Today, I wanted to share directly, without much of my own words, a story written about one of the service members, Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, who was recently killed in Afghanistan.  Her story intertwines cultural issues of the growing number of women serving in the military, our society’s changing attitudes towards same sex marriage, and once again, a small reminder of the separation that exists between the military and non-military members of society.  The service members we have lost (and unfortunately will lose in the future) represent significant losses for their respective military communities.  It is more important to remind ourselves how their deaths alter the future of their families and we must understand how our communities can support these loved ones in their time of need.  Her family thankfully will have access to various VA benefits because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed.  If Major Vorderbruggen had died prior to DADT being repealed, her wife and son would not have access to these same benefits.

Please keep Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen in mind when you think of who makes a ‘warrior’ and how that person should be remembered.

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Tennessee Shooting Update: Critical Witnessing

Unfortunately, one of the wounded from Thursday’s shooting in Tennessee has succumbed to his injuries.  The sailor, Petty Officer Randall Smith, passed away on Saturday.  As a frequent Facebook user, my timeline has many black ribbons from military supporters as well as articles about armed civilians protecting recruiting centers.  The sentiments are honorable, even if their effectiveness might be simply measured in a sporadic newline or as a ‘trending’ subject for some time before being unearthed again next year.  As time effectively softens the edges of this tragedy, the evaluative process will unfold with less emotion, harsher criticism, and the typical subjects will be covered: how have the individuals affected “moved on/moved forward,” how have politics changed/remained the same, and how will/does the community remember our fallen Marines and Sailor (or is the community still interested in honoring their time here on Earth)?

There will be public pain displayed in various ways for some time and then the public gaze will shift elsewhere.  I do not say these things to bring further hurt among those who lost their loved ones.  I make this statement because the spread of mass violence is becoming more common.  As consumers, perhaps as a result of social media in its overabundance, it’s more common to share stories of grief.  Certainly, there are positive and negative consequences of such actions–we find greater strength to face our own battles and hopefully, act as good audience members to those sharing their grief so publicly.

This spring, I had the great opportunity to read Elizabeth Dutro’s Writing Wounded.  This article was presented to two peers and I as a trio of literary pieces, but this one spoke to my heart the most.  For many reasons, highly traumatic events have marked time in my life.  I vividly remember the pain of certain experiences, some, in particular, I still haven’t shared with family members or friends.  I don’t enjoy being vulnerable; my mom specifically spoke to this characteristic in her journal to me.  I was a 15 year old kid crying in the bathroom away from my family when I learned of her cancer diagnosis.  I also hid away from the world when my first Iraq homecoming became my biggest frustration.  (I am working on sharing this process currently, but this story can be shared another time.)

As our society learns to embrace our storytellers, like the families of Tennessee’s fallen service members, I also implore you to politely remember others who perished late last week.  My stance will not necessarily be popular, but I make this statement today as one of America’s Iraq veterans.  ISIS killed 120 Iraqis, wounded 140 more in an exceptionally brutal attack last Friday.  Unfortunately, acts of Muslim terrorism taint the perception of Muslims everywhere.  In our battle to not let ISIS win, I ask of you all today to think of the pain for those families who lost loved ones in Iraq last Friday.  Their pain mimics our own.  They need our prayers and support in their time of crisis, just like we’ve extended our hearts to our nation’s service members who died in Tennessee.



Tennessee Shooting Reflections

I am not an acquaintance of the Marines killed yesterday but as a Marine veteran, their deaths are personal.  There are memes that joke about the Marine Corps being a cult but what people can misunderstand is our feeling of Esprit de Corps.  We pride ourselves on becoming Marines while other service branches offer more cash, rank, duty station or military occupational specialty options.  I do not make these comments today to look down upon the sister service branches, but to reinforce to my audience, the title of ‘Marine’ is quite literally a selling point for recruiters.

Yesterday’s shooter took away the potential of my brothers.  It doesn’t matter that I did not know my brothers personally; Marines are Marines.  We protect each other, like we protect this nation.  Calling yesterday’s shooting a misfortune is an understatement.  It’s a complete disgrace.  Establishing “weapons free zones” does not deter criminals from breaking the law.  It reigns in the behavior of law-abiding citizens.

My husband and I encountered the same situation when he was on recruiting duty from 2009 to 2012.  We both served overseas in different capacities and have previously discussed how ineffective it is to establish weapons free zones.  His recruiting days were frustrating more than anything; my most common concern for his safety was the ridiculous long hours he worked and the substantial distance he’d drive.  Nothing really scared me other than one bad car accident and him almost hitting a black bear while driving at night.

We have a friend right now who is on recruiting duty and I think of his wife and the stress yesterday’s shooting has on their young family.  As Marines, we go through combat deployments and yet, sometimes the scariest place to be is in our own nation.  Terrorism, currently manifested as the radial Islamic variety, is a serious problem.  Unfortunately, it hurts the perception of Muslims who do not ascribe to such behaviors and it has devastating consequences at individual, local community, and societal levels.

I do not feel for the attacker who was killed yesterday by police.  I feel for our deceased Marines who lost their futures and those wounded in yesterday’s attack, whose lives are forever changed.  Putting one’s life on the life as first responders and as service members is not an easy choice to make.  I feel for loved ones who received the worst news ever yesterday and for whom, there are only final goodbyes and memories to cherish.  I feel for civilians who witnessed this display of violence, forever shattering their notion of a fairly easygoing lifestyle.

Ironically enough, my morning started yesterday with some comments to my work studies about personal safety and when I came home last night, I received this awful news.  What I thought had been an awful day for me (an overwhelming amount of routine tasks) was nothing compared to this tragedy.  My heart  goes out to the families who lost their loved ones and to our Marine family, who lost some great war fighters.