Tag: military

On Electing a President

 

In anticipation of President Obama’s State of the Union address, in this election year, I find myself thinking back to February, 2007, when he announced his candidacy. I was almost 55 years old and had never participated in a campaign. I had just finished his book Dreams for My Father and mailed my copy to my good friend in the next state, apologizing in advance for the abundance of highlighted passages and underlined words.

Candidate Obama in NCCU, Raleigh, NC November, 2007
Candidate Obama, NCCU, November, 2007

Many speak of his rhetoric and his messages, but it was what he represented to me that made me look for a group to join to help with his campaign in the state. He represented to me, not a black man running for President, but a man of color, someone who looked liked me, running for President. I dare say, if he had been Republican, I would have considered voting for him. I realize this is not a well thought out analogy of his elect-ability or even his ability to make a difference once in office, but it came from years of never seeing a face that looked like mine, leading a country that is full of faces that look like mine.  Irrational, to say the least, but gut-wrenchingly true.

I went online and found a group through Meetup, Triangle for Obama. It was having its kickoff meeting near the RBC Center and my friend Sheila and I went. Sheila was also my co-worker and had given me a copy of his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.  She, like me, felt compelled to participate in what we felt would be a historic election year, whatever the outcome.  I remember, that it was a great kickoff meeting, with two serviceman who had driven from Cherry Point and one man who had driven from Asheville there.  It was the beginning.

In the following months, I walked the streets of Raleigh near NC State, knocking on doors of people who did not even recognize his name. I actually had one person ask me “that’s the black guy with the funny name, huh?”. I attended the meetings at Zydeco, absolutely loving the “movement” feel to gatherings and events.

I became a CNN junkie, (but now am addicted to MSNBC coverage thanks to that friend in Virginia that I sent my book to) watching the pundits pick apart his speeches and performances at every turn. I rearranged my schedule to watch the debates, taking notes of my husband’s objections over the President even being in contention for the Democratic nominee. My husband was for Hillary, and he is lucky I didn’t stab him with my pen on some nights. ( I had told him, if she won the nomination, I would campaign for her, it was about the Party). But, we were a microcosm of our Party. “It’s not his turn”. “He will do more harm than good for Black people”. “He has no friends in Washington, and by the time he gets there, he will have alienated any friends he does have”.  It was my father who delivered the harshest assessment back in 2008…”I fear he is neither a warrior, or a statesman”.

The Granville County Democratic HQ

I had joined Triangle for Obama because I worked in Raleigh and wanted a group I could participate in that was close to work. After the President won the nomination, I went to work in my county, Granville. Our campaign office was rented to the county party by a stanch Republican. Outside the bay window where I did my phone banking was a sign in support of McCain. Everyone that came from UNC or Raleigh to help knock on doors, got a good laugh out of that. In the end it didn’t matter. Not the campaign tactics, not the polite and not so polite people whose doors you knocked on, or homes you called. Mind you, I was working off lists of registered Democrats in the County, not the opposition, and I would get snapped at or hung up on, or cussed out. It was a life lesson and an object lesson. You can’t expect people to make informed decisions when they are governed by a thought process you have never lived, nor could you understand. It did not matter in the end, because when Barack Hussein Obama was elected President, I knew the fight had only just begun.

Souls to the Polls, Oxford, NC

I am third generation American of Mexican descent. My mother’s people are from the part of Mexico that became Texas.  My father’s people missed the inclusion, by the boundary that we know as the Rio Grande.  I grew up in a military home. I have lived in a third-world country. I am married to a Marine and one of my daughters is in the Navy, as was my dad. I have seen the face of discrimination, here and abroad. I understood what the First Lady meant when she said on the campaign trail, as an adult she was never more proud to be an American.


I felt the same way when the President was sworn in. I felt it when former President Bush was standing at Ground Zero. I felt it when the President took out Bin Laden.  My father called me and said “He proved he was a Statesman, and now, he proves himself a Warrior”.  High praise coming from one of “God’s chosen” a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer.  I am proud of this United States of America, my country, my President, our military, my countryman. For only here, in this country, could someone who looks like me, stand before you…

Souls to the Polls, October, 2008, Oxford, NC
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You’ve Come So Far, You Forgot the Road….

     When Chester and I first met, I was working an entry-level clerk job at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Base, in California. He was in the preliminary stages of treatment for his PTSD and awaiting a hearing on his disability rating. He was receiving retirement, but he was unable to work due to his treatment status. I was making minimum wage. I lived in a one bedroom apartment with Megan that was near my work and her school. When I think back to those days, we were happy, Megan was thriving, we were thinking of getting married at the end of summer, and thinking about relocating to North Carolina.

     A good friend of Chester’s called and asked him to pick him up at Naval Air Station North Island. Back in those days, before 9/11, military personnel could fly on “hoppers” from one base to the next, pretty much on a first come, first serve basis. Chester went and picked up “Chico” and he spent the day with us and the night with Chester at his condo, then Chester took him back to catch the next flight out. He gave Chester some money and told him to take me out to dinner.

     When Chester told me about this, I told him, knowing how tight the budget was, “Naw…lets just go home and have a spam sandwich”. He never forgot that story and he tells people about it when financial struggles come up.  He reminds me of it when I drink out of my Mikasa stemware and he drinks out of a Ball canning jar glass. When we get caught up in “wants” versus “needs” we forgot that it wasn’t the newest technology gadget, or the designer shoes, nor the five star restaurant dinner, that we have the fondest memories of.   It was sitting at the wrought iron patio table my mom gave me to use for a dinner table in that tiny one bedroom apartment, that had a view of the landscaped eucalyptus trees on the property, watching the Lakers, having a spam sandwich.

Military Families

When I was in grade school in San Diego, we had one car.  Mom used to get my brother and I up, pile us in the car to take my Dad to Fleet Landing on the city side of the harbour so he could catch a boat to the carrier, the Bonn Homme Richard CV31.  We had a little 1960 Convair and my mom would keep the car to run errands during the day while my brother and I were in school.

I was reminded of this when I watched a behind the scenes episode of Oprah about the Bravest Families.  Military families.   No one knows what life is like for military wives and children, sometimes setting up home and dealing with life without the benefit of their spouse and parent.  My mom and dad were from small towns in Texas.  They moved to California when my Dad was stationed on a carrier.  My dad went on two West Pacific deployments in the early 1960’s for about 10 months each time.  My mom handled the finances, took care of my brother and I and dealt with the day to day by herself.  It was during a time when women’s liberation had not yet evolved, but she had a head start on some aspects of independence, at a time when June Cleaver was the norm.

I have the  lyrics to Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis songs in my head from all the lps my mom played in the evenings after she had put my brother and I to bed.  Our neighbor, who was a teacher, complained about the late night music once.  My mom moved the stereo so it was not against the wall that joined our side of the duplex with our neighbors.  I now know why I developed a love for jazz and R&B because of the albums she listened to.

My mom got real sick from her nerves when we lived in the Philippines.  My dad was finally was off the carrier.  It was 1966 and he had one transfer to Bremerton, Washington for six months while the carrier was in dry dock.  He asked for Spain and got the PI.  Olongapo City which is outside the gates of Subic Bay, was culture shock for my mom.  We had to live out in town, with the sewage canal running outside out front gate.  I have a distinct memory of  her screaming in the bathroom because a rat was caught in her bathcap that was hanging in the shower stall.  As children, my brother and I had no idea what my parents went through, but now with children (and grandchildren, in my case) of our own, we now have an idea what our parents dealt with.

Because I lived in a third world country, because I went from one duty station to the next, changing schools and changing friends, I grew up believing that we, as a Nation should be more like Israel.  Everyone should serve in some capacity.  Everyone should sacrifice for family, for country…When we were stationed in the Philippines, it was the beginning of the Viet Nam War.  When we returned stateside, it was the middle of the anti-war protest.  There were no welcoming parades for our military.  There was no pride of Nation for those who served.  On that Oprah episode about military families, Tom Brokaw stated that 1% of our Nation carries 100% of the responsibility for protecting this country.  1%.