29 September 2008

In the company of heroes

Wow. There's just no other word for it.

I just got back last night from the coolest TDY (temporary duty) in the history of the world. I went to the final organized reunion of the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). Their membership is down since many of them have passed on, or have simply gotten too old or too sick to attend reunions. The youngest WASP is 83 years old and receiving chemo treatments and is in a wheel chair. She was there this weekend, by the way.

What's that? You don't know who the WASP are? I'm so glad you asked. You know, women fly airplanes. They are perfectly capable and some women can do it a lot better than men. This is really not ground breaking news, but it used to be. In the early months of World War II, there was a massive shortage of military combat pilots. In time, the most well known American female pilot, Jackie Cochran, along with another accomplished female aviator, Nancy Harkness Love, was able to convince General Hap Arnold to train women to fly military aircraft. They argued that women were already licensed to fly, and if they got the same military training as men, they could fly military aircraft just as well. And since there was such a dearth of pilots, well, it just made sense. In 1942, their proposal was approved and in November of that same year the first class of WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) entered training in Houston, Texas. The training eventually moved to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The last class of WASP graduated in December of 1944 and the WASP were disbanded 13 days after that last class graduated.

These women did everything but fly into combat. They towed targets for gunnery practice, they ferried aircraft, they flight-tested all the aircraft types in the inventory, instrument instructed, transported personnel and cargo, laid smoke, trained navigators and bombardiers, they flew drones, and the B26 and B29 to prove to the men that the aircraft were safe to fly.

Here's the thing, they were never considered military members. They were civilians. They didn't get any military benefits, or recognition, and their parents were denied a gold star in their windows. They weren't entitled to drape an American flag on their coffin. 38 of them died while serving their country and the government wouldn't even bring their bodies home. Their classmates took up collections to pay for bringing their bodies home and for their funerals and tombstones. Some still don't have headstones. That is just criminal. These women just wanted to fly, and they wanted to serve their country, and they didn't take "No" for an answer. General Arnold petitioned Congress to militarize the WASP but they denied his request. That's alright, though, the story gets better. Remember, these ladies wouldn't take "No" for an answer.

Finally in the late 1970's when the military aviation world was opened up to women again, lawmakers saw the contradiction in that situation....women were going to fly again, how could they deny veterans' status to those who paved the way? From 1944 until 1977, no woman set foot in a military cockpit. When the boys came home from war, they wanted their jobs back. To add insult to injury, when the WASP were granted military status, they were not invited to the signing ceremony. After that, it took seven years for their medals to arrive. They arrived in the mail. No recognition, no fanfare, no ceremony.

These women shared, and still share, a sisterhood that transcended time and distance. The bond of sisters (and brothers) in uniform is a strong one, and one you may not completely understand if you've never been in uniform yourself. It's even stronger for these ladies, for the challenges that they faced, and overcame, together. They get together every two years, and they come from all over the country. They hug and kiss, call each other sweetheart and they remember the details of their flights as if they happened last week instead of over 60 years ago. They love to talk with the female flyers of today and if you've ever listened to pilots talk, it's like they are in their own world.

I'm not a pilot. I don't really want to be one. I've tried learning to fly and I just do not have it in me. But I am a woman in uniform, and I used to wear the flight suit. I don't know what it was like for these ladies in the 1940's as they showed the guys, at every turn, that they had the right stuff. But I do know what it's like to be a girl in a flight suit, and to have the guys think you aren't as good as they are, on account of missing a Y chromosome. I met and had a chance to spend time with some of these awesome, awesome ladies and listen to some of their stories. It is truly inspiring to just sit at the same table as someone who did what they did, and the great thing about them is they don't want to be seen as heroes or pioneers. They were just some girls who loved to fly, wanted to serve their country, and wouldn't take "No" for an answer. Being with them made me want to go out and conquer the world, and it made think that I could.

And I have a couple of new friends, one a great gal who is nearly 90 years old and flew the B17 and the B24, among many others, in WWII. She invited me along with a good friend of mine, to visit her in the Pacific Northwest, anytime. My other new friend is this lady's loyal friend and companion. They said they'd take us for a walk around the lake by their house, and then we'd go to flight museum nearby. How cool is that?

Better late than never, they are finally getting some attention and some recognition. Some other women who won't take "No" for an answer are making sure that the legacy of the WASP does not just disappear. So many people still don't even know who they are or what they did. Hopefully that is changing, and will continue to change. There is a fabulous WASP archive at Texas Women University in Denton, Texas, and a traveling WASP exhibit will debut in November of this year, at the WIMSA (Women in Military Service for America) memorial in Washington DC.

Check out WASP on the Web and Wings Across America at www.wingsacrossamerica.org

I'm humbled and I'm awed by the things that they did, to open the door for me and millions of women like me, so that we too could wear the uniform, and fly in the service of our country. I was honored to stand up and salute them. My husband says I sound like a kid with a bad case of hero worship.

Yeah, I guess I do.

23 September 2008

And another thing....

...go read All Da King's Men. There is a link to this blog on the left side of the screen. Informative, yet entertaining too.

I did it!

I ran my first half marathon. It's a huge deal for me, because I am the queen of starting things and not finishing. I told anyone and everyone who would listen, that I had signed up for the race and I was running a half marathon. That way, I'd HAVE to do it, or else I'd have to explain to umpteen people why I wussed out.

I got pretty nervous in the week leading up to it, and began thinking of lame excuses. Then I went for a 7.5 mile run, and honestly it wasn't that hard, and I thought, "Hey I can do this. Don't be such a skirt, put on your big girl running shorts and do it." So I did :)

I found a few people I knew at the start line and I ran the first three miles or so with a guy who works in the chaplain's office across the hall from me. He was a good running partner, we just chit chatted about this and that and before I knew it we were already at the first water station. But he was running the 10K and that route split from the half marathon route at about mile 3, so we high fived and wished each other well. I didn't need to walk until about mile 8. I took a short walking break, only a couple of minutes and got back into my pace.

I stopped to use the bathroom more than I should have needed to but with my stomach issues I didn't want to take chances. I drank water and gatorade at nearly every station, and they had some fruit just past my halfway point. Plus I had those jelly beans that are really candy but masquerade as energy food.

It got really hard at mile 10. I struggled for the last three miles and my legs felt like they weighed about a hundred pound each. I held my tension in my shoulders and I could feel like getting really, really heavy. But then with less than a quarter mile to go, I saw Matt and the kids and the boys were so cute....they had those silly cowbells that the race sponsors gave out and they were ringing those things and cheering for all they were worth. That was what I needed to haul my tired ass across the finish line, and down the chute to have a colonel who looked way too young to be a full bird colonel put a medal around my neck and congratulate me. I gave the medal to Lucas and he said he wanted to run with me next year. Seth....not so much.

But, I set a goal. I worked toward it (although, in the spirit of full disclosure, not nearly as hard as I should have) and I did it. It felt so good, once I got past the ache in my legs. Seriously from the top of my hip, all the way down to my ankle, the backs of my legs felt like rubber bands that were stretched too far. It hurt. Bad. But after a massage, a long hot bath, and a good night's sleep, I felt a lot better. I ran on Saturday, today is Tuesday and I still feel it just the tiniest bit in my calves.

I don't think I am aspiring to 26.2. Not yet at least. Maybe after I have a couple more halves under my belt.

OK, time to go and get my nails done. I'm going on the coolest TDY ever on Thursday, and it will go much better if I am within regs for not only my uniform but hair and nails and silly things like that.

16 September 2008

Feeling very grateful

Who'd have thought that you could get hurricane effects in the midwest? Not me, that's fur sure. When the weather report predicted high winds, I p'shawed them and went about my day.

Until I got home with the boys from the middle boy's baseball clinic. The flag that flies from the post on my front step was standing out straight and the pole was bowing a little bit. My hanging plants were lucky to be alive...all the blooms were blown completely off and the pots were flying around, barely staying on the hooks. I took down the flag and the pots and thought, a good day to fly a kite. Silly me.

Then I began to take it seriously when the glass top table on the deck flipped over and shattered.

We got so incredibly lucky, because that is as bad as it got. Much of the whole city is still without power and that was two days ago. My kids missed school yesterday and today, and they will be delayed tomorrow. Our power never flickered, thank the Lord. On our street there are at least two or three houses that have significant damage but we only lost a couple of shingles. A mile down the road, a giant evergreen tree is literally ripped up by the roots and is casually leaning against the light pole it fell on.

They say that four people were killed on Sunday because of the winds.

It's not anywhere near the devastation that is going on in Texas right now. But it's worse than we've seen around these parts in a long, long time. We just don't see that much extreme weather, of any kind. One of the reasons I like it here :) I'm praying for the residents of Texas that were so hard hit by Hurricane Ike, and I'm counting my blessings that all we lost was a table, and an umbrella.

And I'm still procrastinating finishing the article I'm writing. I promised my editor she'd have it in the morning and she will.....but that is hours away yet :)

11 September 2008


I just heard a fantastic sound clip today...some idiot in Congress comparing Barack Obama to Jesus Christ and Sarah Palin to Pontius Pilate.

He said that Barack Obama was a community organizer, just like Jesus Christ was, and that Pontius Pilate was a governor (the listener is left to draw their own conclusion about who he meant by that).

I laughed out loud. Come on.....Jesus Christ? And they say that conservatives are being snarky when they refer to Obama as "messianic." No, apparently they are just reporting how some people truly feel about Barack Obama. THAT, I find frightening, for real. Can they really not see him for what he is.....a man, human and fallible, just like any other man?

In other funny news, reading the local paper today, I could not help but notice these two headlines right next to each other in the Community Calendar : "W_______ County Young Republicans welcome Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton" and then one column over "Jerry Springer to speak at W_____ County Democratic Party Meeting."

You can't make this stuff up!

08 September 2008

Coming down

I'm coming down off my Palin high a little. I don't like her any less, but I am looking at her more objectively and I still want to know more. From her. Not from political analysts, or pollsters, or bloggers. I'm anxious to watch her interview on TV this week. AND! AND! I am going to see her speak in my small town tomorrow!!! I am so excited I can hardly stand it. Full report to follow.

She gave an absolutely smashing speech at the convention but Obama gives great speeches too. Off the cuff, he sounds like he isn't sure what he is talking about. He hedges and uses vague terminology that can be bent to fit whatever perspective anyone wants to use it in. McCain is much better at "town hall" type exchanges where he can speak a little more off-the-cuff and depend less on a scripted speech and a teleprompter...he sounds passionless and robotic sometimes when he's more scripted.

Anyway, I digress. I'm anxious to hear a reporter ask her the tough questions and hear how she responds.

And I've been thinking a lot more about her conservative stances.....people don't like her because she advocates for abstinence only sex education in school (frankly I don't think that is very smart) and opposes abortion (I do too, but I have some fuzzy edges where it isn't all black and white to me). But seriously, think about this. How, as VP, would she get any of that actually legislated? She can't just cruise into the White House and start rewriting the law books. Ain't gonna happen, even if she wanted it to. I honestly don't believe Roe V. Wade will ever be overturned and even if it was, wouldn't that only turn the issue back over to each state to decide? It wouldn't shut down all the abortion clinics overnight, that's for sure.

I'm really perplexed at why people are slamming her so hard for her personal life decisions though. Lots of people (mostly women! Go figure) saying that she should have put off running for national office till her baby is older, till her daughter has her baby, till some other time in the future. They say that she was selfish to put her own ambition above the needs of her family. They say that her daughter would not be getting dragged through the media mudpile and wouldn't be the new poster child for teen pregnancy if not for her nomination, and that it was mean and uncaring for her to accept the nomination now. It isn't as if Bristol won't have the support of her family. She will still be living with her parents until she marries her fiance. If she doesn't end up marrying him then she will be a young single mother....lots of those around, doing a pretty decent job raising their kids. No, it isn't ideal, but real life seldom is. The First Dude has taken an indefinite leave from his job and is taking on the primary caregiver role at home. Yeah, it's unusual, but you know what? It's what feminists have been screaming about for years. And now that the dream has come true in a big way, they don't like it....because the woman holds conservative beliefs. They wanted to redefine what a "typical" American family looks like, and it sure has been. If a family can take care of their own needs, everyone is happy and healthy and reasonably well-adjusted, what does it matter whether mom or dad stays home? Who are we to judge how other people make their families work?

Why is no one asking if Obama can be a good father to his children if he is in the White House? His children are young and need their daddy too. He said it himself, that candidates' children are off limits and shouldn't be a part of our politics. Why did no one take Hillary to task for leaving Chelsea with nannies and sitters while she and Bill pursued their careers? I read a bio on Hillary, and it talked about Chelsea being at a young age, young enough to not pronounce all her words properly, and she was asked about her mom and what her mom did. She responded, "Mommy go make a 'peech." A little double standardish, in my humble opinion.

Why do people assume that a dad can't take just as good care of his children as mom does? It's "just not the same" for the husband to be at home with a special needs child? Oh please.

I am fine with how she takes care of her family. Now what I want to know is how are she and Mr. McCain going to help me take care of mine?

02 September 2008

Can't we all just get along?


I never thought I would see the day when liberals and feminists would not like a particular candidate because she is a working mother and a successful professional woman. Seriously. They think she should be at home, taking care of her babies. Can't hack it in the workplace. And they're not subtle or even particularly civil about it. WTF?

And her husband, the First Dude, is getting slammed for being Mr. Mom. And here I thought we had made so much progress as a country with equalizing gender roles......

So, her 17 year old daughter is pregnant. Not such a good thing. But she's not taking the easy way out and "getting rid of the problem," and she plans to marry the father. I think that is a good thing, Neanderthal that I am. By media standards I am an ultraconservative, religious fanatic nutjob, because I am prolife, support Second Amendment rights and I practice my faith. So, I guess I'm embracing my inner nutjob! LIberals are going crazy in their blogs, and in the news, and on message boards about what a hypocrite, idiot and bad mother Sarah Palin is, because her daughter got pregnant.

Maybe the marriage will work out, maybe it won't. Maybe this will sink the campaign, maybe it won't. Maybe McCain would keel over his first week in office, maybe he wouldn't. Blah blah blahbeddy blah.

But what I really need to know is, why is this relevant? What does this pregnancy have to do with Palin is capable of? Even Obama came out and told the media to back off and that people's children are off limits. I have to say that I thought that showed a lot of class, and my respect for him as a person went up a notch or two. Won't vote for him but I still think he showed class.

Why are so many people foaming at the mouth over Sarah Palin? I really can't understand why so much unvarnished hatred. Conservative radio says it's because they are scared of her. Could be, I don't know. I was excited to learn more about her. I like most of what I read, some of it not so much. But she's human and therefore not perfect. Who among us is? I still like her better than anyone else on the ticket. You'd think, if she was such a bad choice, liberals would be high fiving all over the world, laughing and celebrating because McCain just sunk his campaign. Instead they are slamming her and her family in personal insults and generally spewing venom and hate.

Go figure.

In other news, I got an "A" in Philosophy and now have a month off till fall quarter starts. Go me! My spousal unit is going to see some changes at work, and I'm anxious to see how those changes affect us here on the home front. We've got some talking to do and he needs to figure out what he wants to do.

Leaning toward medicating the oldest offspring, because of a lot of different factors. We agreed to give it till the end of the first quarter of school and talk to Mrs. H, and see if we need to make a decision and take some action.

Guess that is about it for tonight.