kid herself. Would she panic and leave him? Would she take him somewhere else? What if a plane…

“Valerie! We need some help back here.” Roy announced obviously flustered. “Girl. Nothing is working. All the equipment is being crazy and we need another set of hands.”

Roy noticed the phone in her hand and the emotion on her face. “We all got people. But we need help.”

Valerie followed him, switching the emotions off again and placing her phone back in her pocket.

“The equipment works fine until you go to put it on so we have to get manual vitals on all these people. Here take these and get started in the lobby.” Roy handed her a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. “You’re gonna need something to write on.” He tosses her a post-it pad. “Just write their ID number and vitals on it. Make them hand it to us when they come back. This group in here is ready to go.”

Valerie was numb. None of them were sick or hurt. They had all begun to recap their version of the same story.

“I was doing what I normally do and then I felt lightheaded. The next thing I knew, I woke up on the ground. Someone said I passed out for, like, two seconds. I figured I’d get checked out…” The person listened for the story repeated by another. “Isn’t that crazy? I felt weird all morning. Now my body just feels weird, like heavy.” They continued to repeat each other in their own rendition.

“I wonder why everyone didn’t feel it. I saw those planes go down, too, in a field behind my house. Crazy, huh? Lucky they didn’t land right in the middle of the neighborhood.” One man continued rambling. She tried her hardest to listen for the beat of his heart. Tried to focus and count. To drowned out the noise. Her own thoughts were the loudest of any voice in the around her. Caleb. Caleb. CALEB. It made her sick. She had to focus. Any minute, the less serious trauma from the crashes could come pouring in.

“It’s strange that some cars work and others don’t. I had to drift my car to the side and use my e-brake. And I saw others freak out and do the same, but some cars kept going. My phone doesn’t work either.”

“Valerie, come in here for a sec.” August gathered his team into a huddle at the nurse’s station.

“There is nothing wrong with these people. Valerie, I need you to start screening them at the window. If they have no other complaint than passing out, we have to move them out. How many are still waiting?”

“We have fifteen in the lobby signed in and a huge crowd outside. Some have dispersed but otherwise they are loitering and talking amongst themselves. I’m surprised no one has come in from a car accident and I have yet to see anything from the planes. I have yet to truly see a walking wounded aside from a fall. From the talk in the lobby, it’s bad out there. Planes crashing, cars aren’t working.”

“Excuse me!” A firm voice came from the lobby. A tall man wearing a blue uniform with white letters CDC. “Who is in charge here?”

August approached the man and spoke with him briefly before returning to the group.

“Alright, change of plans. All patients that are checked in will go with the CDC group that is waiting outside. Everyone affected by the event today will be placed under observation. Valerie, just make a copy of the patient list for the day and pass it to that guy over there. He’s going to get the patients loaded up. He also has information to give the families.” August spoke with authority but something in his tone was weary. Valerie did not like it either. Something was way off.

After she finished hand writing the list, Valerie watched concerned mothers part with their teenage children and husbands kiss their wives. She still had not told anyone what happened to her. She wanted nothing more than to run out the door and drive as fast as she could. There was so much chaos outside and it was only a matter of time before she would have to face whatever horrors lay ahead of her.

The lobby had finally cleared. The CDC collected the pedestrians that waited outside into a large package car, similar to large mail truck, but was blue with the same CDC logo as on the man’s uniform. She found it particularly unnerving that the CDC people wore what looked similar to a security guard uniforms and not in personal protective suits since the people were taken for observation. As she stepped back to the front desk, the TV in the lobby sprung to life. It was live news coverage in static from a local channel.

“Quarantine has begun for those affected by the electrical surge that spread over the entire world. The CDC has put out the following statement:

At exactly 12:37pm Eastern Standard Time, an electrical surge passed over the entire surface of the Earth. The cause of the surge is unknown but is believed to have multiple points of impact all over the globe. It is uncertain at this time how or what permanent effects this has caused. It seems the surge disabled all airborne vessels and we regrettably report that over 4,000 planes have gone down, as a result. Most motor transportation has also been effected.

The current of electricity has affected certain individuals as well. If you or someone you know had a loss of consciousness, fell, or passed out and reported a numb sensation over their body, the CDC requests that these people contact them at 1-800-CDC-6936.”

The news anchor continued to talk as four stood in silence. Inner turmoil wore obvious on their faces as they each seemed to be fighting their own battle, to stay or to go. The phone rang and startled the group. Gia’s name showed on the caller ID and Valerie jumped at the phone. Silence.

“GIA?!?! HELLO!!!??”

Curses flew from her with tears and anger. Betty softly put an arm on her shoulder and pulled her in to hug her.

“Shhhh. If you need to go, hun, now would be the time. There is no more good any of us can do here. You have a long drive.”

She did not ask permission. She did not look at the doctor or Roy or even acknowledge Betty’s words. She gathered her things and walked out the front door. As she approached her car, no amount of pressure would activate the key fob. She began to get anxious. She manually unlocked and opened the door, threw her things inside. She got in the driver’s seat, shut the door, took a deep breath and shoved the key in the ignition. Another deep breath, she turned the key. Nothing.

 

Six Fact Sunday

So it’s Saturday, but most will wake up to this post so here it goes.

In March I will begin a very intense writing challenge which will limit my time here with you all. So the compromise is that I will aim at doing one very structured post.

Since this is the first, this week will simply be about me. Six things you probably do not already know about me.

  1. I can say “Hello. How are you. I am good. I am tired.” in six different languages. Enough to make a person otherwise isolated smile at my attempt at relating. These six languages include English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Swahili (my personal favorite). The funny thing is, if you have watched the movie Lion King, you know far more Swahili than you think. Simba= Lion. Rafiki= Monkey. Hakunah Matata really means “No worries”. lol Isn’t that fun?!!? In the hospital where I work, there are many African immagrants and they typically speak French or Swahili. When you say hello in their native language their faces light up. It’s so fun.
  2. I once turned in a human jaw bone belonging to a 200 year old Native American man to the coroner’s office. This is a looong story for another time.
  3. I once physically took two children from their home and placed them into protective custody. This is a sad and frustrating story of a young woman mentally unfit to care for her own kids. I would not be in the least bit surprised if they never made back to her. Sweetest kids ever and I was 6 months pregnant and managed to hold it together. Ugh.
  4. I once served someone divorce papers. Very awkward, but he was expecting them.
  5. I have only been a writer for two years. This is how long I have been working on my current novel. I get stuck on character interactions in difficult situations.
  6. Coffee means sooooo much to me. I can go without it, but there is a sense of calm and security it brings me that If it came down to my health or coffee, I would have to make a few compromises.  Sometimes I drink decaf if I get a late night craving because it is far more about the taste and experience than the caffeine involve. I would just consider that a perk at this point.

So now you know a little about me. Want more 6 facts? What subjects would you like to see? Later posts might include:

“Six Facts About Civilian Life After the Military”

“Six Facts About Solo Parenting”

“Six Facts About Sleep Deprivation”

Lawd I think I have my month planned out. Cheers!!


There is still time to enter into the Give-Away!

How do I enter???

First- Follow my blog by clicking the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen.

Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.
You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Good luck everyone and Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

TBT Fun!

Apparently (I use this word because, like I have mentioned before, my memory is shot) my cousin and I used to be pen pals. Of the many MANY cousins, there were three of us girls around the same age. One that I just found out has had a blog for a year and never told me until yesterday… The other is a very successful dance teacher and Silk instructor (not her in the video obviously but an example of what she does).

Anywho- Dancer cousin and I used to be pen pals. (Blog cousin and I used to live together which will probably fill many many future posts).

I am a year older and I think around the time we were 11 and 12 or 12 and 13, we wrote back and forth a few times. WELL… I uncovered this treasure in my pile of junk.

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A few things stand out to me about this.

  1. She wanted to know about my life. I wanted everything she had. Her house that never changed. Her friends that she could keep as long as she wanted. Her room that was HUGE. Even the easy bake oven that Grandma got her for Christmas, instead of my Barbie Car. But here it is. SHE wanted to know about ME.
  2. My handwriting is not much different 20ish years later.
  3. Our dreams and wants were the same at that age. I wanted to be a Biochemist and work for NASA growing crops on Mars. And who doesn’t want to look thin. I didn’t get either of those things. Boo.

My cousin and I lost touch for a long time. I remember one year at Thanksgiving, she brought her then fiance. I was so jealous that she was getting married before me. A couple years later I reached out to her on my way to desert training for the military. It was a long bus ride so I had plenty of time. She told me about her horrifying emergency delivery. I listened and burned the story into my mind. Even through the birth of my son and daughter being unplanned C-sections, I remember her story and would never wish it on anyone.

My cousin was a key player in the healing of my miscarriages before Little Miss came along. Well placed inappropriate jokes helped me get through the utter loss that consumed me. She made me more comfortable to discuss them, and to write about them. I hoped to one day be that support for someone else.

When our grandmother passed away, my sister and I stayed with my cousin. I feel like there was not nearly enough time spent together, I realized how these women in my life (Dancer and Blogger) are my sisters. I feel so much warmth and love for these two along with my own sister that I truly cannot articulate.

Though I moved around so many times as a kid, and only have exactly one friend that I am in constant contact with, I know that these women will always be my best friends and be there for me without question or judgement.

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There is still time to enter into the Give-Away!

How do I enter??? 

First- Follow my blog by clicking the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen.

  1. Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
  2. Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
  3. Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.

 

You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

 

100!!! -I’m doing a Give-Away!

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There have been a few events that make me feel like a legitimate writer. This is one of them. I have reached 100 followers on my Blog! I know a lot of you read from FaceBook, but if you’d like to contribute to my following click the “+Follow” button at the bottom right side of your screen and follow me via email.

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In honor of my HUGE milestone, I would like to offer a give away. I will do a random drawing for a custom artsy fartsy project handmade by yours truly. I haven’t quite put my finger on what it will be, but I promise it will be made with love. ❤ There will be 3 winners, so your chances of winning something are pretty high. I will also ship these items, so please do not feel limited by miles. For an idea of the kind of crafty things I do, you can check THIS  out.

How do I enter??? 

First- Follow my blog! lol Then you have a few options:

  1. Reblog your favorite Britestfyrefly post on your own page and link it back to me so I know who you are.
  2. Share the link to one of your favorite posts on Facebook and tag me.
  3. Email the link to your favorite post to a few people and CC me.

 

You may share as much as you want. Each link shared will get you an entry into the drawing which will happen Live on Facebook on February 28th and be posted and shared later that day.

Thank you all for all of your support through the last couple of years. A writer is nothing without readers 😀

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.