Ed, Jack and I were panelists for one classroom. It was great to meet these polite, curious young men and women at our local middle school. They asked interesting questions.
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.
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!
Today marks the 237th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. It's a very special day for Marines everywhere. Around the globe, Marines past and present are commemorating this day and wishing each other a Happy Birthday. No other service celebrates their birthday in quite the same manner. It's a time of reflection. It's a time of celebration. It's a time to reconnect.
Here's a picture at the very beginning. Here I am in 1990 with my roommates at The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia - a young Second Lieutenant.
And here I am 22 years later at my retirement ceremony at 6th Communications Battalion, Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York this August. My retirement t-shirt says it all "Not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine!"
Finally, here's the official 2012 Birthday Message from the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Geneneral James F. Amos and Sergeant Major Micheal P. Barrett, present the 2012 Marine Corps Birthday Message. Footage includes historical b-roll and images from Guadalcanal as well as interviews with WWII veterans, subject matter experts, active duty Marines and Marine spouses.
To all my Marine Corps buddies around the world - Semper Fidelis and Happy Birthday!
This weekend BF and I came to Washington, DC. We took advantage of this trip to meet up with many of my military buddies. Not everyone was available, but we did manage to get in touch with four amazing women in the Navy and Marine Corps world who are phenomenal leaders and individuals. Here are the pictures from our get togethers.
Shanti and I pose at an amazing cupcake bakery near 8th and I Streets in southeast DC.
Margie and I pose outside the restaurant where we met for breakfast in Garrisonville.
Kristi and I pose inside the Japanese restaurant where we met for lunch in Q-town.
Now, I told you these ladies were amazing. Try to guess which jobs and hobbies fit which ladies. More than one job/hobby might fit more than one dynamic lady.
I'm not going to tell you who's who... but suffice it to say that there are only five of us and more than 26 items to choose from. Any one of these items would be cool in and of themselves - but these ladies never turn down a challenge. I think that's what I like about being a female officer in the military. There's not much that really scares us. We see everything as a new opportunity to excel.
Kudos to you, my friends. You are true inspirations!
BF and I hosted a Brazilian BBQ or churrasco at the house. We had the BEST churrascaria in the New York City area come cater the dinner.
If you've never seen a Brazilian BBQ, think "Parade of Beef" and pork, and turkey, and chicken, and bacon...
I've known the owner, Farid, for 17 years and it was great to have him come cook for the big celebration.
Here's one of the servers slicing beef at one of the tables. Mmmmm.
And my new official head gear.
On Saturday, I had my official retirement ceremony from the Marine Corps. I wasn't going to go through the bother of having a ceremony, but my Commanding Officer encouraged me to do so. I'm so glad I did. It was a great way to end my 22+ years with the Marine Corps. Here are some snaps of the official ceremony.
The color guard
One platoon of Marines from Headquarters Company
"Person to be retired, front and center"
Making my remarks about what my career in the Marine Corps means to me.
Family photo - the ones who support me
The celebratory cake
Farewell Marine Corps. You will always be in my heart.
My Marine Corps buddy Julie and her family were making a whirlwind trip from Rochester, NY to Quantico, VA in 4 days... and I offered them a place to stay on their first leg of the trip. What a great time we had.
Julie was part of the original knitting group at Headquarters, Marine Corps - with officers, Staff NCOs, NCOs and civilians - learning how to make dish cloths (still one of my favorite things to teach basic knitting).
This was in 2002. We were all admin staff at Headquarters Marine Corps, Manpower & Reserve Affairs. Once or twice a week we'd find time to knit. Since 75% of our group worked in the general's office and had phone watch, we always knit there. The general wasn't quite sure what he thought about a knitting bee in his office! You can tell how old the picture is by the old style woodland cammies.
We've stayed in touch over the years. I visited them in Virginia. Their daughter stayed with me for a few weeks one summer in 2004. They visited when they came to pick her up. I stopped by their new home when they moved to upstate New York on my drive back from Toronto. They came again this past week. It's great to stay in touch with friends... even if it's here and there across the span of years. That's what I like about my Marine Corps friends. You can pick up where you left off. The funny part, is that the purpose of their trip was to go to a baby shower for another member of our original group's first grandchild! See how it's all connected?
I'm so glad you came. Let's continue to stay in touch, K?
Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments on my Marine Corps reserve training posts. I know how much I've enjoyed reading Shanti's posts about her deployment at sea this past year - so I thought you'd enjoy a peak into Marine Corps life as well. Many of you said how it gave you a much greater appreciation for what our military personnel do. I'm very glad of that. I'm very proud of all my brothers and sisters at arms and grateful for everyone's service. No two people have the exact same career path, but everyone who volunteers to serve in our military definitely has a higher calling and sets aside their personal needs for the good of our country.
But let me tell you how Americans showed their gratitude for our service. The last part of my training was the trip home. I told you earlier that the military is very cost-conscious. This is a good thing. The tough thing is that it takes a long time to get from point A to point B. My trip from Westport, Connecticut to Hawthorne, Nevada took 31 hours. The trip back took 32. Both journeys included two sleepless nights. That's normal. I enjoy telling people that one of the best skills I learned in the military was the ability to sleep any time, anywhere, standing up, lying down, in the wind, in the rain, sleep when and where you can.
So sleep we did - on the bus from the desert to the makeshift USO in Reno near the airport. They woke us up beginning at 0300 and every hour after that to announce "Bus leaving for any flights departing between 0500-0600." So the sleep was interrupted, but at least there was no sand. My group had the latest flight of the day at 4:45 p.m. so we had the USO to ourselves from 10:00 a.m. on. We talked with all the volunteers from the local community - some were blue star mothers, some were retired military, some were corporations who cared, some were just wonderful volunteers in the community who were called from work, their churches, and more. The baked goodies, served hotdogs and hamburgers, baked beans, cole slaw, dished out ice cream, provided beverages, brought in fresh fruit, magazines, created an impromptu take-away reading library, and entertained us. This was all especially touching since this was not an established USO - so it really meant that the volunteers had to answer the call and make this facility from scratch. Everyone was so kind and the Marines were extremely grateful. The icing on the cake came at 12:00 noon when everyone had left for the airport.
A few men from the local car club brought their fancy sports cars to create an impromptu car show for the Marines. Unfortunately for most Marines, they got the time wrong - they came at 12:00 noon, not 12:00 midnight. Fortunately for my Marines, we got a private tour. They were like kids in a candy shop.
They took lots of pictures and smiled the largest happiest smiles I think I've ever seen on a group of grown men. If you have ever been to a car show, you know that the owners never let you touch the car, let alone sit in them. Not Mike, Gary or G.P.! They let my Marines sit in their cars and snap pictures.
And these were not just any sports cars, these were top of the line Mercedes and Ferraris. Did I mention it was like a dream come true for these Marines?
I wonder if my reserve pay is enough to buy one of these?
I could get used to this!
The best part of all, is that Mike, Gary and G.P. took the Marines for a little spin around the parking lot. The Marines returned on cloud 9.
One of the Marines was heard to say "This is the best day of my life"
So thank you to all the generous people of Reno, Nevada who showed your support and love of the military with your time, efforts, and generosity. Your efforts were so greatly appreciated!
As one of the oldest Marines in Hawthorne, Nevada, I was definitely feeling every bit of my venerable status. Unfortunately, I felt it mostly in my GI tract (that's gastrointestinal - not government issued!) For the two weeks of Marine Corps reserve training, we were each issued 30 MREs - or Meals Ready to Eat and had hot meals in the mess hall for 10 nights. But honestly, the mess hall serves UGRs - Unitized Group Rations - which are just MREs in larger portions.
While our mess hall Marines were cheerful and helpful, the food was not designed for a woman of a certain age. I think you all know what I mean.
We were very fortunate to get A Rations - which mean things like salad and fresh fruit - granola bars and even PB&J. So over the course of 2 weeks, I managed to only eat 4 MREs. I tried my darnedest to eat fresh fruit and granola bars as often as possible instead of a highly processed meal.
Sometimes the mess hall had motivated M&Ms or Reese's Pieces. Once again, I avoided these - but the Marines loved them!
Generally speaking, the Marines like their MREs. Opening an MRE is like opening a box of Cracker Jacks. You never know what surprise you'll get inside. A lot of trading goes on during chow time. Out of the 4 MREs I actually opened, one of them had FOUR (4) desserts. Really! Don't they know I'm a 40- something year old woman? Might as well duct-tape that stuff to my thighs.
This PB&J lunch with an apple and a granola bar actually felt like a healthy meal option. I'm not kidding! If only I had a glass of refreshing cold milk.
Instead we had lots of refreshing H2O. If it were less than body temperature, it was cold water - more than body temperature, it was unflavored tea. But whatever the temperature, it was important to keep drinking as the desert does not play games. Dehydration is not fun. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are even less fun. So the Marines drink and drink and drink and pretend that it's an ice cold beverage.
Finally, we were able to order some food from the local community, so I treated my Marines to pizza from Old Nevada Pizza. It was a real treat and a true motivator. It's a great way to thank the Marines for a job well done.
They say an Army moves on its stomach. Well, I guess that's true. I was very impressed with how well we were fed in such austere conditions. It's not the farm fresh vegetables from home, but it was amazing just the same. After awhile, the MREs and the UGRs begin to look appetizing. Amazingly enough, even with all this calorie-laden, highly process food, I managed to lose weight.
Did I mention how happy I am to be home? I think I should probably do some all vegetarian cleanse after all this military food. What's the latest detox going around? Maybe I'll give it a try.