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.

 

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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.

 

Sister Sister

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While serving in Baghdad ER, I got a phone call from my mother. (I cannot even go into how we were able to receive international calls at war in Iraq. Apparently you could dial a phone number with an American area code and reach us). Anyway, my mother called me one night I was on night shift and it was day time in the states.

“Guess what.. Your sister is pregnant.” very flat, kind of mad. It was almost like our roles were switched, she was tattling on my kid sister, and I was expected to duel out the punishment.

“Hello…?” She probed me for an answer. Then it came time to react. In a split second I had to decide that if no one, including my mother, was going to be happy and supportive of my sister, it was left to me.

“THAT’S AWESOME!!! OMG!” She was 17, in high school, and the only kid left at home. Thankfully she had finally grown out of that annoying little sister phase, and was now beating me at becoming a mother. Through the coming months I did what I could to be supportive. I bought her nursery furniture, bedding, baby books, work out videos, pretty much anything I could do to make up for not physically being there to support her.

Years passed and her little boy grew like a weed. I had no idea what my little sister was going through and was very insensitive to her worries and struggles as a mother. It did not make sense why it was such a big deal for my friend, who she had never met, to watch her son overnight so we could party all night. I did not understand the insecurities of her new body. She remained meek and humored me. In retrospect, I was an asshole that did not know any better, nor did I make any attempt at understanding how so immediately she was torn from her adolescents.

With news of her second baby, I prepared a large ensemble of little girl gifts, packed them up, and sent them to New Orleans. Weeks later, I had my own news. I was expecting my first baby only three months after my sister. In early September Hurricane Isaac took out the power to her home and everyone worried the levies would break again.

“I don’t care. I’ll drive down there pregnant as shit and save you!” I meant it. I could not imagine my sister giving birth in her home without power unable to get to the hospital. They eventually evacuated to safety to ride out the storm. Weeks later her little miss was born happy and healthy.

I visited my sister and met her new bundle and learned everything I possibly could about being a mom. All the things I should have been able to teach my kid sister, she was taking me to class and schooling me well. Even with my own set of complications, everything I learned in that week I continue to practice today.

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Now our kids are growing. My sister might have gotten a late start in the work force, but she is navigating it with grace while raising good little humans that will grow into successful members of society. I am so incredibly proud my my sister. She is my best friend and does not live nearly close enough. I don’t even think next door would be close enough. She’s picked me off the floor when I thought I was done with it all. She’s seen me cry ugly and hid her laughter until she knew it was safe. She respects me and validates my opinions even if hers are different. She is the strongest and hardest working woman I know, but she would call me stupid and tell me that I am.

Thank you for having such a beautiful heart and always searching for peace despite all the shit you’ve been through. You always strive to better yourself so that you can lift up those around you.

Happy Birthday, Sister.

Mom Snark

 

Like any hobbyist, I have dreams of grandeur. I envision myself being noticed by a publishing company and paid to blog full time. I can see myself with Little Miss on my hip, yelling some strange demand of my son like, “Don’t put legos in your butt!!!” Laughing to myself and writing it down for material to post at a later time. I would sit home all day just thinking of quick witted things and how I would work them into a post to make other moms laugh and tell their friends, “I know exactly what she means.”

Today is one of those days where my cup is 3/4 full. I hate this emotional roller coaster I am on, but the good days are so much better than the rough ones. I have plenty to accomplish at work and the blessing from Husband to work a little late today. I remembered to set something out for dinner before I left which I don’t even really mind cooking when I get home (but probably won’t). All in all, today I feel like I have my shit together.

With my history as a Soldier, it is fun to find projects at work that allow me to relive my glory days in the Combat Support Hospital. Though my time of patient care are long gone, I am beginning to walk a path of physical security in the facility that I work. Now all the the paranoid thoughts I have about bombs and shootings in my work place are being put to good use. I feel like I have that rush of being well trained to handle anything. My dad says you can never be ready, but you can be prepared. Using my brain for this kind of critical thinking gets my blood pumping. Totally nerding out. lol

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Today, however, will be loading with organizing payroll for about 400 people. Tomorrow will be maintenance of the same. I’ll still find a way to feel accomplished maybe write some fiction during my pumping breaks. Hope everyone has a great day.

What I left behind

218205_1554589639473_4580361_oMost weeks I get the opportunity to tell young nurses or CNAs about my medical background. I tell them while they fill out a short paper with their demographics that they do not have to look up and to just listen. I explain my role here at the hospital of reviewing and correcting payroll, ordering supplies, and the basic administrative roll of two inpatient units. I tell them I am a mother of a son at home and a girl on the way. I tell them that before I was all of that I served in the Army for ten years. I worked in Baghdad Emergency Room for over a year and my second deployment I was a manager of an outpatient clinic. I tell them that I have seen, smelt, IVed, sutured, splinted, scrubbed, and wiped it all. I tell them that when they have questions, they do not have to dumb things down for me (after all, I have seen more trauma in one month in Baghdad than most of them in their entire careers) but assure them that my scope has been limited to acute care and that they doing something I vowed never to do: do inpatient care.

I separated from the military because my contract was over and I was tired. Yes, I was half way to retirement, but by that time my son was one and I really just hated that he had to share me. That my husband had to share me. That as long as I wore a uniform, they would always come second.

Here is a list of things I left behind when I left the Army. Some good, some bad, but I do not regret it for a second.

  1. Structure This is something everyone at work will say I never left behind. I might not have left it out of what I can control, but it is the lack of structure everywhere else that is missing. Core Values are no longer universal. Schedules are not honored. Integrity is not something most people have. There is no check and balance process either. If something fails, then it fails, and it is not only okay but acceptable.
  2. Patient Care I am so done with patient care. Not that I am inhumane, or lack compassion. It is the opposite. When I was younger, I gave so much of myself that at the end of the day there was nothing left. I had no boundaries and I would never say no. When I wore the uniform, it was my duty to never say no. I followed orders. Today, I find a healthy medium in helping those who help others. I finally let my EMT certification expire without the intent to renew ever. I will never touch a patient as a healthcare provider again, but I will do the shit out of some paperwork.
  3. Being Publicly Naked or Watching People Pee This might seem strange to begin with, but seriously, nothing is sacred. If the showers are only open for 30 minutes and 40 women need to share 8 stalls, you just make stuff happen. The only other place this occurs is probably prison. I have no intentions on ever visiting. As for the pee, to ensure that women do not cheat on urinalysis, one must physically watch urine leave the body and land into a cup. This is the ONLY way to make sure. There is no way to get around how awkward the whole situation is for all parties involved. *shudders*
  4. Sexual Harassment This could be its own post. And maybe I have just grown out of it in age and dress size, but the atmosphere of the military harbors a sexual humor that can easily be abused. Some guys went to college and raped people, others joined the military. Some are famous comedians, others are colonels. I am happy to say that where I work now, these things are not as prevalent.  That and as I have matured, I speak up more and louder than ever that these things are never okay.
  5. Sense of Team My boss is my boss. My coworkers are coworkers. They call me when they need something and for the most part I stay in my office and say hi in passing. Since I am not a nurse, and do not share similar personal or professional goals as most of them, I am not so much a part of that team. If i was in a different state and some one was wearing a t shirt of the organization I work, I would not feel comfortable approaching that person. We never worked together. Its a big facility. We probably have nothing in common. But when I go somewhere away from home and see someone in a uniform, there is instantly the sense of trust and commonality. I can look at their sleeves and know where they have been. I know that if something were to go down in that particular place and time, that we could communicate in a way to save as many people as possible. That is what we do. Most people do not have this in their blood. To us, it is second nature.
  6. A Forced Body Standard This is a love hate relationship. I lack the discipline to workout consistently on my own and I know that. I also know that I do not have the stress of meeting any kind of BMI standards and do and eat whatever I want. I miss being fit and being good at running. I do not miss doing it. Too sorry that I am not sorry.
  7. Not owning ANYTHING In the military, you do not own your house, time, family, car, phone, sleep, food, I could go on forever. You own nothing. Everything about your life is subject to inspection at the drop of a dime. I have had to inspect people’s homes for cleanliness. I’ve had to meticulously comb personal budgets and set up payment plans for their debts. I have served people divorce papers. I have even personally and physically removed children from their home and placed them in protected custody. I hold no degree or formal licensing to do any of these things, but as a 20 something year old leader, I was deemed the guiding voice of reason for my subordinates. Let someone come into my house and tell me to take out my own trash. I now have the freedom to tell someone where they can stick that trash and remove them from my home. Doing that under military contract is a good way to lose about 1/2 of your pay for two months. Oh, you do not even own the money you work for.

 

There are various reasons why people stay. Medical benefits and retirement are HUGE factors in today’s economy. Job security is kind of iffy and depending on who you vote for is extremely uncertain. I really do not lose any sleep knowing where I am now is where I am supposed to be and where I am going is far from the life I knew.

In 8 short weeks, I will have a daughter. If my mother’s curses prevail, she will be exactly like me. This is terrifying. As terrifying as my mother sending her little girl off to war. TWICE. I can only hope that I can teacher what I have learned through my life in a way she can respect and appreciate, because one day she will leave me behind to fight her own wars.

 

I Lost My Best Friend (Christmas 2010)

10301125_10152397267360932_2355302407718459426_nChristmas in Iraq happens about 18 hours before it does back home. Being in a third world country was difficult but I had to try extra hard on holidays to keep it together. In the spirit of Christmas I volunteered for midnight guard duty to allow my soldiers time to contact family. As I prepared for work I opened my lifeline to home; my laptop. My best friend was online and told me about her festivities the next morning. Sam told me that she and Tim were getting a long pretty well while wrapping presents. She also said she was thinking of leaving him. I encouraged her to throw his things on the lawn immediately, but she wanted to wait until after Christmas; for the kids.

Supporting Sam’s relationship with Tim was hard. I knew that she would do what she wanted and that she just needed someone in her corner. I was always there because she was for me. I needed her as much as she needed me. So I bowed down to her decision and said that the 26th is a great day as any. We sent our love across the ocean through the internet. She got back to her wrapping, and I geared up for patrol.

It was only a four hour shift, however my company was not my favorite. A female superior who really had it out for me most of the time. I was lucky that night, though. Perhaps the Christmas spirit reached her, too. We talked about her grown kids and what they were doing for the holidays. I told her about my fiancé and me getting married in less than a month when I would fly home. We were eloping and only my best friend was going to be in attendance to witness. My fiancé and Sam were my circle. The two constants in my life. I needed them both equally. While I was in Iraq, my fiancé was in Afghanistan. Our commands agreed to let us take vacation at the same time. The plan was to fly home together, get married with Sami there, and fly back to finish out our tours overseas in different areas of combat.

The four hour shift came and went with nothing to report. We gave a briefing to the oncoming patrol and we made our way back to the living area. I checked my lifeline and saw that there were quite a few messages on my social media. All very urgent to call so and so. There is an emergency and Sam had told them to call me first.

I had the very worst thoughts in my head to prepare myself for what was probably something overly dramatized. I put my gear back on and walked to my office. I used a calling card to call a mutual friend of mine and Sam.

“Tim shot and killed Sam, Dacia. Sami is dead.” Her voice broke. I collapsed to the floor sick and weak. My body could not hold the grief. I must have screamed something terrible because night shift workers came running to me. I am sure they asked me, but all I could feel was sick. And then denial. I had to call my friend back; I must have hung up on her. I needed to correct her and tell her there was a mistake. I had just talked to Sam. Someone had given her wrong information. There was no way in the world Sam was gone. She could not be gone.

“No. NO.” I pleaded with her. She was fine. Everything was fine. She was not gone. My friend insisted that she was there when they took Sam off life support.

“Dacia, honey. There was nothing they could have done. He shot her point blank in the temple. I am so sorry, Honey. I am so sorry.” We cried silently for a long time. Occasionally I could mutter the word “no”.

“I have to go now.” I told her. I felt so empty. All the sands of the desert resided in my gut. I did not want to talk. I did not want even breath. I did not want to be alone and I did not want to sleep. I was terrified that her ghost would confront me for not knowing the danger she was in. It was paralyzing. I did not work for three days. I did not eat for longer. I was lost.

Sam left behind six children. They were all in the house when it happened. The oldest heard her mother and Tim arguing. She walked in on them. Tim had Sami by the hair and a gun in his hand. Sam told her daughter to get the baby and take the kids in the basement.

“Call 911.” Sam knew. She knew he was going to kill her. When the children were in the basement, locked in the bathroom, her daughter called 911. Then they heard it. All six of them. They lost their mother forever.

In the days following, those children were everyone’s focus. I poured out everything I could for them, being so far away. My friend assisted in keeping them all together, as they had different fathers. Then suddenly it was understood that I knew everything about the physical abuse leading up to Sam’s murder, and that I did nothing to stop it. The truth is Sam hid it from me. I try to think back over conversations thinking maybe she had hinted. What if she really did tell me and I did not hear her. I was excommunicated from her family. I did not fight it. It was not about me. The focus had to be on those children. Whoever they had to blame for closure, it did not matter. But I never got closure.

My wedding day came and went and before I knew it I was back in that third world country surrounded by dirt and death. The days would drag on and I fell deeper and deeper into depression. I lost more weight than I should have and eventually started passing out. After the third incident I was sent home to be medically tested for a more serious condition. I was ready to go. My soul was tired. I could not handle many more weeks in that depression.

It took me a long time to be able to do anything once I was home. I could not go to certain places or drive down particular roads. I was scared I would bump into someone and they would ask me how I was doing; or accuse me of knowing.

“You might as well have pulled the trigger yourself.” Was sent to me in an email. I would reflect on everything she ever said to me; all the songs she would sing at karaoke should have given it away.

“I was so young, you should have known better than to lean on me…” We would duet this song. That was my part. It was always my part. It will always be my part. To this day, I have never reached out to her family for closure.

Even after the short years it has been, I have come to the conclusion that I lack the emotional capacity to truly hate. I had no energy left to wish any evils on Tim for taking my friend. His sentencing finally came and with much disappointment of mutual friends, he only received a fifteen year term in prison. That very moment I realized that if it were five years or fifty, it would not fill the gaping hole in my heart. I will not draft letters to him about my pain. I will not check on his parole status. I will not look him up when he is out of prison to make him answer for what he did.

I take abuse of all kinds very seriously, now. I listen when people mention their spouses or significant others; maybe I would check the hints Sam tried to give me. I think that she has visited me on occasion but not frequently. This past holiday, at 11:30pm on Christmas Eve my living room television came on by itself, volume turned up, on a channel with static. I knew it was her, but it spooked my husband so bad he could not sleep. I have gradually healed from this great loss, but I have a scar on my heart that is named after her. She will always be there.

 

 

 

Reflection (Required for my assignment. I left it attached this time because I really think it gives insight to the writing.)

I have never taken the time to get this out of my body and onto paper. I have told the story a few times but never so permanently as writing. The story itself seems so cliché of domestic violence, but there was a sense of necessity to tell the story because it truly belonged to me; it was not just something you read in the news that happened to someone else.

I used Kick-Start number eight for this writing. I knew by just remembering where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt at the time that the words would flow onto the screen. The most liberating part was including the physical feelings I had when I found out. I never told anyone the real reason I stopped sleeping and why I did not want to be alone. I never told anyone about feeling of collapsing onto the floor. I really hung up on my friend after she told me. I guess I panicked. I never told anyone how utterly desperate I was for her to be wrong, and how I tried to convince her from Iraq that she did not see what she saw and it was someone else.

This course has taught me quite a bit about my own writing style. It has brought out some strength and exposed some weaknesses that are now hard to ignore. All of the lessons have really boiled down to this one essay. I knew I had to write it one day, I am just thankful that I had the tools to do so. Creative nonfiction has really opened my eyes to a more colorful way of expressing myself daily. Poetry has helped me pull some of the emotion that I normally lack in writing and add depth and better description to my pieces. Playwriting helped me become immersed in dialogue; something else I try to avoid in writing. The short story is where I thrive, have the most fun, and my default genre of writing when I have the choice. Creative writing was the only reason I started going back to school.

I think a memoir holds a special place in literature. I know there are so many stories in my life worth telling. I believe this genre really allows anyone to tell their side of the story, include their heart and soul, and really help people understand what they truly went through. A lot of history can be told through personal experiences.

Below is a link from the local news.

http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/tag/samantha-marie-miller/

A Shocking Realization

I’ve known this for a while, but I have a very disturbing obsession with tragically losing my husband or my son. It is quite disturbing to such and extent that I cannot dwell on it at all or it will consume me. I know why, I know how to deal with it, but it does effect how I parent my toddler.

Five years ago this Christmas, my best friend was murdered. I was serving my second tour in Iraq, and she was my life line to the good ole US of A. She mailed me cards, gifts, and emailed regularly. I even spoke with her on the phone hours before she was killed. Iraq is roughly about 15 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, so at 4am when her boyfriend had her by the hair with a gun to her head, I was on the other side of the world driving around the living areas in the middle of the night keeping everyone safe. And like that, she was gone. Forever. In retrospect, there were hints. She never told me out right. But she had mentioned that she was going to leave him after Christmas for good. I told her to go ahead and chuck his shot out the door into the yard. She wanted to wait because of the kids (between the two of them, they had nine kids. Five hers, Three his, and one they shared together.

Aside from losing my bestie, my husband’s unit in Afghanistan took on many casualties. Some of our friends never came home. It was a shitty year. I fell into a deep depression, lost too much weight, and got sick. I recovered. My husband was the strongest, putting up with my crazy insecurities unwavering. He put up with so much of my shit, and still does. He’s amazing, and the only way I recovered.

Today, that depression creeps back in every now and then. Usually accompanies the death of another close friend or family member. Last year it was my very good friend Chris and another friend Rob, they died within 48 hours of each other on very opposite sides of the world from very different things. This year it was the death of the matriarch of my father’s family and a miscarriage, again within days of each other. Sometimes I wonder if someone can sense the death around me. I’m sure others have it worse, but now that I see it in writing kind of puts it into perspective.

My husband has a fairly dangerous job. Though we are no longer in the military, people die everyday from ridiculous freak accidents. His job multiplies this many times over. The first night I was alone in our new house in Denver, I kept thinking of ways it could go so wrong. I can’t call him when he’s working, so these insecurities are insatiable. The only defense I have is to not think about it at all. Well, duh, right? Here’s where it gets tricky.

My toddler son is all boy. He climbs, he eats things off the floor, he climbs all over our beagle and pulls his ears and tail. He climbs stairs by himself, he runs too fast down the driveway, he can open doors. Dear lawd the dangers are endless. But I cannot hover over him at all. If I worried about anything, it would completely consume me. It makes me physically sick with stress at the simple thought of “What if that had turned out badly?”

Dacia, these are normal stresses of being a parent…

So something that roots from being at war is hyper-vigilance. It’s the premeditated decision to fight rather than flight in an emergency. Further, its is planning exactly what to do in a very specific event. Every time I drive over a bridge that runs over a body of water, I figure out how and in what order I would release my seatbelt, undo my son’s five point harness, escape the vehicle and swim to safety. Or if someone were to break into our house, what order would I call 911, grab the gun, fire a round over the balcony while I run to my son’s room (its a balcony overlooking the living room. They’d see me regardless)

This b!*** is crazy. Yeah. Life will do that to you. If a friend posts  a link to a news story about some sort of disgusting thing that happened to a child, my heart rate will go up, I will feel sick and I will unfollow their feed. I personalize it. It could happen to my son. My son could have been that little boy that sleep walked out of the house and into highway traffic. Its terrifying.

One can over come PTSD, but its a daily gig. Its exhausting sometimes. I take necessary steps to protect my son, but I’m a fairly hands-off/ figure it out for yourself mom. I will not smother his childhood because of some sick obsession. I won’t smother my husband because I’m scared to death he wont come home from work every time he leaves. Its likely, it could happen tomorrow, but I won’t let it effect our happiness. Because at the end of the day, was I happy or was I psychotic? It’s an easy choice.