I come from a long line of military. My dad and his two brothers were
in—two Army, one Navy. My grandfather and his brother were in, also
my great-grandfather. As far as I know, I was the first girl to join, and at the
time, I was just a girl. I was still in high school worrying about boys and not
having a clue about the real world. I joined the Army a month after my eighteenth
birthday. My parents were shocked—and thrilled. A friend, my now
husband, and I got our military ID cards and went to the Air Force Base to
the enlisted club and ordered our first legal beers at the ages of seventeenand
eighteen-years-old because back then it was legal to have a beer on post
or base if you were willing to die for your country. The Gulf War was just
ending and I needed to get out of Spokane, Washington. I needed to get
away and I needed to find out who I was.
I was first in the Army Reserves and after returning from Basic Training
and AIT I went straight to Active Duty. I was sent to Fort Stewart, Georgia
as an engineer (62J, Light Equipment Operator). I was on my own and loving
it! Right away, I started getting ready to deploy to Somalia. We did not
end up going but my truck made it there. I was the only girl in a platoon of 30.
After a few bumps and taking the valve stems out of the First Sergeant’s
tires, I proved myself to the guys. I proved that I wasn’t going to get them in
trouble for looking at Playboy, telling dirty jokes, or making blanket sexist
comments. I ended up having more big brothers than I wanted. Big brothers
that trusted me to do my job and big brothers that knew I would do my part
to make sure that we were a strong platoon. I am not saying it was easy,
but it was worth it.
Joining the Army was one of the best things I ever did. I was able to find
out who I was. It allowed me to grow and become confident in my own skin.
I gained confidence and pride in who I am and what I can do. Being a soldier
and serving your country is an honor and I was glad to be part of such an
amazing institution. The best part is once you are in—you are always part of
something bigger than yourself. You realize the value of those around you
and what you would do for other soldiers—your brothers and your sisters.
I got out in 1997 with chemical burns to my lungs and I am now medically
I married my best friend from high school and he is a solider. He went
back in after he finished his degree and I was still working on mine. It was
before 9/11, and by him joining, we felt as if we were going home. Army
posts were familiar and comforting to us. We did not know that he would
not be a part of that home for most of the next eight years due to training,
schools, and deployments. He has been to Iraq twice, and Afghanistan once
for extended deployments, all in the last five years. We have two wonderful
children (a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son). I have been
active in all the Family Readiness Groups during these deployments (FRG
Leader, POC, etc.) and have made some great friends—but I miss my husband,
my best friend, and the father of my children.
I also know the need to fight for the guys and girls standing next to you.
I understand how you can block out the politics and fight for your country
because you were asked to. You go to take care of your comrades, your
buddies, and your extended family even if that means leaving your spouse
and your children for a year or more at a time . . . or the possibility of never
returning to them again. I may get it, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Due to the
fact that I was a soldier and am now a military wife, I am overflowing with
understanding and empathy for both sides of these wars. I acknowledge the
want to go to war, to use the skills that you have been training for years to
use in a real world situation. I also know the heartbreaking struggle that
military families experience while their soldier marches off to war. I know
the feeling of my heart being torn to bits as I kiss him goodbye for maybe
the last time, and the inability to hide my tears. I also know the relief of seeing
his plane land on an airfield in the wee hours of the morning and finally
being able to breath for a few moments, knowing that he is home and safe
for a bit. I also know the uncertainty that follows his return.
However, with all my military experience and training in Army Family
Programs nothing has prepared me for the battle I fight as an Army wife.
I am a Veteran, a wife, a mother, an Army wife—and I am a woman.
(C) 2009 Christina Piper
Published in Heart of a Military Woman:
Stories and Tributes to Those Who Serve Our Country,
by Sheryl Roush and Eldonna Lewis Fernandez.
All original and true short stories, poems, and tributes from military personnel, their families and loved ones.