Dishonorably Discharged Diva
I’m certain that’s what the reporters would have called me, and it would have been really, really ugly.
What was it Garth Brooks said about unanswered prayers? Oh, that’s right, some of God’s greatest gifts. Well, I can assure you that She wrapped this gift with a big red bow and delivered it via my mother in 1993. There is a seventeen-year-old thank you card I forgot to send… until last year when a friend posted this video on Facebook:
Jeff Sheng talks about his faceless portraits of gay U.S. military members displayed at the Kaycee Olsen Gallery. The exhibit is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
It is a heart-wrenchingly (for me, at least) beautiful 3 1/2-minute reminder of the reality that was almost mine. Honestly, I had totally forgotten how I’d planned, at least for a moment, to follow my parents’ footsteps right into the United States Air Force. At the time–which feels like one hundred years ago but was in fact only twenty–they were both recently retired career soldiers and military life was the only life I’d ever known.
As a little girl, I’d wanted to be a teacher but there was no money or plan for me to go to college. I’d done enough research to know that teaching required at least 4 years and likely more, and more tuition than I could conceive of. My mom had already begun a second career in civil service and with her retirement income, we didn’t qualify for financial assistance. I’d packed up my dream of being a teacher–like the final, sacred token of a childhood chapter now closed–and moved on.
I had zero sense of personal identity, no clue who I was or what I wanted to be when I grew up. Throughout my life, the U.S. Air Force provided my family with the basics one needs in life (at least as I understood it then): health insurance, retirement plan, roof over your head, work clothes, and enough extra to buy food on base and pay your utilities, plus vacation one or two weeks a year. My vision of my future was totally blank, and my parents’ choice seemed like a reasonable option for me, too.
Next: Mom shut me down. Hard.
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