Here in the US, it’s Veteran’s day.
I’m a veteran, and so is my husband. We served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Jay served during the Viet Nam War, and I did too, technically. Although it was, for all practical purposes, well over by 1975, when I joined.
As any veteran can tell you, being in the military is an experience like no other. (Wow, that is really circular reasoning. No experience is like any other. Ah well, forward to what’s entertaining.) It’s actually pretty strange that I joined ANY service, because I’m not the military type. Structure and discipline gave me hives – I was terrible as a student, and as for conformity, if the group was marching one way, I’d turn and march the other direction just to be contrary. I was a real pain in the trasera.
What drove me to the desperate step of enlisting was pain. Dental pain, to be exact. As a broke college student who could not afford dental bills, added to poor dental hygiene practices, my misery and my budget were on a collision course. And all the military services will fix your teeth, first thing.
I figured the Coast Guard was non-violent, saving lives and all that. And the following year the REALLY GOOD education benefits were going to be cut in half. So I joined in blithe ignorance, with no understanding of the significance of one crucial fact: the Coast Guard was the last service to allow women to join their ranks. I was the 314th female Coastie.
And then I got to boot camp and found out that all the ‘lifers’ (enlisted career men) who couldn’t stomach serving with women had been transferring from the other armed services to the Coast Guard for the last two decades. And now the fate they had switched to avoid was upon them, in the person (among others) of independent, pain-in-the-trasera me.
And they all outranked me. By a lot.
There’s a few more blog posts in that. Starting with getting all four wisdom teeth yanked in one fell swoop at Johns Hopkins. And being forgotten by the bus back to boot camp.