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Friday, November 14, 2014

Soldiers Interview

Hello Readers! I hope everyone is able to avoid this arctic blast that has the Midwest in its clutches. Cold is an understatement!

This week, in honor of Veteran’s Day, I want to share two of my favorite things with you—Favorite Oldest Son and Favorite Youngest Son! Yep, that’s right. I posed a few questions to my sons and thought I would share their take on military life with you.

Ava (Mom): How long have you been in the Army?

Favorite Oldest Son (FOS): About 11-12 years. I got out for 10 months, so not sure how to count it.

Favorite Youngest Son (FYS): 11-ish years. Started 13 January 2004.

Ava (Mom): What made you choose that career path?

FOS: I wanted to be a manly-man! (just kidding). I joined the military mainly to leave Oak Harbor, Washington. I wanted to get out of the house. I had no job skills, and working at K-Mart was getting me nowhere. I had no interest in the Navy. I didn't think you'd approve of me joining the Marines. So, the Army was the place to go. I wanted a combat job because I wanted to be stronger: mentally and physically. And I wanted to have a job that I couldn't find in the civilian world, just for the experience. So, I signed up to be a Cavalry Scout.

FYS: In the beginning (high school years), I never had many thoughts about where I would be in coming years. When my brother joined after he completed high school, it put the idea in my head, and I thought about the long lineage of military members in my family and the really cool jobs they held. I became content with the idea and pursued it about 6 months after high school was over. Even then I knew I would be a “lifer,” and it wouldn’t be a short term job.

Ava (Mom): What are one or two things that you are most proud about in regards to your Army career?

FOS: Proud? Well, I'm proud of my service. In particular, my service overseas. I know this may seem a little romanticized, but I feel like I'm carrying on a long family tradition of overseas military service.

I'm also proud that I got to Iraq before AAFES (people in the military will understand that).

FYS: Being Airborne. Being Airborne is a great opportunity in the Army. The active Airborne community makes up less than 5% of the Army, and being involved in it was one of the greatest things I have done in my career. Several of my late relatives were Airborne, and I’m sure they would be happy to see the lineage continue. There are songs about soldiers passing on the Airborne legacy to their children. Those, even though not possible at the moment, have always resonated with me. It takes a lot of nerve, guts, and a small amount of stupidity to throw one’s self out of a plane. People (of the non-Airborne variety) often ask why someone would jump out of a “perfectly good airplane.” My response to them would be, “Who would ever think a military plane is ‘perfectly good’?” They aren’t, one second in a C-130 or any Army helicopter would tell you that. I digress! It is fun and I get paid for it, ‘nuff said.

Another thing I think I would be proud of is a bit more intangible. The ability I have had to control my own career is an opportunity not many take. So many people today just let the Army do what they will with them and end up not appreciating their careers, and build resentment. I’ve pretty much had the ability to get what I believe to be best for me with the options provided to me. I have always adhered to the adage “Take control of your career before someone else does.” I believe this ability I have earned and gained is something to cherish. I fight for what I want, and I rarely take no for an answer, not until I’ve heard it a few times first, and from multiple sources. This “Never Back Down” attitude has taken me far. This isn’t to say it’s been only sunshine and sparkles. That same attitude also lends itself to the occasional ass-chewing, and lots of undesirable attention, but in the end, I am me, and my Command Teams appreciate it in the end.

Ava (Mom): Are there any misconceptions you think civilians (non-military folks) have about the military? If so, explain:

 FOS: I don't like to speak for other people too much, but I could conceive of some misconceptions that civilians may have. My biggest one--I feel too many think we all have PTSD. Now, being in war does have a huge effect on you. I was barely 20 years old when I left for the Iraq War, and ended up staying there for 12 months. And I certainly feel that my time there made me grow up really quick. You'll experience things that hopefully no one has to experience back home. Things like: watching people die in front of you (nothing like that to strengthen your sense of mortality), and feeling (what I call) pure-unfiltered-hate. When you come back home, you'll be "edgy," but that's not PTSD. Some deal with their experiences just fine. Some don't. Sadly, a lot fake it (I hate to say that, but it's true). Everyone's story is different.

The next misconception: it's okay to ask "have you killed anyone?" It's NOT okay to ask. Here's the issue: the answer may be "no." Then that service member will feel embarrassed or ashamed. Like you'll perceive that he hasn't done much. Or, the answer will be, "yes." In that case (for most) it's not easy to talk about. That's a question that's only appropriate to people that are very, very, comfortable with you. If you weren't there, then you won't understand. I've had discussions with Snipers talking about kills in Iraq. That's with a group of people that have been in his environment, and understand where he's coming from. If you don't fit in that group, then it's a very awkward conversation.

FYS: I think they do exist. However I don’t think they are so serious that I need to defend them. There are very common ones around the Army, like all of us kill people, or our spouses are out cheating on us while we are away, or the Army will make you into something you aren’t. Misconceptions usually come in the form of “negative” press or media, whether it be the news or the movies. There is usually a small truth to most of them, but the misconception usually ends up being a stretched out version of a smaller truth. I think this is because the media likes to focus on the negative, instead of showing the positive, like the family who ties a giant yellow ribbon around the oak tree in their front yard in support of their deployed family member. Misconceptions are there and I challenge the civilian population to not take everything they see or hear in the media as truth.

Ava (Mom): How many times have you gone overseas since you joined the Army? And where?

FOS: Iraq a couple of times, and one tour in Afghanistan. I've been to a lot of places in Iraq. Taji, Balad, Tuz, Tal'Afar, and Sinjar, just to name a few. In Afghanistan, I spent all my time in the Kandahar Province. Mostly in the border town of Spin Boldak.

FYS: 6 times. Once to Iraq, once to Korea, and four times to Afghanistan. It’s been rough, but I finally have time to relax, and recover.

Ava (Mom): What would you say to the family members of deployed military personnel back home in the States?

FOS: Unfortunately, I don't have much advice on this. Have patience, and be strong.

FYS: It can be lonely out there, depending on where you are. It’s true that most soldiers treat their fellow brothers-in-arms as family, but there is nothing familiar to a soldier when they are in a whole other world. The happiest days I have ever had when deployed are those when I got mail from home. Just seeing the smallest thing from home can really change an attitude or disposition. If you have the opportunity to send mail to troops who are deployed, DO IT! They will be forever grateful.

Ava (Mom): What’s the next big step in your military career?

FOS: {Favorite Oldest Son is leaving the Army the end of this month.} Go to school and get a good job. Enjoy my freedom (oh, how I miss it). Start moving closer to family. Move back to Washington as soon as I can (you should come too, Mom. :) )

FYS: Oh boy! I was looking forward to this question. I have the great honor of becoming a United States Army Drill Sergeant. I volunteered for this and was chosen. This has always been a dream of mine. To mold troops. Instill pride. Create the future of the Army. Being selected for this duty is pretty difficult. Our Army (and the military as a whole) is down-sizing. We are going from roughly 500k troops to around 350k. Lots of quality soldiers will be asked to hang up their uniform and leave this great institution. I first have to graduate the course which is essentially Basic Training all over again with some memorization thrown in. After graduation, you will be able to find me in Fort Sill, OK yelling at your sons and daughters. Send them, I guarantee they will receive the best training I can provide.

Thank you to my two favorite children for sharing their insights into the modern military life!

Please feel free to leave a question or comment. All commenters will go into the November drawing for a prize!

Until next time…be kind to each other…and to yourself!


  1. What wonderful boys you have. Much thanks to them for serving our country. Hope they do everything they are hoping to do in the future.

  2. Thank you Sherry, from me and from them. :)

  3. (If you get two comments from me, the first one just vanished.)
    Double Wow. The first Wow is for the Intergalactic Matchmaking Service. I've sped through 2 books in 2 days and just purchased the third. (By the way, even though I could have used Kindle Unlimited, I bought it for $2.99. I understand that authors get only pennies from Unlimited.) I'm pleased but sad, knowing there are only one or two more. Please keep writing them.

    The bigger Wow is for your idea of asking your two neat sons to speak for Veteran's Day. Because of my age, where I live and the relative affluence of the Pioneer Valley, there are very few active or reserve service men and women to talk with. Each of your sons had a view (or several) not reflected in the media, which I appreciate. Thanks.

    1. Thank you so much, Jon. I'm truly blessed with having these two special young men in my life. I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed my books, too! Thanks again!

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