I spent four years in the US Air Force right out of high school, and my husband retired from the Air Force after 26 years of service. I'm phenomenally proud of him, and was bursting with love and pride when I got to marry him in his mess dress uniform.
|The mess dress uniform is the military equivalent of a tuxedo. I have one, too, but it has a floor-length skirt and short jacket.|
I didn't enter the Air Force for the right reasons -- I actually joined because, although all my life I'd heard, "make good grades, get a scholarship", when I DID get good grades and DID get a scholarship, it wasn't enough, and there was no money to add to it. In a fit of teenage anger, I went with my then-boyfriend to his recruiter and took the ASVAB test. I pretty much aced it, which meant with any luck at all I'd have my pick of jobs.
I chose Linguist because I'd taken Spanish, French, and Latin in school. "When do you want to go?" they asked me.
Knowing Basic Training was in Texas, I said, "When it's not hot!", so I got a ticket to leave on November 2nd, 1987.
|Colonel Languit and I in mess dress for a Dining In -- a type of Air Force function/party.|
After Basic Training, I went to Monterey, CA, to learn Korean -- eight hours a day, five days a week, for one year. I very nearly flunked the whole shebang until I finally learned to READ the language. I quickly realized I am a visual learner and just hearing things, especially a non-Roman language spoken by native speakers, was going to kick my tail. But I pulled it together (the fear of "washing out" and being at the whim of the Air Force to decide what THEY wanted my job to be is a very potent attitude adjuster!) and went on to learn the technical aspect of the job in San Angelo, TX.
Egads but I hated Texas. Loved classes, hated Texas. To this day, nothing good for me has ever come from Texas.
Six months later, on to Korea, where I spent the remainder of my four years. I absolutely loved Korea. Desert Storm broke out while I was there, which made our job ... interesting. I was promoted early and then was in the very last rotation of Buck Sergeants in the Air Force before they ceased the rank. No increase in pay grade (how nice!) but we were now considered Non-Commissioned Officers and could be supervisors.
There were a lot of reasons I loved the Air Force, even though I wasn't prepared to love it. I met the best friends ever. I met my husband (although I didn't know it at the time). I got to travel in a country I never would have gone to before, and I experienced things that will stay in my memory forever. The work my co-workers and I did was really important and I was proud to be involved. I didn't mind being away from home, and actually was homesick for Korea when I left.
I was lucky. I had a good experience. Others haven't been so lucky. My husband has been to Bosnia and the Desert. He's flown Special Ops and I have no idea where he flew for that. My best friend from college is an Air Battle Management Officer and had to leave her babies to go to the desert. And many of my blogger friends have had people they love go fight.
No matter what your politics, try to remember that there are real people in those uniforms. Some are there because they want to be. Some are there because they had no other life options. Some are there because it's what their family has always done. But everyone is scared when it comes to the battlefield.
So next time you see a man or woman in uniform, please thank them. Shake their hand. Buy them a cup of coffee. Their job is a tough one, a complicated one, and often, a thankless one.
I salute you all.
Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and writes the blog An Artist's Year Off. She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.