3 Years Left

On Saturday, March 3rd, 1999 I sat around a MEPS station in Brooklyn, probably for about 6 hours (maybe more) watching television and eating junk food from a vending machine. It was my 3rd time coming to MEPS. When the recruiter finally called my name, I went and sat with a guy for another 40 minutes. We reviewed my ASVAB score and he helped me pick a job. He told me I was going to be “like a scientist”, you know, working in a lab and whatnot. I signed about 70 forms. My signature was looking like a blob of nothing by the time I was done.

I’d officially joined the Army.

I can still smell the MEPS station when I think about it (MEPS is an entry processing station for people joining any branch of the military. You can take the ASVAB test there, get your overly traumatic physical and blood work, and then after waiting around for what seems like an eternity, you sit down with someone to pick your job, your ship date for basic training and sign the contract). Now 17 years later, I’m still in. The girl who never did a push up in her life and never wanted to get her nails dirty joined the Army.  I have 3 years and 10 days left until I hit my 20 year mark. I should get my retirement letter a few months later. Its going to be the one of the happiest days of my life- after my wedding date of course.

But enough of my talking, here are some photos:

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Class A fitting, Basic Training 1999

 

 

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Germany, 2001

 

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California, 2004

 

 

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New Jersey (2007 or 2008)

 

I am positive that the next 3 years will quickly roll by, but I’ll try not to think about it until I get my letter. C’moooooooon retirement letter 🙂

Feature Photo: Iraq, 2009

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Happy Birthday USMC!

Today marks the United States Marine Corps’ 240th Birthday. And I’m not sure if you know any Marines, but if you do, you already know that today is a BIG deal.

Every year- every company (I’m not sure if they call them units, companies or what, but for the sake of my sanity that’s what I’m going to call them today) will have a Ball to celebrate. This year Lorenzo’s company had there’s in Cobb Galleria this past Saturday. There were 2 companies there celebrating the event. It’s really nice to see everyone looking sharp in their Dress Blues. I’ve always been a fan of their uniform- I definitely prefer it to the Army’s. I don’t know if it’s the hat or the sword or what- but they always look great.

This was my second time going to the Ball with Lorenzo. I opted out last year because the year before that I had no one to talk to while Lorenzo was part of the ceremony. This year there were some familiar faces, and now I’m looking forward to going next year because one of our friends said that they will come next time. Here are some of the pictures:

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Happy 240th USMC!

Oh, Savannah!

I’m back at it again with some military training. It was kind of last minute so I had about zero time to write about it beforehand.

This training event is in Georgia, but this time and I’m about 45 minutes away from Savannah. This was very convenient because I’ve wanted to visit Savannah since I moved here. Lorenzo has been here before, but he was okay with driving out here to visit so that we could see it together.

Since Lorenzo arrived Friday evening, we slept in, then went to get some breakfast before heading out. We did some shopping first (well, I did some shopping) then we went downtown and took one of the tour buses around the downtown area. We took a quick tour because we caught the last bus. Lorenzo was telling me that Savannah has a lot of history (the town was established 43 years before the United States declared its independence) and we learned a lot on the tour as well.

Bus

Bus Tour
Bus Tour

We also had dinner at a place called The Shrimp Factory on River Street. I got the Shrimp & Grits (as usual) and Lorenzo got the stuffed shrimp. We also ordered a popular drink called the Chatham Artillery Punch which also has a 200+ year old history in Savannah. I wasn’t super thrilled about the drink but they give you a complimentary glass when you purchase it. The food was great but I think I’ll try another drink next time.

Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and Grits
Chatham Artillery Punch
Chatham Artillery Punch

Me always eating Shrimp and Grits is going to be the death of me. I’ve gained 20lbs within the first 6 months of me living in Georgia and I partially blame it on the fact that almost every restaurant here has it on the menu. I think I’ve only had it at one place and didn’t think it was great- but that didn’t stop me from eating it. And don’t worry about the 20lbs, I was always underweight so I could stand to gain a few pounds.

I have another week to go before I head back to Atlanta. Lorenzo and I don’t have any plans for the weekend just yet but that is quite alright with me. I think I want to rest up before I head back to work.  Laters!

A Few More Things the Army has Taught Me

I had to spend an entire 3 days with the military this weekend; I usually dread having to spend that much time in training- especially since I’m giving up my Friday night, but this weekend wasn’t that bad. The unit that I belong to now is full of higher ranking personnel, so you don’t hear as much whining and complaining as you would in a unit with younger soldiers. Another thing that is cool about being in unit with older people is that everyone already knows what they’re doing; you really don’t have to teach people how to do much because everyone there has at least been in the military for at least a decade at the minimum.

We spent this weekend doing some prep work for our annual 2-week event in June. I thought the training was great considering we don’t always have time to get off the base and do other things. I was expecting the worst but was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I was able take away a few more things that I’ve learned about myself, and Army this weekend:

You have to pick and choose your battles. At least 3 people told me that I handle things pretty well and I know its only because I’ve had to deal with WAY worse prior to moving here. I only fight battles I have a chance of winning or at least seeing some compromise. There is no point in taking the path of most resistance and complaining about how messed up everything is because its not going to change. I argue for things I CAN change- which is not much. Honestly, I just want to get paid on time.

You have to pick and choose the company you keep. If I didn’t learn anything in the almost 16 years I’ve been in the Army, I know I’ve learned this: watch what you say and who you say it to. Everyone who is nice to you is NOT your friend. Point, blank, period. I don’t say much to people in this unit, not because I am trying to be anti-social but because I’ve been caught up in so much drama in the past that its easier to keep people at a reasonable distance until I can figure things out on my own. The last thing I want is some BS rumor going around and I’m in the middle of it. No ma’am, no thank you.

Some people are just negative. There are some people who like to complain just for the sake of complaining; and the worst part of it as that they KNOW they’re doing it. There are others who just like drama. For example, I ordered a new set of dog tags, but I ordered them with Lorenzo’s last name and the first thing someone asked me was if I was getting a divorce. Now, while some people know that I’m getting married, I don’t expected everyone to know- but, gosh, why go to something negative? Why not ask why I ordered them that way instead of just assuming divorce? I will never understand this about some people.

I’m sure that there were be more lessons learned in the future. I am constantly learning about myself and human nature from these people. I know we only represent a very small portion of the country, but this part of my life has been a constant learning curve for me. I’m grateful for it, the good and the bad.

 

To Be or Not To Be…Profane

My friend Tia called me the other night to catch up on things. We discussed the weather, work, future career goals, and Lent. I’d decided that I wasn’t going to participate in Lent this year, I’m not saying I gave up on it like I have with New Years Resolutions, but I think I just checked out. Most people (I know) “give up” some sort of food, bad habit, or indulgence for Lent instead of using the time for prayer or personal growth. I’ve been on a personal growth journey since I’ve moved here so I just didn’t see a need to pinpoint a time frame to do it.

Somehow or another Tia got me to give up Facebook (which I don’t mind) and cursing (I kind of mind). I’ve given up on the idea that I could actually give up cursing a few years ago. I’ve come to terms with it, its just a part of who I am. Now, while I’m not a raging potty mouth 24/7 I like to let out an occasional F-word a few times a day. Sometimes it just makes me feel good, other times it just sounds better in a sentence. Many people in my life (here in Atlanta) don’t think that I use profanity in any way so when I simple things like “damn” they look at me with a surprisingly shocked stare. That’s how you know I have it under control- that took years of practice.

The only time I succumb to it without a fight is when I’m with the military. I don’t have a clue what it is about being in uniform that makes me cuss like a sailor. But it’s not just me, if you ever get a chance to hang around a group of soldiers and just listen to them talk you will hear so much unnecessary and excessive foul language that it may blow your modest mind. Its like a reflex…we can’t help it. I used to avoid my grandmother for days after I returned from a weekend with the military. When Lorenzo and I first met I didn’t think he used foul language at all because for months I’d never hear him use it, that is, until I asked about his military career…then it all came out.

TalkingThe problem with some is that they feel like using foul language is offensive, unladylike, and shows a lack of intelligence or minimal vocabulary, but I find that opinion to be…one sided. Some of the most intelligent people I know let one slip every now and then. I find people who curse are just being honest, and sometimes honesty needs an occasional F word. What’s wrong with that?

What have you given up or taken on for Lent (if you participate)? How you feel about using foul language?

 

What the Army Taught Me

Art work poking fun at the Army.
Art work poking fun at the Army.

I was talking to one of my good friends, whom I met in the Army about 9 or 10 years ago. She and I were discussing our military lives, civilian lives, and our civilian careers. While talking about work, I was telling her about decision-making skills I learned in the Army that I transition into my civilian life and how I was surprised how the military really has more of an effect on my life than I give it credit for.

Most people that know me would consider me to be a “nice” person. I try to maintain a positive attitude, I smile a lot, and I’m very friendly…however on the flip side of that I can be very loud, angry, unapologetic, and sometimes unsympathetic–but only when I’m provoked. Now, I am not saying that the Army taught me to have the negative qualities…but I will say that they helped me bring them out when it was necessary.

What I learned about my personality. I joined the Army when I was 17. Being in the military helped break me out of my bookish shell. I talked more, I spoke up more…even though my default mode would always go back to “watching and observing” rather than speaking. The Army taught me about leading others; in military schools I learned the right way to lead. In real life (at the training centers) I learned the wrong way to lead. It helped me decide what kind of leader I wanted to be when given the chance. I was taught to take action and work hard.

During a training exercise (2009), I was the gunner.
During a training exercise (2009), I was the gunner.

What I learned about organization. I spent the first 4 years of my military career in college. I learned how to plan ahead; I learned how to schedule my life up to 4 months (or more) in advance. I learned how to treat tasks as missions and how to plan backwards with my timing in order to make sure I completed my “mission”. I learned that things will not always go according to plan- always have a back up plan. I learned how to be organized and extremely tidy- I think the Army gave me OCD. I learned that just because a test is open book doesn’t mean you don’t need to study.

On a mission in Iraq. Don't remember what I was staring at.
On a mission in Iraq. Don’t remember what I was staring at.

What I learned about other people. I learned how to work with different types of people and that there are some crappy people in the world. I learned that you can be taught anything from anyone, no matter their age, race, gender, or place of birth, and the lesson can be good or bad. I learned that you can build an awesome bond with people who will literally do anything for you and that some relationships will eventually run their course- if its time to let them go…let them go. I learned how to drink like a fish and cuss like a sailor; and when you’re 22 and full of energy, you don’t necessarily need sleep.

Our flight was cancelled. Heading back to the barracks
Our flight was cancelled. Heading back to the barracks

What I learned about life. I learned how to get over my fear of flying, being yelled at, and dying…but not snakes or spiders. I still don’t like those. I learned that ish happens, so embrace the suck and drive on because complaining and feeling sorry for yourself accomplishes nothing. I learned a lot about men…but I don’t want to get into that right now. I learned to stop being so sensitive, how put someone in a proper headlock, and as Americans we take so many things for granted like electricity and indoor plumbing. I learned that no matter how good of a person you are and how nice you are to people that there will be someone out there who absolutely cannot stand you, whether you know about it or not, so always do your best because there are people who are wishing for your downfall. Sometimes they disguise themselves as your “friends”. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

Some of my stuff.
Some of my stuff.

As I was writing this, with each sentence I thought about a specific person or situation to which it applies. I am sure Lorenzo has his own stories that he probably won’t share; every individual experience is different. I feel that that because of all these things, and just getting older in general, I have a very low tolerance for foolishness, shenanigans, drama queens, and cry babies. This is probably why I’m not a fan of reality TV shows. Oh well, that’s another story.

Another Countdown

Countdown

Tonight I had my student orientation. Two weeks from today I start my Master’s Program. I’m so excited that I can hardly stand it. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is paying for books. I forgot how much college textbooks can cost. It’s ridiculous! They act like the books are made of gold or something. The e-book version of the book I need is $84! Can you believe that? Anyway, I’m finally able to start my program, something I’ve been planning since I was still in Iraq in 2010. I wanted to start school after I got home, but because of unforeseen circumstances I had to postpone my school plans and go back to work. Even though I was discouraged and frustrated that I couldn’t go to school when I wanted to, I see now that it just wasn’t the right time for me. When I was looking for jobs, I also started getting emails for schools. When I finally got a call from a school with a program that was along the lines of what I want to do I jumped on the chance. I was able to get everything done in one afternoon: application, payment, and registration. It was just too easy. I can see that now this was the right time.

Grad

I do worry about being back in school. I graduated from college over 6 years ago, so being a student isn’t something I’m used to anymore. I am used to being anal and proud and always wanting to be an A student so I know that I’m going to be super gung ho about it initially, but I’ve had habits in the past where I would procrastinate and skate by with my classes. I don’t want to do that again. I may not be able to write as often, so that’s going to suck. But maybe I’ll be able to create shorter posts.

Anyways, I felt like last week was going by way too slowly. It took forever for the weekend to get here. I actually had to go back to the new Reserve unit that I am trying to transfer into down here. I wasn’t looking forward to it initially, the last time I was there I wasn’t very comfortable with some of the people, but it actually wasn’t that bad this time around. Sunday, was a family day and we had it at Six Flags. Lorenzo and I invited some of his friends to come out since we were given complimentary tickets. We were there for about 5 hours and only managed to get on 3 rides. In our defense, we got on 3 of the best ones: Superman, Batman, and Goliath. Now, I’m not afraid of roller coasters, I’m just afraid of falling out of them. I never feel like I’m secure enough and if I shift, even slightly, I feel like I’m going to slide out and fall to my death. Lorenzo loves every single moment of it, wishing the rides were faster and longer. I think he’s crazy. Yesterday when I woke up and the back of my neck was killing me, I think I may have messed myself up a little bit on the Goliath. There was a point where we went up and down so fast that the top half of my body was coming out of the seat while still being held down. I felt massive pain in the top half of my spine; it was pretty bad. I’m feeling a lot better today after a whole bunch of IcyHot and Aleve. I think I’ll give it another day or two before I start work out again.

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My new goal for the next few weeks is to meet new people. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lorenzo’s friends, but I want to meet people on my own. I also want to venture out and do more things on my own, instead of waiting for Lorenzo to accompany me. I want to see more of Atlanta and get to know the town I live in a little bit better. If there are any “ATLiens” (a word a learned this weekend) who have any suggestions, please let me know. What would you recommend to an outsider-including food, activities, and attractions?