Honoring WW II Veteran Lucy Coffey

Last week, one of my instructors provided our class with information regarding the passing of Lucy Coffey, America’s oldest female veteran, .  I must admit I am not always as knowledgable about our veteran community as I would like to be, but learning about Lucy Coffey’s service in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps is interesting.  I hoped I could find her Bronze Star citations.  So far, I’m not coming up with anything, but I’ll keep looking.

The world loses a lot of history with her passing at 108 years of age, which once again reinforces what I’ve discussed about veterans sharing their stories.  We have a very finite amount of time to educate others about who we are, our contributions to our service branches, how our service affects ourselves and lights a path for others to follow.  I hope her story continues to inspires others.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”-George Elliot

Image courtesy of PBS.org
Image courtesy of PBS.org

Veteran Vision Project: Walking Through Two Identities

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I have what I feel amounts to a small amount of photos from my service. As such, I enjoy seeing the Veteran Vision Project for restructuring the conversation about what it means to be a veteran. In these photos, we get a small glimpse of the dual identities veterans navigate.

I found one of the issues I struggled with in my own life was who do I want to be after having the honor of wearing Marine Corps uniforms for four years. When I started working for Kay Jewelers in 2007 after leaving the Corps, I adopted a new “uniform” of New York and Co. button down shirts, slacks, the occasional skirt, pantyhose, and kitten heels. My employment there ended in 2009 with our move to Wyoming and I quickly reverted back to my comfort zone of hoodies, shirts, jeans and sneakers. It’s an easy enough wardrobe to maintain and not look out-of-place back there.

I always found it a bit funny to see people primp themselves to take a trip to Walmart; however, it started to make sense when I realized you’ll run into just about anyone there. And I do prefer someone caring for their appearance (even a little too much) as opposed to someone walking down the aisles dressed in pajamas. Seriously, it’s not that hard to at least throw on a clean shirt and jeans.

I feel most comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, but I also want to feel comfortable dressing my body as I age. My civilian work doesn’t require I be physically fit and as such, I’ve put on weight by adopting excuses for not maintaining fitness standards. Not much weight, mind you. My most comfortable weight as a Marine was 108 pounds and now I hover between 113 and 115 pounds. It’s not a drastic difference, but I’m certainly softer than I’d like to be. I am steadily forcing myself to fit exercise back into my schedule to drop my weight back to 108.

As I further own and find comfort in my civilian identity, I understand I owe myself grace on accepting the “new” me. I take on different responsibilities now and have different demands made of my time. This fact rings true especially as an employed person who is also a mother, wife, and graduate student.

However, I do want to share with you all photos that show the other side of me. I’ve been blessed to grow up in a time where print and digital photography collide. I had (and have) other people take my photo and from time to time, I also enjoy taking the occasional selfie. I am neither too shy to be photographed but not too vain to solely rely on selfies as a form of expression. I have a beautiful record of my existence as an American, my veteran status unknown to others in the my proximity when the photos were taken. While I cling more to my status as a veteran, my civilian side deserves recognition, too.

The two sides of me make up my whole person.

~Cheryl

My favorite female Marine, Sarah Kravitz (formerly, Cabell).  I love this girl.  She is my sister through and through.  She is the best roommate I ever had in the Marine Corps.  We still keep in touch.
My favorite female Marine, Sarah Kravitz (formerly, Cabell). I love this girl. She is my sister through and through. She is the best roommate I ever had in the Marine Corps. We still keep in touch.
Our wedding day 2006
Our wedding day 2006

2008

2007

2008 or 2009 photo, Frank Lopez, photographer (Oceanside, California)
2008 or 2009 photo, Frank Lopez, photographer (Oceanside, California)
My daughter and I when I had my "graduation" celebration.
My daughter and I when I had my “graduation” celebration.
We did a belated photo session in 2012 with Melissa Thompson from Pistachio Alley.  I am behind on ordering my prints.
We did a belated photo session in 2012 with Melissa Thompson from Pistachio Alley. I am behind on ordering my prints.
Spartan Race 2014 with my husband
Spartan Race 2014 with my husband
Marine Corps Scholarship Fund Dinner 2014
Marine Corps Scholarship Fund Dinner 2014

Homes for Wounded Warriors: Gilbert, Arizona

The weekend is upon us and I have some wonderful news to report.  Cory Remsburg, a local veteran who sustained significant injuries during his 2009 Afghanistan deployment, became the recipient of a home provided by Homes for Wounded Warriors.  The generosity of individuals who work for and support an organization like Homes for Wounded Warriors serves as a great reminder individuals around this nation have not forgotten the significant challenges some veterans face as a result of their service.

If you’d like to read his story, you can check it out on AZCentral.com.  There are some minor editing errors in the article, but we can forgive those mistakes.

Photo belongs to AZCentral.com
Photo belongs to AZCentral.com

“Spring Break”: Then and Now (2005 & 2015)

March and April are slated to be busy months for me, busier than usually. As such, please accept my sincerest apologies for writing infrequently and for how this trend will continue for a bit longer. I recently finished up my “A” session course, turned in a midterm for my Women of Courage class, and my “B” session Grant Writing course picks up next week. Essentially, my spring break has disappeared. Not that spring break exists much as a social construct for working adults. I am fortunate though that other opportunities are opening up thanks to some personal connections. I am making strides with my “awareness” t-shirt ideas. I’m keeping those under wraps until I have some trademarked prototypes available.

I figured today is a good day to present a “Then and Now” series entry.  I wrote quite frequently after I came home from my first deployment.
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Please forgive me for how I referenced ‘recruiting duty;” I should have specified recruiter’s assistance, but I may have done so in other journal entries.

In my “2015” life, I have some updates, not really good for me, but great for other veterans. A family was matched with the Chandler, Arizona Homes on the Homefront Homes. We figured by this point we weren’t the recipients since so much time had passed, but it is helpful to have the confirmation. We continue to pare down our debts and it’s quite possible we can purchase a home later this year. I’ll keep you posted on that front when the time comes. Recently as well, I was also informed that my artwork for SVA’s Warpaint was not selected as one of the top pieces. However, it will be shown in Washington D.C. later this month. My tuition and fees are paid in full by my Post-9/11 GI bill benefits, so it is less relevant that I did not win the scholarship. I am happy though my artwork will be displayed.
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Lady Brigade & i Rock the Boots Follow-Up Discussion

Recently, I mentioned Lady Brigade and i Rock the Boots because these companies are started up by female veterans and focus on supporting female military service awareness.  Earlier this week, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Michelle Bravo from i Rock the Boots; although I didn’t intend to meet her, she was in our office to talk to our director and I introduced myself.  I wanted her to know that I wanted to accomplish something similar and looked to her (and Lady Brigade’s) designs because I did not want my efforts to infringe on their products.  I know we find ourselves in particularly challenging times because our society is built on competition and there is a fine line to be drawn between innovation and imitation.  I want to respect these women for their achievements.  They both took different paths than what I’ve planned for myself, which is not a bad thing at all.  These women have their own styles and I hope their clients appreciate the effort and quality of the products.

This being said, I think it’s important to delve more into what negative feedback is arising and think about why female veterans find themselves in this predicament.  Below are some more snapshots of comments from the Buzzfeed article about Lady Brigade.  The first one is worth really discussing, because not too long ago, I was asked to make a drawing that represented the notion of “make you own damned sandwich.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.11.12 PMBelow is the artwork I came up with:

No part of this artwork may be used without my expressed permission.
No part of this artwork may be used without my expressed permission.

 

This problem is a hegemonic view of women “belonging” in the kitchen. It is a statement not expressed specifically at women in the military but like other demeaning stereotypes geared towards women, this one has trickled down into the military. Apparently, a lot of people have caught on to their annoyance (or support) for this “Make me a sandwich (or sammich, depending on how dull one wants to sound)” statement. My Google image search brings up all sorts of interesting items:
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There is one image though that I do like regarding this topic. It is fun without being vulgar:
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Now, with my image, what do you think are the positive connotations being expressed regarding female veterans? As well, in what ways does the drawing reinforce stereotypes about female service members? There are no right or wrong answers, but please use consideration and clean language to comment on the matter. Thanks.

~Cheryl

2005 v. 2015: My Homecoming Ten Years Later–Happy Birthday to Me

Turning 31 today was wonderful.  In fact, my whole weekend was great.  Last night, my family and I went out with some friends to a local pub.  Our kids got along well and I didn’t drink in excess.  However, I enjoyed watching my drunk husband…haha.  It was a good reminder of when we were dating.  He helped me out one night when I was incredibly drunk and our Marines planned an outing to the nearby Islands restaurant by our base for one of the Marines’ birthday.  I spent the night sitting out in the parking lot and he stayed with me.  I don’t know if anyone brought out food for him but I was too drunk to want food.  On a separate occasion, I stayed with him after he drank too much.  Last night I was his DD and our daughter did great staying up until almost eleven.  Normally, I wouldn’t let her stay up that late but it was a special occasion celebrating a friend’s 35th birthday (February 25th).

I was fortunate to speak to my twin earlier today as well.  We both mentioned the fact we cannot recall the last birthday we spent together.  I think it might have been our 18th.  She is still in Rhode Island with most of my family.  As kids there was one birthday where we thought about making each other the same black bottom cupcakes we saw in one of my mother’s cookbooks.  Perhaps the next time we are together again, we can make them.

Ten years ago, I came home from my first Iraq deployment so today will always be special for that reason as well.  Below are a few photos I took of that adventure.

image3 image2 image1

I didn’t write a journal entry that day but I wrote about how wonderful my homecoming experience was thanks to the Marines I traveled home with, the veterans who greeted us in Bangor, Maine and my work crew at 1st Marine Division:

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Today was all about spending time with my family except for the portion of my day spent finishing up homework for my class ending on March 3rd.  We are hoping to add a fuzzy family member to our family this year and met up with a local dog breeder for an hour today.  My husband and I were were truly impressed with their dogs; honestly, I’ve never met a breed of animal whose personalities varied so much.  We met one of their alpha females and a second female, whose temperament we liked better.  Thankfully, we are ok with waiting if the latter doesn’t produce a litter until later this year.

We also enjoyed lunch today at one of my favorite places, Liberty Market.  Normally, it’s one of our breakfast spots but they offer a $10 birthday discount so we finally went in for lunch.  We always have great service there and the food is incredible.

Aren't these beautiful?!
Aren’t these beautiful?!
I love this chocolate cake; we enjoyed a slice to celebrate.
I love this chocolate cake; we enjoyed a slice to celebrate.
Salt River Bars...because I'm always mentioning these things when we go there for breakfast.  It's ok.  It's my birthday.  I can have two desserts.
Salt River Bars…because I’m always mentioning these things when we go there for breakfast. It’s ok. It’s my birthday. I can have two desserts.
Farmer sandwich with the side of the day.
Farmer sandwich with the side of the day.

It’s been wonderful enjoying a quiet day with my family. We’ve had a lot going on with our classes. I’m happy for the chance to enjoy slowing down, spending time with friends and my family, and taking the weekend off from work. Sorry I don’t have a photo of my family and I to commemorate this weekend. I like taking photos more than my family does. We’ll get an updated one here soon.

~Cheryl