This is the first year that I've actively participated in Veterans Day events in my town. I spoke with about 30 other veterans to 8th graders at the middle school on Friday. I was the youngest veteran and the ONLY female veteran they've ever had. Wow!
I really enjoyed speaking to the 8th graders. I tried to educate them about the many misconceptions of the military.
- Not everyone who serves in the military goes to war.
- Most people in the military WANT the opportunity to serve their country in a war. In fact, many sign-up for repeat tours.
- Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot. The military has cooks, mechanics, accountants, doctors, nurses, dentists, administrators, teachers, logisticians, police, firefighers, ministers, lawyers, supply personnel in addition to all the combat arms personnel like infantry, bomb squads, artillery, tanks, pilots, submarines, students, etc.
- While every Marine is a rifleman, not every Marine is an infantry Marine.
- Soldier is not a generic term. It refers to someone in the Army. The correct all-encompassing term is either servicemen and women or member of the Armed Forces. Lumping everyone together as a soldier exclued and offends Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines.
I also enjoyed comparing their recent PhysEd Presidential Fitness Test to the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. When asked, the students told me that the fastest time for the mile run was approximately seven minutes. I told them that if that runner could keep up that pace for THREE miles, they could get a perfect score for a female Marine. A male must run three miles at a six-minute mile pace to get a perfect score. If a male runs slower than an 11-minute mile (or a female runs slower than a 13-minute mile) he/she fails the run. The kids were shocked. I told them that last year was my final PFT for the Marine Corps and I ran just under ten-minute miles. I got 40 looks that clearly said "This old lady can run faster than me?" It was priceless.
Everything I needed to learn, I learned in the Marine Corps. I learned amazing things about courage and confidence. I learned self-reliance. I learned about having the physical, moral, and emotional courage to accomplish any obstacle. Just completing the Marine Corps' obstacle and confidence courses give one a feeling of superpowers. In order to do it, you need to be in top physical shape and get your mind into the game. You cannot let go or you let yourself and your fellow Marines down. You learn the true meaning of teamwork. It is a very empowering feeling.
I think the 8th graders enjoyed having a female veteran. I was thrilled to be included with such an amazing group of veterans. I was truly humbled by a young woman who came up to me and thanked me for being a confident woman because I inspired her. Wow. I was truly humbled by her comments. I don't think of myself as a spokesperson for women. But I can handle the role of setting an example and offering encouragement to young girls to know they can do whatever they set their minds to. I think I've found a new venue to communicate. I am so glad to have been included in this day and hope to encourage more women veterans to share their story with others.
So here's to all the Veterans out there - past and present. Thanks for all you do - and continue to do for our country.
God bless you and Semper Fidelis!