I joined the US Army in July 1979. I left the Minnesota National Guard behind me, a series of positive and negative growth opportunity. I believed at the time that a person owed a time of service to their country, and I was the only one in my family who prepared to follow my father’s footsteps. I was a musician in a world that had no way to find opportunities in music, if you didn’t have someone to point you in the right direction. I had no one pointing careers out to me. The Army would give me a few musical opportunities, a few contacts. No mention was made about the bad things that I would learn.
I thought my dad would support my move. He had served during Korea, had played jazz, marched and made the voice of the tuba, baritone, french horn, and string bass ring across two countries. He was a genius in the art of music who was lost to the profession by a lack of contacts, a young wife, four hungry, reading children. He needed a job to take care of us, often holding two jobs until the time that would always arise when his sense of honor was affronted and he would quit. I was sure he would support my move. I was wrong.
It was my mother who glued the family together as we grew; working at jobs, creating works of art, making sure that we would never lose our home, or go too hungry. She was my friend and supporter, but she also understood that I needed the canvas to create who I was and what I stood for in my life. There was the quote, “Oh, Ann” that would follow mistakes I made. That quote follows me to now.
My father told me he would never speak to me again. He did though, calling the Commander of the Naval School of Music and letting him know of our argument. My Commander set me straight about fathers.
My mother stood strong and let me do as I believed I needed to do. None of us knew that music in Minneapolis/St. Paul was about to explode in ways that shouldn’t have been possible. I missed every single one. If only there had been an internet for me, the outcome very likely would have been different.
I went off to the Army. I packed an iron, jeans, a concert dress, a cowboy hat and a faux leather coat that would eventually crack and show it was plastic, “pleather” was the term. What I found was, some of the military are honorable men and women. Some are abusive. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, it’s been this way since the beginning of history. What surprised me was that a peacetime army would have so many heroes, and so many predators, when no one was required to be there. I wanted to serve my family, country, and the goddess music with all of my heart.
The heroes aren’t seen on lists of heroes. I can name some. Lt. Colonel Tony Cason and his wife. They were honest hardworking people concerned for the lives of those under their command. Wherever they ended up, their standards followed them. Music under this man was a living entity. He also allowed me to believe in a love that was only beginning. He handed me to my new husband with a smile. When Lt. Colonel Cason was promoted, life changed for me.
I, like my father, found myself somewhere I didn’t think I would end up. I was married with a husband who was stationed 3000 miles away. When the harassment and the coverup of the behavior of a second commander happened, all I could think of was to find a band on the east coast. So the Army sent me to Maryland, firstly to get me out of the hair of a band that no longer wanted me to be a member. Secondly, because I was loudly protective of the women I served with, even though there was one who was an old boy herself. I ended up in a band that could have been the most cohesive band I had been in yet, but they had a problem communicating between top and bottom ranks. Shortly after I arrived, several members where prosecuted for possession of illegal substances. The commander of the band decided that because I was nice to these members, as I was nice to everyone, that I must have been a drug dealer. He called me into his office to let me know how miserable he was going to make my life, destroy my reputation, and destroy my marriage to one of Fort Myer’s Charlie Company’s enlisted. I had enough. I laughed. Yes, I laughed. I told the commander he had no power over me. I had just found out that I was pregnant with my first child. I was willing to take any blood test needed. I had base housing, bring it on. And, after all that, I was leaving. I walked down to the Admin building and filed for a discharge. It was granted and I was given time to serve in the inactive reserve. My sense of honor had been affronted, so I did what my dad did, I walked.
I’m sorry I lost my chance of music as a career. It hurts to this day. What I gained was a family with two children, now well grown and establishing their own worlds, who also possess a sense of honor, and the most gracious man in the world. He’s handsome, supportive, caring, intelligent and the hardest working man I’ve had the honor to know. He’s been tolerant of all of my harebrained adventures and given me his smile to bless them. For 35 1/2 years, he’s been here for me.
Eric is a force of nature in a very confused world that seems to be repeating itself. He’s saved my life at least three times. He’s sacrificed his career possibilities to make sure my healthcare is safe because of my MS. He gave me the ability to be myself, although I am rather shy of sharing where I came from and my experiences. You might not understand that from this post, but my words are stronger because of him.
Don’t let the past surround you to the extent of losing all else. Miracles are born in hard times to good people. We work for them, tailor our lives to them, and if we are very lucky, we become the instrument of our miracle. If we work hard enough, we become a Force to be reckoned with, as the world repeats the anger and horror of prior generations and the human History. The future isn’t known. It’s a gift that way.