By Lindsay Starr Platt, The Belton Journal
The green uniforms have long been given away, and my black combat boots may lurk in the depths of my storage locker. In another state, my mother has my “monkey suit” and medals in a box in her attic.
On the walls at my mother’s home, she has photographs and portraits of me hanging on her walls. Many of those photographs I wished would go away and never resurface, such as those portraits that included me wearing plastic framed glasses nearly as big as saucers and the signature big poufy hair of the 1980s. Upon my last visit at my mothers, I noticed several of the abhorrent canvases that once donned the walls were gone. But, still gracing the living room wall was a photograph of me from U.S. Army Basic Combat Training.
A glance at that photograph, and I see a girl I vaguely remember. I was 18 years old, and in that phase in your life, even though you are technically an “adult,” you are still learning how to become one.
I know why my mom still has that portrait hanging up. It is because that is how I looked when I raised my hand and said, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” That was it; I was gone and ready to embark on the four-year adventure I enlisted for. She never saw her “little girl” again; during that time and before I had a chance to visit home, I had become an adult as quickly as I was turned into a soldier.
The years have passed, and some memories have faded. But I never will forget the early morning physical training wearing combat boots, cargo pants and a t-shirt in rain, sleet or snow and often before the sun was even rising. I learned how to fire weapons and throw a grenade, skills that would be needed, if I ever headed into battle.
Seventeen years have passed since I hung up my combat boots and joined the ranks of “veteran.” I was just as excited to get out of the military as I was going into it. As a veteran, I am part of an elite group of Americans; about 13 percent of our population has served in the military.
I am a veteran. I once buttoned up a uniform and tied on boots and swore to protect my country and our freedom. My “surrogate” family was my sisters- and brother-in-arms as we trained together and dined in the moonlight, eating the best food one could get from a plastic pouch. One would have to have been in the service to understand the joy evoked when clean porta-johns are delivered to a field site. That is the joy that could only be diminished with a ride in a “cattle car” to be able to shower for the first time in over a week.
Statistics say that less than 2 percent of our nation’s women are veterans. But, as a female veteran, I believe that only a fraction of our population even thinks that a half of a percent of women ever served. I once asked a veterans’ organization about what was needed to join, and the answer was: “Was your dad or grandfather a veteran?”
I am glad I live an area with an abundance of veterans, both men and women, thanks to the close proximity of Fort Hood. People are often surprised to learn I was in the military. I guess I am “supposed” to look or act a certain way.
This Veterans Day, I will most likely celebrate by attending a parade and enjoying some freebies that many businesses donate to honor veterans for their service to our country. My favorite “parade” is when my daughter’s school invited parents that were veterans or military to walk the hallways of her school. To have a little kid shake your hand and give you a high-five and say, “Thank you,” that is when you know veterans are heroes.
I feel proud to have served my country, and I am proud of all those that served before me. When my children are old enough to join the military and ask me for advice, they would have my full support and encouragement. Though, I would try to entice them to graduate college first and go in as an officer.
Happy Veterans Day!