Archives for posts with tag: Army

This weekend I ran into a battle buddy from Basic Training. Eleven years ago. From South Carolina to Iowa. Four deployments between us. She wasn’t just some girl in my platoon. No. Amy was the girl I dug a fox-hole with. Amy and I slept head to toe under our shelter halves during our bivouacs and woke to fire-ants crawling up our arms. We fought like sisters. Sometimes we fought like enemies. By the end of our eleven weeks together we couldn’t stand each other and made no attempt to keep in touch after graduation.

More than ten years later none of that mattered. We drank. We caught up. It was lovely. However, when I went to dig up old pictures, I couldn’t find one of Amy (if you’ll remember the aforementioned fighting).

All I found was this:

Those four girls were the girls I missed. Those were the girls I worried about when the war in Iraq started. Not Amy. I basked in those memories and then I noticed Robbins sitting there in background – just there to the right. Crying and looking at whatever she just blew into her handkerchief. She is crying because she did not graduate Basic Training. She never did more than four consecutive pushups and she never learned how to march. She was not meant to be a soldier. As far as I know she never became one.

Her misery is not how I remember that day, nor how I remember that time. I feel bad for Robbins but I am grateful that my memories of that time have evolved into a warmness in my chest, that I can drink a beer with a girl I once screamed at to stop talking to me and see these old pictures in a new way.


Fun facts:

November of 2008

  1. I lived on an Iraqi Army base a stone’s throw from the Iranian border.
  2. Coffee and Rip-Its and phone calls home made me smile.
  3. I shot an AK-47 for the first and only time:

4. When Obama gave his acceptance speech I read it online and my heart swelled with joy and jealousy for folks celebrating back in the states.

 November of 2012

  1. I’m planning a wedding.
  2. I voted with my neighbors in the early morning dark.
  3. Obama’s reelection made my heart swell and I’m here celebrating with my love.

The Army taught how to do pushups, how to polish boots to a high glossy shine, how to sleep anywhere, when to keep my mouth shut and when to take charge. The Army buried itself so deep in my brain I can no longer remember what they taught me and what I was before. But above all else, the Army taught me how to wait.


The plane I’m waiting for is currently 10 minutes late and that’s ok. All I can do is wait. Getting impatient won’t help. Getting mad at the jackass talking too loud on his cell phone won’t get me on the plane any faster. Nope. All I can do is wait and read and drink my coffee. This is out of my hands. It’s really not such a bad way to spend a morning.

Sit-ups have traditionally been my weak point. The first PT test I took in basic training I did nine. Yep, nine. My failure embarrassed me then and still bristles me today. So I studied. At the end of the day, even though I was exhausted and miserable, I hooked my feet beneath the bunk and did some sit-ups. In time, I improved. God I hate sit-ups.

When I started crossfit earlier this summer I realized running had become my weakness. I just don’t have the endurance I once did. My mile time is embarrassing. Those JV cross-country days are long behind me, it seems. So, I studied. On days I didn’t go to crossfit, I ran and I improved. Then summer got in the way – vacation, roof-top happy hours, patios, dog parks.

On Saturday I felt it. We did “Kelly” (5 rounds – 400m run, 30 wall balls, 30 box jumps). Holy shit. I could not keep up. My body was covered in a sweat after one round. By round two I had to rest after every 5 jumps. Don’t even ask what the run looked like. It was almost as embarrassing as that first PT test. Summer has not been kind to me.

Fine, I’ll study.

When I graduated basic training in 2002 I thought I liked pushups. It was the first thing we did at early morning formations and the last thing we did before scrambling into bed, exhausted, at night. I got really good at them. Diamond pushups. Wide arm pushups. Alligator pushups. No big deal. Whatever kind of soldier they made me, they sure as hell guaranteed I could stay in the front-leaning-rest.

Pushups and I then broke up. I did not like them, not even then. I simply understood them.

Tonight, at my first ‘real’, nonbeginner crossfit class, we did so many kinds of pushups. So Many. (That basic training business was brainwashing bullshit.) My arms shook. My form failed. I’ll be surprised if I can wash my hair tonight my shoulders are so tight. As much as I want to yell and complain and cry a little, it was a good class. Complaining – and having something specific to complain about – just makes me love crossfit all the more.

Sometime during my years in the Army I was taught to pay attention to my surroundings while I run. It passes the time. It’s good to have situational awareness. It stops my brain from focusing on the voice in my head screaming, “So hot! So tired!” If I think about what I might blog about – a silly little gem from the outside – that helps, too.

Today, as I ran around Lake Harriet, everything I saw seemed to test my patience. Couples walking hand-in-hand thus blocking the path. Speed walkers swinging their arms so wide they nearly hit me as we passed. Dogs, so many dogs, stretching their leashes across my path. Teenagers walking four wide. Johnny-joggers weaving in and out of all these inconsiderate people. Oy!

I grew so frustrated I wanted to stop. Fuck it, I thought. It’s too hot to run anyways. Then I remembered my sweet, meditative girlfriend’s advice for these ugly feelings. Stay with it. See the people. Feel the breeze off the lake.  Keep running. With my patience-bubble propelling me, I pushed forward and finished the whole loop. Even though I’m still running slow, I’m glad I didn’t stop. Maybe tomorrow’s crossfit will be that much easier for it. I hope.

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