Marine Corps Museum – April 2012

Original Post Date: April 2012

From April 11th through the 13th, I made a trip to Quantico, Virginia. During this visit, I went to the White House, the National Museum of the Marine Corps and I drove by the Washington Monument. The reason I am writing about this experience is because any kind of tour visit takes you back through a history lesson. It was interesting to drive by the Washington Monument to see that it actually had a slight lean. The lean was not actually part of the initial design, but when the Washington, DC area had the earthquake in Fall of 2011, the monument suffered some damages. Something as part of history now had even more history to it as it barely survived an earthquake. The monument also suffered structural damages at it now has a few cracks in its foundation.

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The part of this trip I’d like to discuss is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. When I think of the wars our country has been through only a few of the majors stand out. World War One and World War Two, our Civil War, Vietnam and now the War on Terror in Iraq. What really stuck with me during my tour through the museum, was the number of wars or Marine Corps has been through. Many of these wars are often overlooked. There were about seven different exhibits that the museum offered. Each one taking you back in time to different eras of the Marine Corps.

The very first exhibit that you walk in to is, of course, the making of the marines. They actually have a large bus on display, similar to the one the Marine Recruits would take from the airport to boot camp. Another really cool aspect is they had two booths set up. One was for men and one was for women. You step inside these booths and Drill Instructor voices begin to yell at you. This gives you an idea of what it’s like to go through boot camp.

The next exhibit that I walked through was World War One gallery. This gallery displayed photos, and plaques detailing the dates of this war. Something they displayed through this exhibit in addition to all of the exhibits was old letters sent to and from the soldiers and their loved ones. It was truly unique to read some of the things written during those times. I then walked through the World War Two gallery. It was very similar to the first gallery in the way that it was set-up. The museum also had galleries on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. Each gallery displayed facts from the war, correspondence from the war, vehicles and artillery that our Marines used during those eras. The Cold War display was really cool, and I mean literally. You actually walked into the display room and you could feel a temperature drop. I didn’t know this until now, but the original Flag of Iwo Jima is displayed at this museum. I even got in to trouble for trying to take photograph with the flash on. Apparently, the camera flash does something to the preservation of the flag.

Then, the final gallery that I walked through was the September 11th gallery. This portion of the gallery was smaller, but equally as impactful. The museum had a couple artifacts from the rubble on display, with factual plaques about the number of lives lost that day in the planes, the towers as well as the rescuers who died.

This tour through the Marine Corps Museum was an eye-opening experience for me. I was reminded of the lives lost through the many wars that our country has faced. To think that these were the battles that only included the Marine Corps, and that’s the youngest branch of the military. I always had an appreciation for our military service members, but now I feel like I can appreciate our Vets even more.

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Marine Week 2011

Original Post Date: June 2011

The City of St. Louis was host to the third annual week long event designed to introduce the Marine Corps to civilian life. Each year, the events are hosted in different cities across the country, and this year they chose St. Louis. The Marine Corps has partnered up with Mayor Francis Slay to host the events.

Marine Week kicked off by showing off the Marine Corps aviators and their technically advanced aircraft. Monday morning the highly skilled pilots landed the extremely technical equipment, right in front of the St. Louis Arch and also next to Bush Stadium. The aircraft that landed next to Bush stadium is one of their most advanced carrier aircrafts available. This aircraft is called the MV-22 Osprey. The Osprey is a Boeing design and was designed for amphibious assault transports. These can carry troops, supplies and equipment from ships to land. The design of their propellers allow these planes to make quick and fast drop landings, which is what makes them good for drop-offs on ships.

The Land, Air, and Sea Combat Assault Demonstration featured the different assault approaches the Corps is capable of. During this assault the MV-22 Osprey dropped down above the Missouri River in front of the Arch and unloaded two water boats loaded with Marines in gear. These boats then landed at the water’s edge and the Marines began a land assault. During all of this, the Marine Corps showed off their underwater tanks. These tanks actually drove on the bottom of the river like a submarine, and then became land tanks when they hit the bank of the river. The next step that they showed off was the air assault. This assault included three Marines parachuting from an aircraft about a thousand feet above the ground. They also dropped Marines off at a landing zone a dock off the river. This part of the event showed off the flying capabilities of all the types of aircraft the Marine Corps uses. The final portion of this event was the land assault. This assault allowed the Marine Corps to show off their tanks and all the gear they use. This included all of their camouflage gear.

I also got the chance to see a little of the behind the scenes of this event, including the advertisements and public relations work that went into the event. Overall, Marine Week was a really unique thing to see. It was practically a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it all done in my hometown. Every time I thought of the Marine Corps, I just thought about these young men in their early twenties raiding the houses of enemies. After Marine Week, I realized the agility and training they go through to be as elite as they are.

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The Move

Original Post Date: August 2008.

My trip to Reno was everything I imagined it to be. We drove through what seemed the endless cornfields of Kansas and into beautiful Colorado.

Snowy Topped Mountains
Snowy Topped Mountains

The snowy topped mountains reached above the horizon in the far off distance, appearing protected by a seamless blue fog. I, however, have one complaint of this trip. Due to its high elevation my daily headaches had progressed to a constant state of being. At the time I was sure they would subside with hope and a lot of Tylenol. And after a few days they did return back to their normal state.

 Once we arrived in Reno, my husband and I moved in to our new apartment without delay. It was quite a change from what we were used to. We moved from a three bedroom 1700 square foot duplex in to a two bedroom 950 square foot apartment. There is no other way to paint the difference for you accept to give the measurements. With that being said however, the air of the new city and home left us feeling new and hopeful, even excited. After all we had become community members of “the biggest little city in the world”.

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We moved across the nation and started over fresh in a brand new environment. One that allowed us to breath without wondering who will turn that simple breath of fresh air in to something more like the inhale of a piece of rolled paper stuffed with tobacco. We moved to a place of encouraging and positive atmosphere for us to forgive and move away from the ghosts of our past.  It did not take long for us to gain new friends. I found a job working for a private swim school and it paid well. For once a job that offered incentives. Life was becoming gratifying.

In my attempts to be a good wife and artist I picked up a few hobbies: cooking and painting. I discovered many ways to season chicken and even baked doughnuts from scratch.

I finished my first painting ever.

I started working on my novel again. Things were really picking up and I was becoming the person I wanted to be.

My husband and I started spending real quality time together. Mostly trying to get to know each other again. It’s funny how we forget or lose track of who our loved ones really are. We took a trip to Virginia City, “a step back into time”.

Virginia City used to be a huge mining town in which millions of dollars in gold was dug up. Now it’s a tourist site. It’s a beautiful place and had it not been for the modern clothes on my back I would have believed I was back in time. We started on weekly walks with the dogs to the local Sparks Marina Dog Park. The park has water access for dogs, which I found they enjoy.

May and June came and gone. The summer in the mountains and dirt of Nevada was really beginning to heat up. In late May or early June a large forest fire broke in California. Due to Reno’s close proximity to California, we caught wind of the smoke. There were days when my drive to work was interrupted by the thick fog-like smoke. The air had a constant stench in which I can’t find the words to describe. However, by July most of it was cleared away.

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In July, something occurred that was long overdue. My husband was finally promoted to Sergeant. It was something I felt he deserved long ago. But then I am his wife and probably a bit biased. That day made me so proud. I was privileged to pin his new rank in to his uniform. There are some things one gets to experience by being a military spouse that others couldn’t imagine doing. To promote your own spouse. Wow! Everyone gathers around and while they stand at attention in a way of respect you get to be an integral part of such a proud moment in your spouse’s life. All I can say is it is amazing.

Needless to say, things were working out really well in Reno. But there was still a void within me, my craving for knowledge. I was given the opportunity to finish school. After a few weeks of thinking it over, my husband and I agreed I would go back to St. Louis and finish school where I started it. I know in my heart the only reason he agreed was because he knew I was going to go and he knew it was what I really wanted. And I am incredibly thankful for his understanding. I know I don’t tell or show him that enough. And I am even more grateful that I don’t have to because he already knows.

On with the story, July came to an end rather quickly, and August came rushing full speed at me. The anticipation of going back to school was weighing on me while my nerves were really stirring up. The thought of leaving at such an amazing time in our lives together was very difficult for me to partake in. But I also knew we have made it through so much together already and that we will make it through this. Then there was the thought of going back to school. I had been out of school for a couple years and was feeling very nervous about whether I could do it. Questions ran through my head as a nightly ritual, wondering if my brain was still capable of learning. And even then I was to be swimming again. I wondered how I would survive going back to swimming and school at the same time. I thought all this up so much that I almost backed out. My husband, I’m sure would have welcomed that thought in a heartbeat. But I didn’t back out.

August 20 was a day that approached at a very fast pace. My husband and I spent as much time together as we could. I think we even started to fight a little. I know now it was just nerves on both our parts. That’s what happens when we stress over something. We find ourselves using our loved ones as our way of letting it out. Before I knew it my husband was pulling my luggage from the back of the car and placing it on the sidewalk, trying not to show me how sad he really was. It is another thing I am grateful for. If he had shown me I might not have had the courage to step on the plane that day. We hugged and kissed for a moment. I don’t think he could take much more and shortly after making sure I was ok he took his leave. I stood in line to the car side luggage drop off and watched as my last sight of him disappeared.

“Ma’am. You’re ticket please. Ma’am?” With those words I wiped the tears that settled in the corners of my eyes away and handed the man my ticket. Once my baggage was checked I made my way in to the terminal, through the security check line, and sat down at the gate.

In the 45 minutes or so that I had to wait I experienced a transition within myself. Even though the moment before left me feeling incredibly sad, I started to feel excited. It had been way too long since I had last done something for myself. And here I was taking a huge leap into my future and my dreams. I couldn’t help but be excited.

Once on the plane, I took my seat next to the window and took in my final views of the place I knew I would come back to soon. As the plane took off I stared out the window trying to find the place I called home for the last few months and realized that as long as that is where my husband is then it will always be my home.

The Anticipation

Original Post Date: April 2008.

Hello everyone it’s that time again. As a writer and most importantly as a friend I owe all an update. There are a few things I would like to say first. For all those of who’ve taken the time to read this deserves a huge thank you from me. I want to assure you your support is neither unnoticed nor unappreciated. It is you as an individual friend who will help me to achieve all my dreams and goals. I had a lot of feedback with my last email, which has inspired me to write more. I appreciate everyone’s honest responses and hope they will continue. Now with having that been said time to move on to my life.

I sit here staring at a page of letters searching for the words so well hidden, remembering the night I decided I wanted to be a writer. It was a week night during my junior year of high school. It was about the time when every teenager is to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life. It was a huge deal for someone of my decision making abilities, which were zilch. My father was lying in his bed reading an educational book of some sort. My future was something I thought a lot about but had no ideas. In hopes to receive some ideas I lay beside my father in my mother’s place and asked him what he thought I was good at. Like any good father he said “it’s not what I think it’s what you think”. He continued to ask me what the things I enjoy doing. Within the next hour I decided writing is what I enjoy, and with out knowing if I have the talent my mind was made up. It has been ever since.

As everyone may know I moved back to St. Louis to visit with my family before my big move out to Reno. The drive here was a beautiful three hour drive. The sun was brightly beaming through the windows. The roads were finally clear of the soft brown snow which laid there for days before. I thought to myself I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect day to drive. The drive went fast and my anticipation of being home had finally subsided. My mother greeted me the best she could considering how busy she was with work. The day after my arrival I drove to a YMCA I was part of a few years ago to see about catching a few hours. It turns out the Director is an old co-worker of mine and she hired me on the spot. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. I am firm believer in that philosophy. I don’t really know what it is that attracts me to the YMCA but I always seem to come back to it.  Maybe it’s the sense of self-worth helping those who need it and supporting those who don’t.  Maybe it’s the values the YMCA holds of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. It might also be for me the history.

Let me explain:

It was my father who worked there years ago and who got me the job when I was 16 years old.  Aside from swimming it’s that one other thing I feel I have a close connection with my father.  We share the passions of the YMCA and what it means. And now all I have left of my father are those connections.

With that said, my move to Reno, NV is less than two weeks approaching.  Excitement and anticipation has begun to take my body whole. Finding a place to live and making plans of what I will do with my time while I’m there has begun to overwhelm me. I don’t fear, however, for I know everything will fall in to place. After all, life goes on, we have no choice.

A Bittersweet Goodbye

Original Post Date: January 2008

I sit on the stand, counting down my final moments as a Red Bridge YMCA Lifeguard.  Passing by those moments with excitement of the adventurous path my life is heading. Dreaming of the snow topped mountains and the dusty sand of the desert, only to realize what I’m leaving behind.  I’ve spent my whole life among the cornfields surrounded by the Missouri State borders where I call home. Realizing this unsettles my nerves. I’ve never lived more than four hours away from the generous woman who brought me in to this world.  To do so would mean leaving behind a sense of security I’ve felt my entire life. I begin to think “am I ready for this?” In answer to this question I remind myself I still have two months in St. Louis until my final move to Reno, NV. I am, however, leaving the last three years of my life in Kansas City in under a week. Here I have seen and done many great things, but most importantly I have met many incredible people. The memories of those things I’ve seen and done will eventually fade.  However, the impact of those people will forever remain.

I hand over the duties of the pool for the last time, and one last time I erase my name from the guard board in fear it will also be erased from the hearts of Kansas City. I then make my final walk from the pool deck to the exit. Memories flash through my mind as if they were presently happening. Vivid details of the many conversations I’ve shared with the members and of the growing I’ve done.

When I first came to Kansas City, I was a twenty year old girl who had no idea of what kind of path she had laid for herself. That girl then was shy and easily intimidated with little experience to how the world works. My experience may not be much more now, but there is a lot I learned working with the Red Bridge YMCA. I overall feel I have become a mature and more intelligent young woman as opposed to a little girl.

I feel I have the many people I’ve met in Kansas City to thank. The kindness I’ve been offered and the many stories I’ve heard from those who have a lot to offer. I feel that God placed me in this city with all the people I’ve come to know for a reason. I feel he has done this to make me a stronger and caring individual. These past few days I’ve been forced to say my goodbyes with all of you. With every single goodbye I’ve had to fight back many tears.

I say my final goodbye with a person who has influenced me and guided me in many more ways than she can ever imagine. Once again fighting back the tears, I walk through the double doors down the path to the parking lot fighting my every urge to take one last look at the faces that have greeted me every morning for the past two years. I reach my car climb in, start my car and drive to the exit of the parking lot. I look left and then right before making my final right turn. Giving in to the urge to look back I look through my rear view mirror to see my many experiences of a great place and people fade away. No longer able to fight it hot moist tears drip down from my eyes.

There are many words to say how much the YMCA has affected me and to say them all would take the length of a novel. For now, I will end it there to spare you and myself the pain of such a bittersweet goodbye.

I know some would say a dramatic I am, but it is how I feel.

I wish everyone in Kansas City a happy and full future!