Writing a young adult book about a girl in the Navy has made me realize how many (real) stories of those who serve aren’t being shared. It made me want to feature some of them on my blog. Well, sometimes when you ask someone to share stories with you, it turns out to be pretty amazing. This is for sure one of those of times. Remember Amythyst? This is her story.
Jody: Please tell us what branch you were in and why you chose it. Why the military?
Amythyst: I was in the Air Force. Things were rough for me at age 17. I had been kicked out of my dad’s house, and went to live with my mom. Then her house started fire while we were in it! She barely lived, and I was kidnapped from the scene. When I got away, I was afraid the man would go after my family so I didn’t want to live with them. So…why not the military? I needed three waivers to get in; one because I was a minor, one because I was a dropout, and another because my mother was unable to sign the first waiver since she was still in the burn unit. It was only three weeks from the time that I walked into the recruiting office to my first day in boot camp.
Jody: Enlisted or Officer? Explain your job.
Amythyst: I was enlisted; E-4. I started as an AB, which stands for Airman Basic. It is the lowest rank possible. I was part of an office that managed all of the computers, network, and equipment for the squadron. We also were a mobile communications unit. That means that we were the ones who would be set up in the field during combat or other missions. Behind two cipher locks was our van; a big explosive resistant box on wheels with a charcoal ventilation system in case of bio warfare. Periodically, they would have us load all the vans up on a plane, strap us up to the walls of the cargo bay, and ship us out to what they called an “exercise.” At our destination, the last one being at a base in Arizona, we would set everything up and pretend we were in a wartime situation just to make sure we could do it.
Jody: When and how long were you active?
Jody: What was the hardest part of boot camp? The best part?
Amythyst: First of all, the Air Force calls it basic training. The hardest part was all of it, really! The mind games got to me the most; not the physical training I could give a crap about that. But, they would deprive us of so much sleep I couldn’t think straight, and then you had to memorize all this stuff from a manual that you had to carry around. It was nearly impossible to study that thing while standing in formation when you were being stared at by horribly mean people in big black hats and taps on their boots. That was a horrible sound…the tapping sound of a TI coming up behind you.
Jody: Do you have any funny stories from your military experience that you can share?
Amythyst: I guess it would be the weekends in the dorms. I remember us playing football in the lawn in the middle of the night with a Christmas tree and another time I walked out on the balcony to see a blowup doll watching the sunset wearing nothing but a SP (security police) cap.
Jody: Have you experienced combat?
Jody: How many places have you lived and which has been your favorite?
Amythyst: I only got stationed at one base.
Jody: How do you think being a female made your experience in the military unique? Were there special challenges you faced because of it?
Amythyst: Probably but I don’t know really. I never really fell for the whole “I gotta prove something” attitude that some girls did. I thought it was great being in a one to fifteen ratio. I was always considered cute, always the center of attention, and could get away with anything.
Hum….well there is the whole pregnancy thing. It was super weird wearing maternity BDUs, they were like wearing a camo tent! And, it just didn’t seem right. I knew that once I had the baby I would be getting out in about eight months and thought that it would be fine. But, it wasn’t. I had the baby three weeks early and came in the office a week postpartum to tell my supervisors that I wanted out. I just couldn’t do it. It seemed so wrong to have a baby with a job that gave me a three day life expectancy if I went into combat. Well, as it turned out, maternity discharges were only used for women that are still pregnant! My argument was that I was still supposed to be pregnant and that a woman that carries late should not have an advantage by having more time to decide or apply for a discharge. It took five months but I won the case, which put me at only getting out three months early….but still, I won! So, I got a waiver to get out of the military as well and set a new precedent for the rules about maternity discharges.
Jody: How has serving in the military changed you the most?
Amythyst: It empowered me. But, at the same time it gave me respect for order.
Jody: Is there anything else you want us to know about military life or service?
Amythyst: I would like to add that many of the enlisted folks have pretty sad stories. Many joined as a last resort after their lives hit rock bottom. Now, granted, I didn’t meet another person that claimed kidnapping as a reason…..but then again I didn’t tell anyone but my closest friends that story for years either. There may have been others with intense stories that were kept quiet as well. It is scary to make yourself look vulnerable when you are in the military. They take mental health issues seriously and you do not want to get that kind of reputation.
Jody: This has been incredible for me. Thank you so much for sharing, Amythyst.