MIA— Compassion and Respect

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

I am an Air Force Veteran. I am a woman. These two things should not be opposite sides of the time-in-voluntary-service, but unfortunately they are.

There are so many variants that shaped my personal military adventure. No two experiences are alike, but if I were standing next to my also Veteran, retired, husband— he is the one attention would shift to in interest.

I know this, because I have experienced this 99% of the time. We both can mention our enlistments, and mine is treated like it’s no biggie, but my husband— “Really! Thank you for your service!” with maybe a nod in my direction.

It’s like people don’t know how to process my being a woman in the military.

The military began “shaping” me to live in a man-shaped perspective, from day one.

I was 15 pounds under the expected weight-lifting limit to apply for a job I really wanted to do. You and I know it wouldn’t have been difficult for me to build up to that limit— I was determined and in shape to do that— but that was not an option. I believe this was an across-the-board decision, but I also believe that could, and maybe should, be changed.

The mindset of the military is always “military needs”, and volunteers are “property”.

The process for making me a military-minded person began by breaking me down, separating me into a group of 49 other women, limiting things like time to shower, privacy, time to eat, getting mail or calls from home, and dictating every moment of everyday.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing experience, and I am proud of myself for success in making it through that.

But, for me— coming from an abusive past, it was also an emotionally difficult experience.

Additionally, it was a lonely experience— but that wasn’t a new thing for me. I have almost never had someone to talk to, or go through things with me.

That brings me to my point in writing this.

The military comes at everything from a man’s perspective. It just does. Sure there are videos, and training once a year to learn about being professional and demonstrating polite courtesy to not offend women, or make them feel threatened.

I think that is kind of a good thing, but it’s also kind of condescending.

It also does not work. I mean, just look at scandals way at the top concerning sexual harassment towards women.

Here is another perspective:

https://m.facebook.com/200999403407041/posts/1838927186280913/?d=n

My personal experiences of working in a man’s career field as a plumber (my 10th flowery-worded choice— Utilities System Specialist), in a man’s-perspective-d world are unique and don’t necessarily reflect or match another woman’s.

I get that.

But, men, and even some high-ranking women, certainly have a long way to go towards mutual respect and fair, rational, understanding and compassionate treatment of women— as individuals that are completely unique and separate from the way men are built.

With all the money poured into “research”, you’d think by now things would have naturally “evolved” from arrogant, chauvinistic, neanderthal-like behavior.

Recently, women have finally been provided with something many have needed all along! It took decades for that to happen! Why?

Because it’s a world based on men’s perspective that women are “allowed” to become part of.

Things are getting better, and yet, the latest response/reaction by civilian men to the mere mention of the newly available maternity flight suit just proves— men have a long way to go.

In the famous words of our current President— “Come on, man!”

You can, and should, do better.

My Dad (A Soggy Account)

Here is my dad David was able to get a picture tod

Well, what can I say about my dad? Where do I start? I guess I will introduce him to you.

He is James Roy Bennett Jr. He is the oldest of 3 children, the only boy, and both his parents have passed away. He’s a musician (plays/played the guitar, sings, and wrote his own songs, including one for me called Jami Michelle). He’s a disabled Vietnam era Veteran. He grew up under tough circumstances, in a tough house. Worse than many, but not as bad as it could have been.

I know 4 sides to my dad. The first side is tender. I remember him singing the song he wrote for me when I was very young, probably about 3. I don’t have many memories before the age of 10, but time, and God I believe, have been kind to me and allowed me to remember some good things that my heart holds valuable.

The second side is angry. While I was growing up, my dad faced so many obstacles, both because of his disability and lack from his own childhood. He didn’t handle things well, and for that reason I hated him for a very long time. He made choices that hurt me, and he was unapproachable.

The 3rd side is hilarious. He told the funniest jokes and usually had us laughing wildly on road trips. We played 20 questions for hours, sang “Jingle Bells” as he beeped it on the car horn through tunnels, and giggled insanely at his playing on words. He could also be crude and inappropriate, which made me so uncomfortable, but the fun stuff made all the traveling worth it.

The 4th side is vulnerable. I have seen my dad at his weakest, and because I was able to forgive him, that caused me to feel protective towards him. I’ve seen him in grave condition with a ventilator helping him stay alive, much like I’m sure he is now. He thumbed his nose at death then. I’m not sure he’ll do that this time.

Listening to others talk about their relationship with their dad has always made me feel cheated and even jealous. I wish I had my dad encouraging me, cheering for me, and playfully interacting with his grandchildren. We have all been robbed. He’s lived in nursing homes and hospital care since 2003. Military life has kept us at quite a physical distance from him while our relationship has kept us at an emotional one. My kids know the fun things about their Grandpa Jim, and a little about his strictness. They don’t know the man I grew up fearing and hating. My daughter has her own tender memories of my dad from when she was 3, but none of the fearful ones I have purposefully shielded her from. I see no purpose is telling his grandchildren the negative things, I won’t pass on my burdens about him to them. They deserve fun, happy memories.

I said my good-byes and made peace in my heart as we traveled back from Okinawa in 2009, not knowing if he would have passed on or clung to life by the time we landed. It’s been in the back of my mind that he will die at some point. So, it surprises me that I am having such a tough time dealing with it now. It surprises me that my heart is broken that he will probably never meet his youngest grandson and get to see his smile light up the room, or get to hear his crazy laughter. My boys won’t have the fun memories that our daughter has, won’t hear his silliness about things like driving over painted warnings, him yelling, “Watch out! A head!”

The “best” of my dad will be passed on as the condensed version, instead of experienced by them firsthand, while the worst will remain in the past, not known by them at all. I think that envelopes the meaning of “honoring your parents in the Lord“.  God didn’t add, “if you think they deserve it” to that commandment.