Posts Tagged Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! My Depressing Yet Hysterical Military “Career”

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I need a montage! A montage!

There were two dreams I’d had since childhood. One? To be a writer. The other? I wanted to be in the military. Dad’s family is Scottish and Mom is all Viking, and our family has served in every war…probably ever (knowing my family, we might have even started a couple).

They heard you get free beer.

Soldiering is in My Blood

Legend has it great-great-great Oma Damsgaard was a hell of a shield-maiden, when she wasn’t haggling over the price of pickled herring or rosemaling the outhouse. Seriously, I watch the AWESOME show Vikings, and I am all like Now it all makes sense.

OPA!

OPA!

Hellions of the Highlands

My father’s side of the family (the Lamonts) fought the English from the Highlands of Scotland, then high-tailed it to America after the clan they’d aligned with to kick some English butt betrayed them and allied with the enemy. Most of the Lamonts were killed, but a few were at sea…probably trying to woo hot Viking women. Anyway, once in America, the Lamonts (now LAMBS) served in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and on and on.

Remember the ALAMO!

I even had TWO relatives at the Alamo (from paternal grandmother’s side–Holland and Rose). Tapley Holland was the first to step across the line and volunteer to fight the Mexican Army. Of course, legend also has it, he thought that was the beer line. Moses Rose was the only one to leave the Alamo, namely because he preferred wine and was tired of fighting. He’d been fighting in the French Army most of his life, thus was used to retreating war-weary and wanted to get home to his family…and wine.

And Miss a WORLD WAR???

My mom’s grandfather lied about his name and age (took his older brother’s name) so he could fight in WWI. He served until they found out and kicked him out, so he just signed up again using his real name. My great-uncle died in Pearl Harbor and my grandfather was a paratrooper in WWII. He served in Northern Japan and helped set up the first elections. Dad and Mom served in the Navy during Vietnam. My Uncle Jimmy was a Navy Master Chef who cooked for two U.S. Presidents.

So, since writing wasn’t a real job, guess what I wanted to do when I grew up? You got it. I am such a joiner. Also, I’d switched high schools so many times I don’t even know how I graduated and I needed college money.

My Brief History of the Army

I decided on the Army since I spoke German and really wanted to live in Germany. After rocking the ASVAB, I pretty much had my choice of what I wanted to do. I get my paperwork filled out, they send me to MEPS, all is good. The day of the physical, I become violently ill out of nowhere and…that part where they make you stand in nothing but underwear (and bra)? Where they check for scars, tattoos, and knee problems? Passed clean OUT. BAM! HIT THE FLOOR!

I have had broken bones, given BIRTH and never passed out….EVER.

As soon as I was out of MEPS? I was fine. Like I’d never been sick.

Even Briefer History of the Navy (Part One)

So I figure, WTH? I’ll try the Navy. Apparently the branches of the military actually do communicate no matter what movies tell you, and a medical disqualification lasts two years.

The Air Force AND MARINES

I go ahead and go to community college. I know I have two years to make AWESOME grades to get a scholarship with the military. The MDQ is up and I apply. I win TWO scholarships. A full ride to medical school from the Air Force and I can go to TCU (where my grandfather went and it’s local so no moving) OR I can take a partial Marine Corps scholarship to be a pilot, but it’s at Texas A&M…which requires moving.

GO USAF! 

I’d love to say I wanted to become a doctor to save lives, but it really had more to do with inherent laziness when it comes to moving. Thus, I decide I am going to be either an M.E. or a flight surgeon (LOVED Quincy as a kid but checking out hot pilots held great promise, too).

So, I swear in.

YES! I MADE IT! I AM TOTALLY IN THE FREAKING AIR FORCE! SCORE! *fist pump*

I spend two years as a Neuroscience major. I am even offered an opportunity to attend the Air Force Academy. I had a congressional nomination AND an AFROTC nomination. Granted, it would mean doing a year over, but hell, I was used to that after high school…and it was THE AIR FORCE ACADEMY! I decide, tempting as it was, I would remain at TCU (the whole “moving thing”). I’d finish my Neuroscience degree and then go to med school in Dallas.

Then, in early March of 1995, Fort Worth has freak ice storm. TCU decides NOT to close the school and I have a paper due. All my school money is contingent on me making As. While rushing to class, I slip, fall…and fracture my lower back.

Yep, you got it. Lost the scholarship and no longer Air Force. Medically disqualified AGAIN.

Ironically, had I gone to the Air Force Academy I would have been okay….or crushed in a freak avalanche.

And We Are Back at the Navy

So a few years later, I am still denying that I really, really want to be a writer, because writing was for homeless hippies who wrote bad poetry at Starbucks, right?

I go to the Navy. I take all the tests. With my degree (Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa) and language skills (I spoke three at the time—now I can barely speak ONE) they TOTALLY wanted me as an Intelligence Officer.

I sign the papers, make an appointment for MEPS. Over the weekend, I have my 5 year-old nephew at the pool…and I slip and get a third-degree sprain on my left foot (tearing almost every ligament up to the knee) and taking off half of my toe (they put it back :D).

BAD KRISTEN!

So SHORT OF HITTING ME WITH FREAKING LIGHTNING, God was all *thump* “NO! You will NOT be military. BAD KRISTEN!”

*celestial newspaper cracks*

Oddly enough, right after the ankle thing, I applied for law school and got in….only “magically” the letter of acceptance made it to me too late. I received the letter the DAY OF Freshman Orientation.

Thus, I do feel I was born to be a writer.  In a sense it seems almost my fate, my path. So if you don’t like my blog, it is totally God’s fault :P. Talk to Him.

Heck, I tried everything else and this is the only thing that has seemed to work, :D. Yet, as a compromise, I DID marry an Air Force guy, so the military tradition remains…though I hope The Spawn grows up to be a writer NOT a Navy SEAL. Or even better, he can write video games ABOUT NAVY SEALS. For what it’s worth, I DO play all the CALL of DUTY games on expert level…though in real life I am ruthless as a rose petal.

Spiders get scooped up and tossed outside.

So please enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend for the REAL heroes out there. Hey, I tried to help but apparently God knows me too well. The Army would’ve told me to charge a hill and I’d be all like, “Um, I dated that hill in college and that is a hill that will NOT change.” 

And, with all my injuries I am more accurate than Doppler radar when it comes to weather.

Have you served? Do you come from warrior stock? Did you give it a good college try like I did? Feel free to laugh at me. I totally do. What’s your story? Kind of hard to outdo this sort of epic stupid, but I double dare you to try :D.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of May I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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Happy Memorial Day—To the Unsung Heroes, We Give Thanks

The Spawn dragged these out of Daddy’s closet.

Today is Memorial Day and a time to stop and remember those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms. I am so grateful for the men and women who serve this great country. Today, I want to take a moment to also thank heroes we might forget to think about. First, I want to thank the families of our service people. To the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, children, husbands and wives, THANK YOU! You guys are so vital, and maybe we don’t express our gratitude near enough.

This past year I got a little taste of what military wives go through. It was about two weeks before Thanksgiving, and my husband came home from his weekend warrior drill. He had this odd look on his face I’d never seen before. I asked him if he was okay, and didn’t reply. He just sank down into one of the kitchen chairs and hugged me for a long minute. I laughed nervously, wondering what had gotten into him.

“Honey.” *awkward laugh* “What’s wrong?”

“Bagram. We’re being deployed to Bagram.”

“Bagram? Where’s Bagram?” I asked, hoping that Alabama was at the end of that sentence. Or Maybe Mississipi. The South was known for naming small one-horse towns after exotic locations.

Palestine, Texas. Enough said.

Yes, that was it. I was sending my husband to Bagram, Georgia for a month of training, mosquitoes and mud.

Note to self: Look up exact location of Bagram, Arkansas.

He buried his face deeper in my apron and mumbled, “Sweetie, Bagram is in Afghanistan.” His voice cracked. “I’m being deployed to Afghanistan.”

His words tipped my world upside down. I remember feeling very dizzy and then crying for days then weeks. All I could do is look at my husband and then think of him not being here. What would The Spawn do without Daddy?

***Note: The Spawn totally loves his daddy way more than me.

What would I do without my husband? I could barely pull our SUV in the garage without taking off the mirrors. And changing out the propane on the grill? I could easily wipe out half of Arlington, Texas just trying to make a burger. We won’t even begin to talk about the whole, You’re the husband so you get rid of any bug bigger than a flea agreement that is just part of every marriage license.

Everywhere I turned I just saw one more reason to start crying all over again. We went to our family ranch for Christmas and it was the best time I’d ever had, except then I’d watch my husband ride by on an ATV with The Spawn, both of them bundled against the cold and I’d think, He won’t be here next year. He might never be here ever again. This might be the last Christmas you ever have with him.

Most people cannot appreciate how difficult it was to find a man willing to marry me without the influence of psychotropic drugs or extortion. My husband loved that I played video games and that I knew every Star Trek episode and that I quoted Monty Python way more than was socially acceptable. I’d spent most of my life trying to find him and now he was going away and it was totally not fair.

Then I would feel so selfish and horrible. Why should I be so special? Countless other wives were going through the same thing, had already been through the same thing? Why was I an exception? And I knew I wasn’t, but I hated myself for wanting to be. I hated myself for praying my husband would spontaneously develop flat feet and then he wouldn’t have to go.

They did still kick people out for flat feet, right?

I so suck.

I love my country, and my family has been in the military for countless generations. Yes, we were the rowdy clan that got booted out of Scotland because we didn’t play well with the English. The military was in my blood and so was the life that went with it…and yet here I was still utterly unprepared.

Now, every time I drove home, I somehow managed to drive by every funeral home, cemetery and headstone manufacturer in the area. I saw more commercials for preparing a will than ever before. It was maddening. And I still had to blog and be funny and uplifting and I couldn’t even tweet about what was going on. What was I going to do without the support of strangers all over the world?

***Never underestimate the support of total strangers. It got me through Spawn knocking out all his front teeth.

Everything changed. We had to prepare for life without my husband. He’d be gone for almost a year. I had to make some major changes and learn things I thought I’d never have to, like exactly how the remote controls in our house worked, where all the flashlights were and how to change the line on the weed eater.

Might as well been back in the frontier days. Sheesh!

I started to notice all the things my husband did that I took for granted, then I’d sink into some more self-loathing. I loved my country, and I loved my husband. It all just hurt so much.

It didn’t help when I had military friends tell me that Bagram wasn’t that bad, that my husband had more chance of being killed in Washington D.C. than in Bagram. Okay, then why couldn’t he deploy to D.C.? Then I could at least visit.

It didn’t help when they told me that the time would go quickly or that my husband might not even go. Orders changed all the time, they told me.

I willed myself not to think about it. I had to prepare for him being gone and I didn’t dare hang my hope on his orders changing. I just had to prepare and it wasn’t like I was the first military wife to have to fly solo while her husband deployed. I would make this as easy for my husband as possible and this totally would make a great book one day.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, everything changed again. I got the phone call from my husband. His orders were canceled. He wasn’t deploying (this time). I’ve never been so happy about anything in my life, yet at the same time I feel guilty for my happiness. I know there are so many wives, so many families who don’t get this kind of reprieve.

Just so you know? I am so grateful for you. I cannot tell you how much I value your sacrifice. I valued it last year on Memorial Day, but not like I do this Memorial Day. You are made of finer stuff than I am, I know that.

So yes, thank you to all the troops and thank you so much to the families left behind. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Before I go, I would like to talk about one more type of hero that is easy for us to forget. War dogs. Many of these furry service pooches provide such a valuable service to our troops. To honor these unsung heroes, my friend NY Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins is calling for pictures to add to a Pinterest board dedicated to service animals.

Here are the details from Jim:

[WAR DOGS] I got all my ducks….or should I say, dogs…in a row this morning and created Pinterest Pinboard featuring military war dogs.I’m hoping to enlist members of the armed forces to share their pictures of their companions: at work and at play. If you are one of those folks, share them! Post your photo and story here on Facebook or just jump on over to my Pinterest page an pin your photo and story.

If you feel like sharing your OWN pictures of your four-legged companions being “warriors,” send those too! They could be serious, funny, poignant, or silly. I’d love to build a board of those pictures, too.Pinterest link: http://bit.ly/james-rollins-pinterest-pageDon’t have a Pinterest account? I’ll send you one. Email me here: http://bit.ly/james-rollins-contact

Photo Credit: Jennifer Ross. Location: Oman.

Again, thank you to all the troops, to all who are serving and all who have served. We love you and can never fully express our gratitude. Also, to those who live near Arlington, Texas, my husband changed out the propane. You are safe…for now.

Happy Memorial Day!

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43 Comments

Memorial Day–To Those Who Give the Ultimate Sacrifice

Memorial Day weekend is upon us (at least here in the United States). This weekend I will be grilling steaks and enjoying the company of loved ones. We might go hiking or spend time at the lake. This is a holiday that seems to just come with a sunburn. But I hope those of you who celebrate this weekend will give thought to what this holiday really means. We honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live free.

When one lives in a country as wonderful as ours, it is easy to take a lot of things for granted. I think this truth becomes clearest if we travel to other places less fortunate. Years ago, I lived in a refugee camp in Syria. I had never known what it was like to do without simple things…like clean clothes or water suitable to drink. Showers were an indulgence, and life in a police state was, frankly terrifying. I tend to be a person who likes to laugh and make jokes. Jokes in countries like these can get one thrown in prison or even shot.

In America, it is so easy to forget all that we have. It is even easier to forget the price others have paid so that we might have it. I believe the two best things we can do to honor our sevicemen and women and their families is to 1) remember why we have holidays like Memorial Day and 2) be ever grateful for the gifts that many of them have paid for with blood.

This weekend is a time where all of us can come together and laugh and love, but I hope we all remember who picked up the tab. Our servicemen and women and their families have purchased this freedom and we owe at least our deepest thanks. I am a proud military wife, and come from a family that has served this country in every war since the American Revolution.

My great uncle was among those killed in Pearl Harbor. A couple of years later, my grandfather served in Japan helping the same country that killed his brother rebuild. My father served during the Vietnam War. Every male friend he had in high school died fighting in Vietnam. Yet, years later, my dad would work for hours helping our Vietnamese neighbors do repairs on their home. Dad would even rebuild old bicycles to give to their children. My cousin has fought in Afghanistan, but he also has helped rebuild infrastructure, hospitals and schools.

My husband is a professional who gives up one weekend a month and time in the summer to serve. He was one of those who helped during Katrina, who gave safety to survivors and helped go look for the dead so they might rest in peace. My family members are just a handful of the countless men and women who have given so much to those of us who complain and grumble too often and offer gratitude far too little.

So, to all those who serve this country:

Thank you for my soggy, sprinkler-drenched, newspaper, because it means I don’t live in a police state.

Thank you for the right to disagree with my leaders without fear of being shot or thrown in prison.

Thank you for the political cartoons cluttering my e-mail, because it means we still can have a sense of humor without fear of execution.

Thank you for the college loan I am still paying off. In many other countries I would not even be permitted to read, let alone have a degree.

Thank you for the sleep I had last night, for a sense of safety that you have fought so hard to give me, yet that I too often take for granted.

Thank you for the time I spend with my family, when too often you only see yours in photographs.

Thank you for letting me watch my little boy grow up when so many of you must leave your little ones behind.

Thank you for all you give the ultimate sacrifice so that I might have so much. I don’t say it nearly enough, but thank you for defending this country and all she stands for.

So I hope all of you enjoy this wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Do you have any traditions? How do you normally spend this holiday? Are you a serviceman or woman? Do you know of one you would like to thank? Tell us about them! Maybe even stop by and donate to the Wounded Warrior Foundation, caring for wounded and disabled military heroes.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

Together Everyone Achieves More!!!! SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

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