Last night while compiling information for something I’m pursuing, I was exchanging Facebook messages with one friend (and Face Timing with another.) Guess my brain still works, eh? Anyways. The friend in my FB inbox kept challenging me to provide evidence of my range as a writer.
I pointed out I’ve been in or near the Marine Corps for my entire adult life: there’s not much range ’round here. So she started sending ME links of things I’ve written. Things I’ve all but forgotten. (It’s after midnight and my eyes hurt… perhaps in a future blog I’ll include some links.)
We joked back and forth about my range being wider than I’d realized and she quipped, “Haiku?” Hers was a thinly veiled attempt to bolster my ego, remind me I actually write good. [sic] She’s a cheerleader of sorts.
have you ever seen me cry?
when i read about
all the friends who died? fighting.
Its not pretty, I know. Certainly not cheerful. It DOES follow 5/7/5 though. I’d just spent an hour looking through my gmail inbox for an example of a press release to include (I was gathering writing samples) and I found dozens and dozens of examples. The thing is, they were all press releases about men who’d died in Iraq or Afghanistan. Some were names I won’t ever forget. Some of the names conjured the memories of their funerals.
Some of the names made me flash on an image of a crying wife or a hysterical father, a stoic mother. One name never fails to remind me of a tow headed toddler calling my name in a gaspy, hiccup riddled voice. “I go wif you, Jennie Hashcap? I go wif you?!?!?” He said, screamed, that every time I left his sight after we returned from his daddy’s funeral.
His mama needed a break so he spent some extended time with me.
Back to last night.
I sent her a press release and she asked if I had one on perhaps a less somber topic to include in the samples. A ribbon cutting, perhaps. I kept looking, kept reading, kept remembering.
Then it dawned on me.
“No, I don’t. The press releases I forwarded to my personal email to tuck away were the ones I drafted about men from the units on my base who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Men whose memorial services and in many cases, funerals I attended.”
We settled on a well written example. I feel trivial, including it in the submission, yet I have no qualms about sharing it here. If we say their names, they won’t be forgotten, right? I need to believe that.
That’s the Question. And the Haiku. Now the Ignorance.
A friend of a friend (with no military or civil service in her personal or family history) recently commented on Facebook (that’ll be the death of me yet) that I (and others, presumably, but her comment was aimed at me in a discussion thread) wasn’t really a veteran. “I mean, not like a VETERAN veteran. Because you didn’t like, deploy or anything, so you don’t like, know, you know?”
I guess I’d had a bad day. Or maybe my fun meter was simply pegged. This was my response (in a private message) before I blocked her. Man. I love the block function:
Know what sucks? I don’t *feel* like a veteran because I didn’t deploy. But 10 years of PCRs (personnel casualty reports) and SIRs (serious incident reports) every day, hoping I wouldn’t see names I knew and then realizing it didn’t matter because I somehow ended up knowing the men and their families in the wake of the deaths anyways. (my husband and 95% of my friends were forward deployed) Seeing names I know with “KIA” next to it and trying to stay composed because my young Marines were in the room and the sergeant shouldn’t cry. Taking calls in the middle of the night from the CACO (casualty assistance call officer) of a dead friend who wanted to know if I knew the wife, um, widow’s new cell phone number. Standing at parade rest while some jealous (read: psycho and unsat) female adjutant argued I didn’t rate to escort a friend’s body home for burial because I was only a sergeant and he was a gunny. Relief at seeing the email traffic when a friend of a friend pulled strings at Quantico to make the escort happen. Hundreds of media escorts where my primary concern was to protect the wife or widow from inappropriate questions. Listening to the boss tell the staff my friend hadn’t shot himself in the head. It was an errant round. “Officers don’t do that.” Taking a call at 0200 from one of my corporals because her boyfriend had blown his brains out on her front porch and the only number she remembered was mine. Explaining to the civilian school teacher I was in bed next to WHY I answered my phone no matter what time it rang. Meeting the police at her apartment and making her go back inside. Kneeling next to his body, watching him labor to breathe. Going back the next day to get on my hands and knees and scrub the blood, chunks of skull and gray matter from her porch so she didn’t have to. Convincing the command he deserved a memorial service even if he caused his own death. Running away from the Marine Corps after my marriage dissolved only to end up in a post blast discussion in Crystal City and reading the details of a bloody mess because Marines had formed up for promotion on top of a buried IED. Ten of them died on December 1, 2005 and more than a year later I was in a conference group trying not to cry because I’m great friends with the man who commanded that company of Marines. Because I know his soul is heavy with the loss of those men. Almost a year later and the discussion of deaths I’d written press releases for, memorial services I’d attended, still made me cry. No. I’m not a member of IAVA. Not that kind of veteran. Not according to my ribbons and medals, anyhow. I didn’t go, so I mustn’t know. The nightmares still come though, and the guilt hasn’t subsided. Thanks for your opinion. Don’t forget the VETERAN veterans who died to ensure you’re entitled to be such an asshole masked in the perceived anonymity of social media.
And that brings us to Freedom. Someone asked me recently why I write. I write when I want to. I write when I need to. I write when I feel like my insides are trying to be my outsides. (see what I did there?) I write because I have something to say. Because my friends died following orders … in the name of freedom and democracy. Because my friends are still deployed around the world, away from their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers…
I write… because I can. Because no one can stop me. Because I am Free.