Huts for Vets: Counting Down the Days

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New shoes for my hiking adventure.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Things are going well on my end. I received my Huts for Vets reading packet maybe two weeks ago or so and with my readings complete, I am one step closer to this new adventure.

I was asked recently, why participate now?

I learned of Huts for Vets last year and as intriguing as it sounded, I knew 2017 wasn’t the right opportunity for me. There were some planned and unexpected events in my life going on around that time and I wasn’t sure the timing was right. This year, I had less obstacles in my way and I realized I didn’t want to say ‘no’ this time and come to regret it.

I follow Kirstie Ennis on Instagram and through watching her journey (She is a Marine OEF veteran with an above the knee amputation whose recovery has entailed numerous surgeries and setbacks.) I’ve been struck by the way I embrace challenges with a lot more hesitation. While I don’t desire to climb mountains (literally) the way she does, she inspires me to question my hesitation to step outside my comfort zone.

I love writing and there is a certain freedom to throw my heart and emotions out there behind the scenes, but I have a hard time in-person being the center of attention, even in group settings. I often feel challenged with the fact I don’t have a more substantial amount of time to pull together my thoughts in front of others. I don’t want my words taken out of context or to feel like I don’t hold my own in the group. Public speaking is not my forte; thankfully though, any discussions we have during the Huts for Vets are to be kept private. For this reason, I am more willing to go out there and take up this new challenge.

Although I’ve done hikes with my units in the Marine Corps, I haven’t hiked at elevation or combined a hiking experience with a literature discussion. 

For me, there are two big pieces worth talking about prior to this journey: physical preparation and packing.

On September 24th, 2016, my family and I were involved in a five car pile up here in Arizona. I am grateful we were the fourth of the five vehicles, but this incident is a good reminder of why my service trauma is something to work on.

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My view after we moved off to the shoulder and waited for assistance.
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The vehicle on the far left of the photo is the one we hit.
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The object on the ground used to be the rear windshield of the first vehicle hit.
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Close-up of the driver’s vehicle that started the pile up

I heard the sudden impact and tensed up prior to our car being hit by the vehicle behind us. My husband and daughter were more relaxed so thankfully they did not have any lasting issues from the car accident. I’m not surprised I tensed up; after dealing with mortar attacks on deployment, I find myself still unsettled by sudden unexpected noises.

My response during the impact has left with my back pain that continues to this day. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a pity me post.) It is improving, but it’s been a bit of a journey to get to where I am today. I had a lot of soreness the first week and fire-like pain throughout my back. The issue was made worse when I tried to carry my daypack with my laptop from the parking garage at ASU just south of my old office. Sitting or standing for long hours drove me nuts because it would exacerbate the back pain.

While I looked to resolve the issue without medical assistance, I started physical therapy November 2016 and it continued into December. January 2017 I started working out again but I lost of a lot of strength I had prior to the accident since I wasn’t working out. I was happy I could resume working out but it has been a process to monitor my actions. I still dealt with back pain every day and I was pretty concerned it might be something I was left with for the rest of my life (not so sound dramatic).

Earlier this year, I spoke to my nurse practioner about how a lot of the things I do to cope with my deployment-related anxiety are helping, but my back pain wasn’t resolving on its own. She recommended a chiropractor to me and I discussed with him my goal of completing this hiking trip with Huts for Vets. I knew it might not be realistic for it to be gone prior to the trip, but I was willing to try chiropractic visits to see if it helped.

I’m at the point now where I only go in once every two weeks. The back pain is no longer throughout my whole back and easily over the last month it has gone down from every other day to every few days. Today’s a bit of an exception since I started carrying boots and a 2.5 lb. weight in my pack to test out carrying some gear. I took some Tylenol earlier today and it brought the pain back down, so I added 9 assisted pull-ups into my “workout routine” across my 15 minute morning and afternoon breaks during my work shift.

Aside from getting my back pain under control for the trip, I also had the necessary task of acquiring hiking gear.

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My new hiking boots were the single most expensive item. I picked up a pair of Oboz waterproof boots for $150 at REI. (NOTE: This post is not sponsored by anyone; I just thought others might inquire so I decided to share some details of what I purchased.) My husband thought with my ankle issues a mid-height shoe would work better and since the packing discusses it being a wet area, we opted to spend more for a waterproof shoe.

Most of my wardrobe is cotton-based fabrics so I picked up some performance fabric shirts on sale from Eddie Bauer and some items from REI. In particular, I love that REI has convertible pants in petite sizes. My main objective with the purchases was to find things good enough for hiking that I could incorporate into my everyday wardrobe as well so they didn’t sit in my closet like unused ball gowns.

I was most set with socks. My husband and I are part of Nocking Point’s Wine Club and thankfully some of the boxes come with great Strideline socks. I had hopes I would still have some Smartwool mid crew hiking socks from my two deployments, but I didn’t. I think I may have given them away to family members that live in Wyoming because those socks really hold up.

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Anyways, aside from my love of the Strideline socks, there are a few other practical things I am bringing with me. I like that these items are a bit better for the environment and should make TSA checks easier at the airport. (I’m all for easier times flying.)

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I’ll get you all updated as we get closer to the trip. My goal is to fit everything between an Osprey hydration pack and a small Osprey carry-on. I will not be bringing along a personal tent as I’m sure at the end of the day my back will feel better if I sleep in a real bed.

If you want to learn more about Huts for Vets, check them out here.

 

 

Boot Camp Letters: October 2003 (From Recruit to Marine)

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This entry is the conclusion of my “Boot Camp” series of entries and I hope you all enjoyed my behind the scenes sentiments.

I am glad I completed this journey as a way to honor my friend Bart after his passing. His mother sent the photo below to me while at recruit training. I know my experience does not make up for losing him, but it is important his dream came full circle. He wanted to go to Iraq, and by serving, I made that dream real.

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Lance Corporal Barton J. Carroll

There’s not much I planned to write today, but I do have some photos to share. We had recruit liberty which lasted, if I’m recalling correctly, four hours. I know I should talk more about other things like the Crucible, but it doesn’t stand out in my mind as much as other things do. After being under the scrutiny of drill instructors constantly, recruit liberty felt awkward, but exciting at the same time. It was a small opportunity to explore the base. I think of things like this experience and the Warriors Breakfast and having makeup classes (yes, we learn how to wear makeup to complement our skin and uniforms!) that are worth discussing more than being frustrated, exhausted, and annoyed during the Crucible.

My apologies the photos are not dated, but I took them with a 35mm camera and never wrote any captions in my scrapbook to better contextualize the experience.

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Our Senior Drill Instructor SSgt Curran
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These women did not have an easy job as drill instructors. Their billet is one of the hardest (and most coveted) assignments in the Marine Corps.
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Tucked in the middle and super serious in this group photo.
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Our Senior and her husband, also a drill instructor
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I’m on the far right and as you can see the footlocker at the end of my bed is not very big. Nearly everything I owned at boot camp fit into the locker.

When we had our weapons, they were slung over the end of our bunk beds with a cable through them and secured by a combination lock. In one of my letters home, I discussed my combination lock being taken away; this event happened because I failed to double check my combination lock was secure. Small mistakes like these are things you pay for and I learned to be better about checking my items.

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4th Battalion, Oscar Company, Platoon 4030 

After recruit training, I went on to Marine Corps Combat Training and later my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Of my fellow recruits, one was also at Camp Blue Diamond with me. I ran into another during my second tour in Iraq at Camp Al Asad. The third worked at the mail room at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

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I was very proud to graduate even if it was as a Marksman (that “pizza box” on my uniform), not a Rifle Expert.

That large smile on my face is less about leaving recruit training but everything to do with being surprised to see my dad. My maternal grandmother and her boyfriend came to my graduation but my dad had let on he was at court during my graduation. Back then, he served as a police officer so the reason sounded pretty valid.

Earning the right to be called Marine is something I’ve never regretted. The events that came later weren’t all great, but becoming a Marine is one of the best life decisions I ever made.

 

Boot Camp Letters Home: September 2003

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A funny thing happened in September 2003. I didn’t have much to say to my family back home. It’s kind of odd but maybe I wrote more letters to friends and extended family? One of the recruiters sent me the above letter, but in my trove of boot camp things, I didn’t have much to say at this point in my training to my immediate family.

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What’s pretty funny is that I basically forgot what I wrote in the first letter and repeated myself in my second square away time. Can you say I was probably pretty sleep deprived?

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And that love affair with sweets…it’s never gone away. I had a caramel pecan cookie and a red velvet cookie today from AJ’s Fine Foods. Yep, I like my sweets.

To give you some background on my letter below, my parents tricked me and told me my father would be unable to attend my boot camp graduation. My mom passed away my last day of sophomore year in high school and Sue is my stepmom. This quite personal letter to her is something I was originally on the fence about sharing, but it an important part of our relationship. I also think because I talk about being emotional the letter is something others should see about recruit training.

It’s a significant difference to go from an academic environment that encourages a lot of individual success to a culture that requires others to work together. The individual differences we bring to the table aren’t all great. We must recognize those selfish attributes we carry and be willing to work towards self improvement. It’s humbling, but we find better opportunities and partnerships when we make those conscious decisions.

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Boot Camp Letters Home: August 2003

My little one is spending her evening with my in-laws so I’m free to write earlier than expected this week. More than normal, I am ready for the weekend. I finished my third course for my Master’s in Public Administration. I enjoy the privilege of higher education, but I miss my free time for personal writing and I’m need more physical fitness preparation for my upcoming Huts for Vets trip.

In my boot camp scrapbook I found a few letters from my recruiter. I think these are worth sharing as well, with some censorship.

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My boot camp letters are a good indicator I was not nearly as dedicated a recruit as I should have been, but no changing that reality now! As a parent now, I think my behavior was much like how a school age child feels at the end of the day. I was not fond of doing yet more training, ever.

It’s funny to see my comments about getting sealants on my teeth. Later after I separated from the Marine Corps, my first civilian dentist was surprised I had them.

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I think, with the exception of my strong running background, I was quite the average recruit. I wasn’t great at a lot of things, and like many, I had to confront a variety of fears during training. Swim week was a challenge. I was terrified to jump off the high dive and I haven’t chosen to jump off a ten foot high tower ever again. (I also was a chicken for the rappel tower later on in boot camp.)

It might sound funny but I remember a lot of every day moments more than specific training requirements. We had a storage closet and as a team were tasked–using our money–with keeping it stocked. We cleaned our floors with liquid laundry detergent. In lieu of using mops we stood on towels, scooting along the squad bay, and scrubbed the floors this way; honestly, I like this method and continue to mop my house this way since it’s easier on my back than using a mop.

At some point, someone can up with the ingenious idea to purchase Ziploc bags and stored their items in multiple bags inside their foot locker. I liked the idea and followed suit but it didn’t seem like much time passed before our drill instructors decided when we had to empty our foot lockers, we had to empty out the bags, too. So much for saving time!

Getting dressed “by the numbers” was annoying and hilarious at the same time. Trust me, it looks rather ridiculous to have sixty odd people struggling to get into their clothes. I had moments of frustration when I was ready before others and moments when I was embarrassed to be among the last to complete the task. More than anything, I felt like quite an idiot at times trying to dress quickly following our drill instructors’ orders, but at the end of the experience, it’s just a small step in our lives. We learned a lot of traditions and developed new skills, we tackled some fears (even if those fears did not not go away), and we improved our physical fitness.

Boot camp was a time away from our normal bad habits. I didn’t have regular access to snack foods and for anyone who smoked before recruit training, there was no smoke breaks. We couldn’t eat any time of day that fancied us; we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our greetings were means to reinforce that we’ve eaten our meals. You don’t say good afternoon until after you’ve had lunch and good evening after eating dinner. This habit is something I stopped doing after boot camp; I just use noon at my delineating measure for starting my “Good afternoon” greeting whether in-person, over the phone, or in my emails. I am less rigid about when I start saying “Good evening” to people. I think I have a tendency to start saying it around 5-6 p.m.

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Maybe it’s not too noteworthy, but I kind of like seeing when postage was a bit cheaper. 

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I have one more Boot Camp Letters entry for you coming up soon and then a separate entry with boot camp photographs. Stay tuned!

~Cheryl

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Boot Camp Letters Home: July 2003

I’m procrastinating like any good college student as my class enters its last week today. As such, I figured I’d do something else equally valuable and share some things from boot camp with you all today.

I truly enjoy sharing old stories and photos so that they can serve a purpose to someone else and I think it’s good for people to see some transparency regarding recruit training. My experience is not like the movie “Ears Open, Eyeballs Click” but if you get a chance to watch the movie, please do so. I find it utterly hilarious. It’s a good reminder boot camp has some ridiculous moments and I laughed so hard at some points in the movie I had tears streaming down my face.

Moving on….

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The nerd that I am, I kept a journal during my preparation for boot camp and asked my family to hold onto my boot camp letters. My stepmom had the responsibility to keep these in order and she did a great job not decorating my journal, as I feared, in my absence.

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I imagine a lot of people are better prepared for boot camp than I was, but some of my high school athleticism worked out in my favor. Running, a constant PT activity in the Marine Corps, is something I was used to but the flexed arm hang was one of my weak areas from the very beginning.

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I’ve always been that awkward introverted nerd and I won’t say the Marine Corps beat it out of me. Over time, I just found people I got along with, but I felt like a fish out of water at boot camp. There’s a lot of stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Personal space is not really a thing and for someone as private about their body as I am, it’s awkward to shower in a communal setting.

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I don’t mind admitting I’m an average person who decided to become a United States Marine. There are other people who run with the idea and become the best in different areas of Marine Corps life like the person who always rocks a high 1st class PFT (physical fitness test); the person who always shoots expert; the person who always knows everything. I was never one of those. I decided to serve in honor of my late friend, Lance Corporal Barton J. Carroll, and it didn’t take long to figure out, I had no idea what I signed up for but I committed to it and I was going to complete that obligation.

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I am not surprised I barely spent any time writing to my family about what boot camp was like, but more so on what I didn’t care for and the things I appreciated. These simple things remind me that I love focusing on relationships rather than achievements. I’ve never enjoyed being the center of attention and it’s kind of comical to see how much I tried to hide in the background of boot camp as well.

I was quite content to try to not be noticed. I wanted to observe and learn, but mostly to pass under the radar.

I don’t remember the process of receiving all that much but bits and pieces. The drill instructors took away a lot of things individuals brought with them like makeup and hair appliances (Why someone thought they could bring that to boot camp is beyond me as is the makeup. Our need for feminine hygiene products didn’t last very long and most of us only had one cycle through the three months of training. Our civilian clothes were placed into brown paper grocery size bags and returned to us at the end of our training. I still remember the fact I wore a short sleeve baby pink color t-shirt and jeans. My recruiter did a good job reminding us to take as little as possible with us and to dress comfortably.

The new clothes we received, and purchased with our own money, required marking. We had stencils and marking tape to mark all sorts of items we wore: sports bras, underwear, socks, shirts, shorts, camouflage tops and bottoms, and boots. I can’t remember my thoughts on clothing issue for our dress uniform items other than being grateful one set of trousers was left a bit loose; it really helped out when I decided to eat a lot of junk food at Marine Corps Combat Training (MCT) although it was a pretty poor decision to undo my mostly healthy eating habits from boot camp. The other uniform items were marked as well once in our possession.

Basically, you need to mark your sh#t. It’s a requirement. Drill instructors will notice it if it’s not marked or that marking tape starts falling off. I got pretty lazy about marking my stuff later in the fleet with the exception of Corporals Course since there was an inspection.

Last thoughts though before I end here for the day. I never shot expert on the rifle at boot camp, or any other part of my Marine Corps career. I was a sad little marksman the whole time, but at least I learned a new skill. One of these days my husband and I need a trip back to the rifle range; I haven’t shot in years, and it would be nice to pick up a rifle and shoot better than I did in the Marine Corps. If anyone will help me get there, it will be my husband. I shoot the rifle left-handed and he’s the only left-handed rifle coach I’ve ever met; it’s a real shame he wasn’t on the rifle range with me in the Marine Corps.

(Sorry for the serious detour towards the end of this entry; can you tell I really don’t want to do homework right now?)

 

 

 

Journey Through “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan”

Hello, readers.

I am taking a short break from homework to check back in. I cannot recall if I’ve told you all before I love reading for pleasure, and one of the hardest things about working full-time and completing my collegiate classes is losing a substantial amount of free time for personal reading. I grew up reading a lot in my free time; it was a perfect hobby for an introverted child. Although I’ve shed some of my shyness, reading is still one of my favorite hobbies.

While I don’t plan to go into detail about all the war-related books I started to help me determine how to write my own memoir, there is one I want to talk about today.

My local public library has a small section of books covering the history of different wars. Originally, I hoped to find Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front. I looked for Shoot Like a Girl on several trips to Barnes and Noble, but it was never on the shelf. When I couldn’t find the book at my public library either, I decided to look through the other titles. (I don’t like leaving the public library empty-handed.)

There wasn’t much that stuck out to me except for one title, The Mirror Test. It’s the lengthy book I’ve picked up in a while: 585 pages. I haven’t finished it yet. I hope that doesn’t deter anyone from picking it up. This blog entry is not meant to serve as a book review. I could probably give you that perspective later, but I’m only on Chapter 9 at this point. (I slowed down my reading pace with this book in order to not fall behind in my class.)

I quickly fell in love with the author’s writing style and wanted to share my sentiments on Instagram.

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Dotting the landscape of his personal narrative, I found direct information about service member casualties. It was unexpected, but almost like coming home. Someone encountered the casualty information, not necessarily the same way I had, and he recognized them as people. He was making sure they were not simply forgotten in a world where Americans drift from one new thing to the next and have grown tired of hearing about our protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On top of it, too, he gave more recognition to the marring of Iraq and the brutal toll the war’s taken on its people. When I worked on my graduate applied project, I found access to Iraqi casualty information difficult to recover. I used details I could gather from Iraq Body Count but again, The Mirror Test drew me in with the sensitivity and openness regarding interactions with Iraqis.

I didn’t expect to come across something more simple that hit a nerve.

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Anger, bordering on rage, hit me. I felt like the author immediately dismissed the value and burden of my deployment responsibility. My rant could not be contained. In fact, I hit the word limit Instagram has and to finish my rant, I needed a comment.Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.33.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-17 at 6.34.09 PM.png

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I try to keep tirades like this out of public view, but the sting that my work was not really seen as a war experience wasn’t easing up. It’s been awhile since I found someone’s written words tearing me up this way.

I put the book down for a bit to refocus. I did not want to discount the entire book based on this one piece, but I needed a breather.

After taking some space, I realized an opportunity existed. The author had valuable casualty information and might be able to help me find a way to finish reconstructing the casualty information from my own deployment. I had to ask. The worst he could say was “No.”

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The Mirror Test

In my email request, I discussed the intersection of our time in Iraq and my work with the activity reports. I explained my interest in how he came to share the casualty information, whether he took good notes or if he acquired the details through Freedom of Information Act. I did not ask the author to do the research for me and this detail is important. I implore anyone looking to reconstruct their past be mindful to do the same with any person you reach out to for assistance. Do not ask someone to do work you yourself are not willing to do. If you have the capability to do your own research, do it. In this case, I have the ability to continue my research, but it helps to know where to look.

Thankfully, my request was well-received and the email I received in return, exceptionally courteous. He offered ideas to help me find the pieces of information I’m looking for to include checking out Brown University’s “Cost of War.”

I am happy with our correspondence so far and hopefully, he appreciates the feedback I have regarding his book.

More to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Honorably Discharged Veteran Millennial: Money Talks

A friend recently shared The Outline’s “Being Frugal is For the Rich” and the article got me thinking of something I started talking about while pursuing my first graduate degree. For new readers, my access to VA benefits helped me transform my family’s circumstances these past few years and I opened up about this matter to help give others some transparency on the issue from a direct user perspective. For those who’ve been following me along my blogging journey, yes, I’m talking about veteran entitlements and privileges again!!!

A few years back I read The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi and it inspired me to be more curious about how people spend their money. I won’t say I found the book “out of the blue.” For almost the past ten years, my reading tastes have gravitated more towards non-fiction but my interest in learning more about financial spending happened when I took the chance and attended a Financial Peace University class friends had at their church in Cody, Wyoming.

My husband and I started our lives together as a dual-income military family. During our active duty days, we did quite well for ourselves. (Note: I served on active duty when we started dating in October 2005 and separated from the Marine Corps July 2007.).  I wish I kept our Leave and Earning Statements (LES) from this time to give you concrete numbers regarding income, but in lieu of that information, our spending helps give you an idea of the privilege associated with our military service (and also not being parents at that time).

We started our married life (2006) in a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in Oceanside, CA. As super lazy millennials who didn’t want to pay for moving expenses, our second apartment was the one right next door. When the other neighbors moved out we upgraded to a two bedroom, two bathroom 854 sq. ft space for $1,440 a month in 2008. (That second apartment now rents for $1,764 on the low-end. Trust me, I don’t miss overpriced rent in southern California.)

I won’t lie. That time in our lives was a lot of fun because financially we could afford to do almost anything we wanted (but buy a home). It’s interesting too because so many people think that service members are grossly underpaid for their efforts and I don’t fully agree with that segment of our population. If you look at information below from Federalpay.org this way of life is pretty good although it continues to frustrate me to see people and organizations, including nonprofits geared towards veterans and service members, use ‘basic pay’ as a way to say service members are broke people. This approach is not inclusive of all forms of pay people receive while serving.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of BAH, it differs based on where one is stationed. Some service members may choose to live on base (and therefore do not receive a housing allowance) in order to live in a bigger home than how far their BAH would go in the local area. Other times, service members may choose to live on base because they have one family car and base life is more convenient for their family or they are overseas and not comfortable renting out in town. Getting back on point though, how many young adults do you know that don’t possess a college education and make this kind of money? Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 6.59.05 PM.png

Over the years, our financial wellbeing has looked more like the dips and rises of the stock market than a steady improvement. Ours lows come from a combination of personal behaviors (typical things like going above our dining out budget) and unfortunate circumstances (two unexpected bouts of unemployment, unexpected veterinary bills, and unexpected air conditioning problems to name a few big-ticket issues). After the rocky financial patches we’ve found ourselves in, I do find myself drawn in by people, such as the Frugalwoods, who say, “It’s super easy. Just save money.” It’s nice to hear because it reminds me to have hope that things get easier, to see people who may have accumulated more debt than we’ve carried turn their lives around.

But I know when I talk about how we overcame obstacles in our past (and those down the road) I must be transparent that there’s a lot of privilege I’m standing on, just like the Frugalwoods. The social capital and financial resources at my feet may not be that important to people outside the veteran community, but an ‘honorable discharge’ is an important form of privilege. It’s one thing to have access to good employment benefits while serving in the military, but it’s another to have door after door open up after earning an honorable discharge. It allowed me to use 48 months’ of GI Bill benefits. It allowed me access to a VA home loan. It might permit me to receive VA disability compensation to help offset the costs associated with managing the anxiety related chest pains I started experiencing after my first tour in Iraq. (Side Note: New readers, I’ve covered the last issue a lot in past entries, but my lack of evidence in my service record has made my case with the VA difficult. I’ll update you on this issue when I receive an update on my Notice of Disagreement.)

As someone who made a pretty good transition from active duty Marine to possessing a Master’s degree, openness is important in sharing a narrative and I encourage others to think about what someone does or does not share regarding his or her privilege. Here are some small (or not so small) things you might want to know about me:

  • I’ve received over $105,000 worth, 48 months, of GI Bill benefits through a combination of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill. I’ve talked about this funding along the way here and here more recently. I owe everyone an update now that I used the last month and 9 days I had remaining so the full sight picture is available.
  • I’ve learned outside of school, privilege is not always steady. Trust me, it was weird during our home search to find out some homes did not qualify for a VA mortgage.
  • Occasionally, I receive low cost or no-cost opportunities available to veterans such as a student veteran scholarship to participate in the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writing Conference which I did and a trip to Aspen to Huts for Vets which I will do later this summer.
  • Anytime I’ve applied for a post-Marine Corps job, I annotate any veteran category I qualify under because I know these categories can only help me be considered. What I’ve learned though is I must change how I talk to my service to not scare or confuse hiring committees. It’s true we don’t always speak the same language, but most people I’ve met have a positive orientation towards honorably discharged veterans like me.

If you want to look at privilege in another way, here’s what some of those things look like for me and what I encourage you to consider when you think of your own life experiences. We may be deposited in the same world, but that does not mean we get to experience it on equal terms and we have a responsibility to acknowledge the unearned advantages and the support teams that help us live our lives the way we do.

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