November 11, 2011

Veterans are Not Just Men . . . Women Were Soldiers Too

Three pairs of eyes stare out from the photographs of three women, each wearing a Women's Army uniform from three different wars. A photograph of me in my Viet Nam era uniform sits next to one of my mother in her World War II uniform along with one of my daughter in her camouflage fatigues from the first war in Iraq.

I see me in my mother's reflection and I see my mother in my daughter's reflection. But it is the eyes that stare back at me, all three pairs, that tells me my inner strength comes equally from the women in my life as well as the men.
I had always thought that my mother's name was Millie until I stumbled across her birth certificate after she died and found that her given name was Amelia. I think the name  Millie suited her better. In this portrait, she is twenty-three and on the back is written; 'red hair, hazel eyes.' Both my daughter and I have brown hair and brown eyes but I think even a stranger would agree that we have Millie's eyes.

My mother was a beautiful woman in her youth. Her eyes are full of life, of hope, of promise, of high expectations she set for herself, and instilled in me. Her eyes fit her personality, the one that I still remember. Not the Millie I knew during those troubled years of her battle in another war, the one that eventually took her life, the war with breast cancer.

I remember when I was seven and my brother was stricken with polio. I didn't know the sacrifices she made but realize now the necessity of why she instilled in me high ideals for my own self , for teaching me to be independent, for teaching me to look to my faith to guide me in troubled times, and to believe in myself.

I was nineteen when my mother died. She never saw me in my WAC uniform. She never knew my daughter Dana.
In this portrait, she looks stern and strong. Her eyes penetrate my very soul, and still have the capability to take my breath away. The first time I looked into her eyes, I was hopelessly lost, hopelessly in love. My daughter's eyes - so big - so brown so deep - like the ocean.

Dana looks like my mother, and she looks like me. It is in her eyes. They reflect her strength and her courage.

We are separated by distance but not by heart. And yes, I hurt not to be near her, and my five beautiful grandchildren, two who I have never held but in my dreams. Soon, she will be a grandmother and as I watch my granddaughter Tori and her tummy grow, I hope one day we will all be together again.
Any given moment of the day I only need to turn to facebook and there they all are, second best though it is, I can watch all of them grow.  

I look so young in this picture and wonder where did this young woman go. Images of my life and all my yesterdays wash through me like a kaleidoscope of colors. I see thousands of tiny pieces that represent a moment of my life between then and now. In my now moment of life I can still see the young me peering through my glasses. My face shows fine lines of age, though I don't see them  I know others do. I know where I have been, I know how I have lived, and I know there is still so much I want to do.

But lines on faces from age and life - I don't want to erase - each one is memory - good - bad - indifferent. I earned them. I learned from them.

My mother taught me. My daughters and granddaughters taught me - all of them - because my family is and has been blended.

I come from family lineage from both American and foreign lands where the men stood up to fight for their county's freedom, but I also came from a long line and heritage of  women, who were soldiers too and in so many ways, stronger then men.

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