Sometimes, especially when you are young, you have limited experience of your own, in many different areas. But you are not restricted to learning through your own trial and error; you also learn from other people's mistakes, and from this, you determine not to make those same errors in your own life. Not only can you learn from other people's flaws, but you can also gain wisdom through observing the best qualities that are found in others. When you notice something admirable about another person, you file that information away in hopes of putting it to good use later on; you aspire to cultivate those same excellent traits in yourself. You can learn a lot through witnessing other people's trials and triumphs. And so, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'd like to share some of what I have learned about love:
1. Never fight with your spouse in front of other people. Save those verbal disagreements for another time, when you can have a civil talk with each other in private. And please, whatever you do, don't trade insults with each other in public on social media platforms like Facebook. If you want to ruin your relationship, then an easy way to do it is by telling the world that everything is far from rosy between the two of you.
2. The little things matter. But too often, people ignore what they shouldn't ignore, and call attention to what doesn't need to be noticed. If your spouse does something special for you, don't take it for granted; show your appreciation. But if your loved one makes a little mistake or has an embarrassing moment, cover for him/her by pretending like nothing happened. When it comes to little things, ignore mistakes, but notice the small favors your spouse does for you. And say thank you or share a special smile.
3. Choose love over money. This does not only apply to your choice of whom to marry; it also applies to your financial decisions later on in your marriage. Sometimes a couple's savings are intact, but their marriage is in tatters. In this case, it might be a good idea to use a little of that money to take a special trip together or find another way to fall back in love with each other, temporarily putting work on the back burner.
Men, if your wife wants to buy something, is it really worth putting her down as she does so, even if times are tough?
Women, if your husband is worried about the bills, put off making that new purchase. You don't need it; after all, love is more important than money.
In a nutshell, try to avoid straining your relationship, especially when it comes to financial decisions. Some people should relax and stop worrying about finances, and others should stop spending money they don't have.
4. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. If your relationship is losing its spark, don't start looking for love and fulfillment elsewhere. Instead, ask yourself what you can do to help restore your marriage. Don't sit idly by as your marriage grows stale. And don't wallow in self-pity. It's easy to lose sight of what you have and to focus instead on what you don't have. But in times of hardship, you have a choice: you can either rise to the occasion and be there for your loved one... or you can be selfish. Resist putting yourself first; instead, show unconditional love to your spouse. Be grateful for what you have and remember that your love is worth fighting for.
When each new year comes, it is easy to favor the incoming year over the outgoing one. This is especially true if you have gone through hardship over the past year. You feel like you just want the old year to be over with already, and you greet the new year with new hopes and plans.
In many ways, the year 2016 was an eventful one for me. I trained for and ultimately joined the Marine Corps, shipped off to boot camp in July, then was medically discharged in September. (See the October and November 2016 issues of the Town Sound for more about that.) Not long afterward, I was rehired at the same gift shop where I had worked for about four years previously. And then in December, I met a wonderful man. So this past year has been full of surprises.
This past year has been a mixture of joy and sadness, and suspense and unpredictability... just like life itself. There were hard times. There were also good times I wouldn't trade for anything. I met some fine young people in the course of training for the Marine Corps. Their dedication and determination was inspiring to witness. Many are now Marines, and I am happy for them.
Looking back on some of the toughest things I went through this past year, I am full of gratitude, both to God and to the people who cared about me when others didn't. And there are many good memories. There were my fellow recruits who taught me far more than my drill instructors ever did. I will always remember Recruit Bailey, who made it her business to check on me during the time I was suffering from pneumonia.
My platoon had recruits from many different backgrounds. Some had been in foster care, or had roamed the streets, prior to joining the service. Some had come from more comfortable lifestyles. All of us were forced to work together, and during the stress and shared suffering we endured, some people wilted and others shone. I will never forget some of the amazing moments I witnessed in boot camp.
Although my time in the Marine Corps was mostly painful, I am very grateful to those who reached out to me when I was going through one of my lowest times. You know who you are, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
My family deserves special thanks for their unwavering love and support. They do not always agree with my life decisions, but they care about me and through both words and actions, they show me how much they love me.
Even though the year 2016 had its dark moments for me, I will always feel thankful to have lived through it and to have made it through to see a brand new year.
After I returned from boot camp, my next couple of months at home were not easy ones. In spite of everything I'd been through, I had a hard time accepting the fact that my days in uniform were over. Ever since I was a young teenager, I had dreamed of serving my country as a Marine, and now that dream was over. My family accepted me back with open arms, but I had a hard time accepting myself back. I did my best to keep my despair under the radar, but at times, it was overwhelming.
I remembered when a fellow recruit who was transitioning out of the Marine Corps had attended a travel class with me. The man whose job it was to prepare our travel information, had asked my fellow recruit, “What are you going to do back at home?” The recruit answered that she would go to college. But the man scoffed at her answer, telling her that he'd heard that many times before, and that “once a quitter, always a quitter.” He was basically telling her that she didn't have it in her to succeed at anything. I couldn't believe his callousness. Yet his toxic message haunted me. What was I going to do now?
For a time, I did little. I no longer felt capable of doing great things. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. But then, something started happening... people started reaching out to me. They wanted me back... they even needed me. And slowly, I began coming out of my shell. I began to find meaning in life again. Knowing that others needed me was enough to give me a renewed sense of purpose. And so, in spite of my own troubles, I began reaching out to other people.
Somehow, when I am busy helping others, I tend to forget about my own suffering. And not only does this provide a welcome distraction; it actually helps me become whole again, because I know that in the eyes of the people who matter most to me, I am good enough. I may never enjoy the honor of doing anything heroic in my lifetime. But my new goal is to be a “hero” in the only way I know how... to willingly respond to the needs of others with compassion and strength.
Will you join me in this kind of heroism? Even if life has broken you, even if you are not sure if you can make it another day, even if you doubt your own worth, let me tell you: you are good enough. There is someone out there who needs a hero, not the romantic, bulletproof, storybook type of hero, but the quiet type of hero: the person who sees a need and doesn't ignore it, who steps up to the plate and does what has to be done.
Do you need a hero? Then become someone else's hero.
After being diagnosed with pneumonia at the hospital, I was hooked up to an IV. Medical also prescribed an antibiotic for me and told me to take it every evening. Later that day, a drill instructor took me back to the barracks. When the SDI (senior drill instructor) saw me, she asked mockingly, “So, what's the matter, Kind; you had a sore throat?” I told her that I had pneumonia. I had orders from medical to be on bed rest, so I was told to get into my rack (bed). My SDI told me that she'd had pneumonia before and she had worked through it; she told me that it wasn't a big deal and she said that she didn't feel sorry for me at all. There were flies in the barracks and 5 or 6 of them kept landing on me, so I pulled my blanket over my head and finally went to sleep.
I later woke up and ate some food that my platoon had brought back for me. At the beginning of free time that evening, I asked my SDI for my antibiotic. She didn't give it to me; she told me to come back during details and request it then. During details, I once again got out of my rack and requested my medication. But this time, all I managed to say was, “Recruit Kind requests...” and then the SDI cut me short and told me to get back into my rack. Not long after that, it was lights out. After lights out, the SDI came over to my rack and asked me, “Why didn't you request your meds during details?” I said, “Ma'am, this recruit tried to.” She said, “No, you didn't. So I guess it's not my fault that you didn't get them, is it?” I went without my meds that evening. The next day, I was still in bad shape, having once again coughed throughout the night. I was taken to medical, where the staff saw how poorly I was doing. They asked if I'd had my medication, and when I said I hadn't, they wanted to know why not. In spite of the way I'd been treated up until then, I still tried to cover for my SDI, so I told medical, “This recruit asked for them at the wrong time and wasn't given them.” Because of this, the medical staff wrote on my report, “No excuses; patient must have her meds!” When I brought the report back to my SDI, she became very angry. She accused me of telling medical that she had denied me my medication. “Do you know that I could lose my job over this?” she yelled at me. She called me into her office and demanded to know exactly what I had said to medical. I told her. Then she yelled, “By the way, I'm recording this conversation, and the chief drill instructor will hear about it. And if I find out you're lying, I'm going to drop you!” “Ma'am, this recruit is not lying,” I said. She responded, “Did I ask you that? Get out!” I was sent back to my bed, where I remained for the rest of the day.
During the week that followed, I was in bad shape, physically and emotionally. One morning, when I went to medical, the staff asked me what was wrong. I told them about how my SDI had been treating me. They took a report, which triggered an investigation into my SDI's misbehavior. Ultimately, medical determined that I should be discharged from the Marine Corps.
Before I went to boot camp, I had prepared myself both mentally and physically; I had gotten a high score on the ASVAB test (my military job description was aviation mechanic) and I had done hard workouts nearly every day for a month. I came to boot camp full of motivation and eager to become a Marine, but a month later, I was desperate to get out. Finally, on September 6, I was separated from the Marine Corps with an honorable discharge.
I had joined the Marine Corps because I was attracted to its image; the Marine Corps motto is: “honor, courage, commitment.” Yet during my time on Parris Island, my fellow recruits and I were treated with scorn most of the time. One of my fellow recruits was told, “You are a disease to this platoon; you should just go away.” I could tell of more ill treatment that my fellow recruits and I received, but I don't have enough room to write about everything.
Another Marine Corps saying is: “A Marine never lies, cheats, or steals.” Once my SDI knew that I was being processed out, she told me that my platoon would leave the island before I did. (My platoon was not scheduled to graduate until October 14th, and I arrived home September 9th.) Throughout my time at boot camp, I was lied to many times. I was told that I would be kept on the island for months without pay until the Marine Corps decided that it was convenient to send me home. I was also told that I would get an "other than honorable" discharge. Both of these were lies.
I know that our nation relies on its military and on the Marine Corps specifically. But the Marine Corps has some work to do. When the people who sign up to serve and protect their country are not protected by their country, there is something wrong with this picture. Because there is no effective process to keep drill instructors from abusing the recruits who are supposed to be under their care, something needs to be changed. I have not written about what happened to me in such detail for any other reason than to spark that change.
Note: I want to thank... my father for dropping everything and driving all the way to Parris Island to pick me up, my mother for faithfully writing to me nearly every day I was in boot camp, my entire family for welcoming me back with open arms, and my friends for easing the transition back into civilian life. Thank you also to Mrs. Lowe, Mrs. Withrow, and Ms. Tjader for writing to me in boot camp. And to Ms. Anderson, Mr. Morrow, and Ms. Innes for everything. So many people prayed for me throughout my journey, and I want to thank them. You know who you are. I love all of you. Lastly, but most importantly, I thank God for bringing me through everything and for my safe arrival home.
You might recall that in the July 2016 issue of The Town Sound, I mentioned that I had enlisted in the Marine Corps, and that I would be leaving for boot camp on July 17th. Well, I wanted to give you an update on what has happened since then:
On July 18, I arrived at Parris Island, SC. Less than two months later, on September 6, I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. I failed to make it through boot camp or, more accurately, boot camp failed to make it through me.
Everyone knows that Marine Corps boot camp is tough. I knew it would be tough before I went. What I didn't know is that the drill instructors often cross lines and break rules. In boot camp, the senior drill instructor is supposed to be a parental-type authority whom recruits can take their problems to. If the senior drill instructor is abusive to recruits, they can in theory plead their case to the series commander. The problem is, the only way they can have access to the series commander is through the senior drill instructor. And drill instructors have a special disdain for “snitches” (recruits who dare to mention instances of abuse.)
Soon after arriving at boot camp, I became sick. I remained ill for a month. In spite of being sick, I managed to fulfill the physical requirements of boot camp for over two weeks. I was one of the fastest runners in my platoon, despite being ten years older than most of my fellow recruits. I could easily perform fireman's carry and other strength exercises. I had some difficulty with drill and martial arts, having never practiced the movements before. But I did my best to improve in those areas.
One day, my platoon tackled the Confidence Course. I was doing the Slide for Life when the chief drill instructor yelled at me, ordering me to drop from the rope and fall into the pond below. I instantly did so, in spite of the fact that I am a poor swimmer. I fell like a rock into the pond, weighed down by my combat boots. I found that the water was deeper than I had expected and I accidentally sucked in some of the dirty pond water.
A couple days later, my platoon went to the PT field to work out. We were doing warm-up exercises when I felt my strength draining away. Also, it was getting hard for me to breathe properly. During the days leading up to this, I had been constantly coughing throughout the night and getting hardly any sleep, but I didn't know what was wrong with me. I thought maybe my cold had worsened because of the constant yelling we were made to do every day. I was worried because we were already on the PT field, and I knew that if I requested to go to medical, it wouldn't be received well. (In boot camp, if you request to go to medical, the drill instructors often accuse you of trying to get out of training.) I told my SDI (senior drill instructor) that I was dizzy. She sarcastically asked me if I was dying, and when I said no, she said, “Then you're going to PT with us.” I was assigned to my SDI's PT group. All morning, I struggled through PT. When we did pushups, I could barely lift myself off the ground, which wasn't normal. And when we ran, I was last place, instead of being in front as I usually was.
After PT, my platoon had MCMAP, the Marine Corps' martial arts. I was hoping to just make it through the day, but during MCMAP, my SDI singled me out and started yelling at me to do high knees higher and to yell louder, neither of which I could do at that point. She told me that she would drop me for not trying hard enough. She kept on yelling at me until I finally requested to go to medical. Once I requested that, she and the chief drill instructor (who had previously told my platoon, “I don't give a **** about you; I only care about your drill instructors”) started mocking me and telling me that I was a heat case and that it was my fault for not drinking enough water (which medical later told me was not true.) Then they asked me what time of day it was, and when I hesitated to answer, one said they should send me to mental health and another said I was “slow”. Finally I was taken to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with pneumonia.
Continued in part 2...
On May 19, 2016, I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps. I realize that this news will probably surprise many of my readers, so I have put together a list of frequently-asked questions and my answers to those questions.
Q: Why did you join the military?
A: I have wanted to serve in this nation's military ever since September 11, 2001. I have always been grateful to be an American. I know that the path I have chosen will not be easy, but I am eager and willing to serve.
Q: Why did you choose the Marine Corps?
A: The unique discipline and camaraderie of the Marine Corps called my name.
Q: When will you leave for boot camp?
A: I am scheduled to report for boot camp on July 17.
Q: How long is boot camp?
A: Boot camp for the Marine Corps lasts for three months.
Q: What kind of work will you be doing in the military?
A: My job in the military will be aircraft maintenance.
At this time, I would like to thank the many people who have shown me an outpouring of love and support. You know who you are, and I am grateful to every one of you. Family, friends, and strangers alike have told me that they will be praying for me.
Although I am happy that I joined the Marine Corps, I would like to note that my decision has been hard on my family and on some of my closest friends. This fact brings me sadness. And to everyone who is downcast about my upcoming departure to boot camp, let me say that I understand your reservations and your concern for my welfare. And I respect the fact that while you wish things could be different, you love me just the same. And I love you, and I want you to know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers as I go through boot camp... and always.
If you read the newspapers or watch the news on TV regularly, you probably carry some of the weight of the world on your shoulders. The headlines continually announce the frequent occurrence of crime and tragedy, both here in the US and around the world. Do bad things really happen so often? Or are the news outlets at fault for focusing on the things that go wrong – in an attempt to hold their audience's attention? After all, if everything was right in the world, there wouldn't be much to report on.
It is true that the news media is often guilty of zeroing in on the negative stuff, and failing to give the time of day to stories that are uplifting but lack the shock factor. But it is also true that there are far more bad things happening in the world than we know about. As it is, the things we hear about on a daily basis are enough to make us wonder what the world is coming to. If we knew about even half of the awful worldwide events that happen every day, it would be too much for us to process. We might easily grow numb to the plight of others, because of our efforts to protect ourselves from drowning in their pain.
It is easy for us to fail to grasp how hard a tragic situation can be, when we are not going through that situation ourselves. But if we find ourselves personally in the middle of hard times, we become very aware of what it's like to suffer. In our new-found awareness, we might reach out to others who are suffering. Unfortunately though, all too often when we go through hardship, we react negatively. We think, “Why me?” or “Life isn't fair!” And sometimes we ask, “Why would God allow this to happen?”
In our grief and pain, we forget that God gave people free will – the ability to make either good or bad choices. God is not a sort of world policeman whose job is to constantly stop people from making bad choices. For instance, if someone chooses to drive even though he is drunk, what do you think might happen? All too often, a series of bad choices leads up to a bad situation. If a drunk driver causes a tragedy, it makes no sense to blame that tragedy on anyone other than the drunk driver himself.
Too often, the One who created so much beauty in this world is blamed at one time or another for allowing terrible things to happen. But we may never know how many times God has spared us or other people from harm during our lifetimes. Sometimes we may catch a glimpse of this protection, but most of the time, we are oblivious to the danger we have been kept from. So we go about our lives, taking everything that is good for granted, and looking for someone to blame when life gets hard.
If we learn to accept the fact that life is not all roses, and if we learn not to complain when we encounter the thorns of life, we will know contentment and happiness. We will not be afraid of the things we cannot control, because we will have control over something very important: our attitude toward life itself. And as we learn to accept the fact that both good and bad things will happen to us during our lives, perhaps we will stop looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. We might even find ourselves looking for someone to thank for all the beauty in our lives.
Most people appreciate a good story, especially the kind where the “bad guys” lose and the “good guys” win. We know that the hero might go through a lot in the process, but it's all worth it in the end, when our hero emerges victorious. Who doesn't love a happy ending?
The story itself is beautifully uncomplicated, at least in the way we react to it. The hero is introduced, and we immediately recognize him, thanks to both his understandable actions and his handsome appearance. The bad guys, in contrast, usually have unreasonable motives and not-so-handsome looks. Sometimes, the bad guys are even so bad that we are happy when they are done for.
In contrast to the “good guy”/ “bad guy” stories we enjoy so much, real life is often quite complicated. There are many gray areas that are not easy to understand or explain. The heroes don't always look like heroes, and the bad guys don't always advertise their badness. And there isn't always a nice clean ending to the story.
In real life, people are often reluctant to be referred to as heroes... even when they have gone way above and beyond what others normally do. They feel that they do not deserve to be known as a hero, because they were simply “doing their job.”
While we can certainly appreciate the humility and dedication of many people we call heroes (who would never call themselves heroes), we can also understand the fact that it is good for such people to be recognized. Not only does this show them our gratitude for their service, but it also gives others joy in hearing about them, and courage to follow their example.
Despite the gray areas of life, despite possible misgivings about the wars our country is or has been involved in, or the results of those conflicts, on this Memorial Day let us take a moment to honor those who do not call themselves heroes, who are simply doing their jobs, and those who have done their jobs for many years to protect the freedom we all enjoy.
At the time this issue went to press, many unusual things were happening across the country:
Congress declared an emergency meeting to address the growing deficit. A member of the Society of American Taxpayers had fallen asleep while watching C-SPAN, but woke up in time to hear an eager politician propose a solution to the problem of the country's eternally overdrawn bank account. “I don't know why the Treasury doesn't just print more cash,” the silver-tongued public servant said. “If we keep the printing presses running around the clock, just think how many new jobs it would create. We're talking about American jobs here! We can show our patriotism by tripling our production of the US dollar. Pretty soon, we might even find it hard to keep spending the money faster than we make it. But we don't have to worry about the U.S. being flooded by cheap bills, because we can spread the wealth around more often than we currently do. All we have to do is give more millions to rogue nations, and they'll be so busy swimming in dough that they'll forget how much they hate our country.”
Donald Trump announced that he will release his tax returns “all in due time.” He promised that everyone will soon see what a “beautiful sight” they are, noting that it didn't hurt to make a few strategic donations to the IRS after they decided to audit him. “I love the IRS!” he announced, minutes after he had finished telling voters just how ugly the tax-collecting agency was. When a journalist pressed him for details on his real feelings for the IRS, Trump held up one finger and told her that no one reads her column anymore. Then he relented and handed a single piece of paper to the persistent reporter. “Here you go,” said the businessman with the huge mound of hair. “Who needs a dot com, when my entire domestic and foreign policy can fit on the back of an envelope? Even with your limited smarts, you might be able to understand it. By the way, I like your hairdo.”
Police officers across the Midwest recently noticed a strange phenomenon: countless drivers were zig-zagging across the road. “I've never seen anything like this before!” exclaimed a rookie cop, sitting in his squad car and watching as yet another car made anything but a straight beeline to its destination. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that most people behind the wheel were simply trying to avoid the many potholes which had cropped up during the past winter. When police realized the reason for the odd driving patterns, many of them presented their findings to the local government. Weeks later, work crews were observed in force, gathering near the worst potholes. Soon afterward, police noticed that the zig-zag method of driving had gone out of style.
On March 13, Americans of all races and backgrounds were united in one focused effort to make it to work on time, in spite of the fact that clocks all over the nation lost exactly one hour, in a process known as “springing ahead”. One employee dashed into his workplace and hurried to punch in, nearly colliding with his sleep-deprived boss. After recording the fact that he had somehow managed to clock in a minute early, the exhausted worker paused for a moment to catch his breath. “It happens every year like clockwork, but it still manages to catch me off guard each time,” he admitted. Nearby, his coworkers could be seen in all the surrounding offices, standing on their tiptoes and trying to reach wall-mounted clocks which still needed to be changed.
Note: The above stories are fictitious and are meant for your enjoyment in honor of April Fool's Day. :)
Zika... introducing the latest scare! If you believe everything you see or hear in the news, it is a killer virus touted as the worst health crisis since Ebola. But what exactly is Zika? Is it an awful virus like Ebola, or is it a mild illness unworthy of the news coverage it has been getting lately? What is the truth behind the mounting hysteria?
The Zika virus was first discovered 68 years ago in the Zika forest of Uganda. For years, it existed in the continents of Africa and Asia. More recently, it found its way to South America, thanks to a species of mosquito that flourishes in year-round warm weather. Throughout its existence, the Zika virus has been practically invisible for 2 reasons: 1) Eighty percent of people who catch it never have symptoms. 2) In the minority of people who do show symptoms, it is a mild illness; those who get it might have a fever, rash, or headache.
On February 8, 2016, after the Zika virus had begun making sudden headlines in Brazil, PBS science correspondent Miles O'Brien said: “Over the years, no one paid a lot of attention to Zika because the symptoms are generally mild. In fact, four out of five never know they have it. No one is sure why it took such a vicious turn.” What “vicious turn” was he referring to? Recently, the Zika virus has been suspected – but not proven – of being behind the rising incidence of microcephaly in Brazilian babies. (Microcephaly is a term used to describe a condition where a baby is born with an unnaturally small head and diminished brain.)
Is Zika causing microcephaly? Brazil's health minister, Marcello Castro, has claimed that he has “100 percent certainty” that a link exists between Zika and microcephaly. He seems very eager to make this statement, even though the Zika virus has never been proven to cause anything other than mild illness. Many Brazilians disagree with Castro. They say that the problem of microcephaly has existed in Brazil long before the Zika virus was around (Zika is believed to have entered Brazil in late 2014).
The University of Rochester Medical Center's website says, “Microcephaly is either caused by exposure to harmful substances during the fetal development, or it may be associated with genetic problems or syndromes that may have a tendency to run in families.” It goes on to list specific causes, including “exposure to hazardous chemicals or substances, mercury poisoning, drug and alcohol consumption, lack of proper nutrients in diet, and intrauterine (while the baby is in the womb) infection with rubella and varicella virus.”
Currently, Zika is guilty until proven innocent. President Obama asked Congress for $1.8 billion to combat Zika in Brazil. People are being cautioned to change their travel plans, even as Brazil tries to woo them in light of the Summer Olympics it will be hosting this year. In El Salvador, public health officials have even advised women to delay pregnancy for the next couple years! But don't worry; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reassured Americans that Zika won't be a big deal in the U.S. Does the CDC know something that we don't?
It's true that Brazil is now seeing more cases of microcephaly than it used to, but of the recent cases suspected of having the condition, several hundred were checked so far and nearly two thirds (over 400) of those babies were found to not be microcephalic after all. Perhaps before anyone gets carried away by overblown reports, we should remember these words from Franklin D. Roosevelt's inaugural address: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror..." enough said.