Commentary

April 19, 2013

The men I left behind

Capt. Belena S. Marquez
Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – I am one of the thousands of women who have gone to war.

I am neither unique nor exceptional. If you ask around, you will hear stories similar to mine.

In the past, expectations for girls did not include the possibility of growing up to be veterans. We are not born warriors. We have been brought up in a way that makes it possible.

To me, Women’s History Month was not only about recognizing the trailblazers of my gender; it is also about celebrating the change in our culture that makes the men in my life, who support me as an Airman, the norm instead of the exception.

Father, brother, husband and friends; these are the men I left behind that early morning when I headed to Afghanistan.

It was cold outside, but I made a quick phone call.

“Daddy, I’m headed over now,” I said, when the line connected. We talked for a couple of minutes and before we hung up my dad whispered, “Be safe, sweetie.”

Then I left.

My dad stood behind me from the beginning. Growing up, he always told me that I could do and be whatever I wanted, as long as I worked hard for it. He made me believe in myself.

I ended up needing that belief on the days when I felt like I was not making a difference, when the mission seemed too tough to handle. When things were hard for me, my thoughts invariably went to the encouragement my dad always seemed to have just for me.

On the days when I needed to keep my chin up and stay positive, I thought of my brother.

My little brother was always trailing along behind me. When we were younger, he was always copying me and following my lead. He taught me that someone is always watching and learning from you.

That lesson came in handy when I interacted with a culture so very different from my own. For some of the Afghans I worked with, I was an oddity. As a member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, I was a woman decked out in multi-cam when they were used to seeing the sun-bleached burkas that made the Afghan women in our area look like ghosts floating down the streets.

However, thanks to my little brother, I was used to being observed. I knew that they were learning about my culture through my actions, just as I was learning about theirs.

I discovered that the women I’d initially thought of as apparitions in the town were actually vibrant, opinionated and courageous as we worked together to build up the female journalist program.

For those in the service, it isn’t a shock to discover someone who is both a woman and a service member. Though sometimes it is hard for people who do not understand the military to fathom that my husband stayed and I left.

Throughout my deployment, my husband had my back. While I was doing convoys and key leader engagements, he was taking care of our household. He was the one responsible for staying positive when I called. During those conversations, I relied on him to remind me of the world outside of my deployment. He sent care packages and waited for me to return. He brought me flowers when my plane touched down and I was finally home.

The trip to Afghanistan and back reminded both of us that service is more significant than gender, but not everyone understands that.

When I was enjoying my post-deployment vacation, I remembered someone else I left behind. I thought about a conversation I had with an ex-boyfriend when I was in high school. We were talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up and I mentioned that I wanted to join the Air Force.

“Sweetie,” he said. “I don’t think that’ll be good for you. I don’t think you’re really tough enough for that.”

Well, he can kiss my Combat Action Badge!




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
HHM_14_Poster

Hispanic Heritage Month: Knowing the facts

In 1988, Congress established National Hispanic Heritage Month by amending the 1968 law that created National Hispanic Heritage Week. Under this law, the president was asked to issue an annual proclamation designating the “31...
 
 
4-of-11-photo

U.K. cemetery resting place for 452nd men

(Fourth in an 11-part series that was first run in the Beacon in 2007) Thirty men killed while serving in the 452nd Bombardment Group during World War II are buried at an American military cemetery near Cambridge, England. They...
 
 

Comprehensive Airman Fitness: A lifestyle and culture

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Comprehensive Airman Fitness (CAF) is comprised of a multitude of targeted programs and activities as well as resiliency skills taught to enable Airmen to make sound choices. The program’s goal is to build and sustain a thriving and resilient Air Force community that fosters mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness. The new...
 

 

Suicide prevention takes courage, communication, official says

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Veterans Affairs Department has named September National Suicide Prevention Month, but the Defense Department continues its year-round, comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to address the issue of suicide in the military, a Pentagon official said Aug. 21. Army Lt. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, military deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for personnel...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Megan Crusher

Padres honor Team March Airmen during Air Force Appreciation Day

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Megan Crusher San Diego Padres second baseman, Jedd Gyorko, greets Senior Master Sgt. Donald Branscum, 1st Sgt., 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron, as he took his position on the field, during the Pa...
 
 

Air Force revamps Air Expeditionary Force

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force will deploy Agile Combat Support (ACS) Airmen under its redesigned air expeditionary force (AEF) construct October 1. The primary purpose of the redesign was to look at ways to deploy more ACS Airmen with their units and standardize dwell times across the Air Force as much as possible to...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin