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Thursday, June 5, 2008

An old Army buddy of mine

I was leaving Fry's yesterday afternoon after a day in town running errands when I met Carrie, a former soldier of mine when I was in California. We recognized each other right away and stopped to chat. She had her two-year-old daughter with her, a splitting image of herself.

Carrie was close to graduating from the Russian course when my First Sergeant, a very lesbian First Sergeant (who always claimed to be living with her "sister" but we all knew otherwise) wanted her discharged for being overweight and failing the physical fitness test. At the time Carrie tried her best, but the weight she lost and the improvements she made on her fitness were not enough to keep her in, and I couldn't convince the commander to allow her three more months to lose the weight and get fit. Three weeks before she would have graduated from the Russian course she was discharged from the Army for being unable to adapt, which is an honorable discharge and allows discharged veterans two years to improve and re-enlist.

But good for her, she went back to school, majored in Russian (which came easy for her with the course she had with the Army) and lost the weight when she divorced her controlling husband who I always thought was partially to blame for Carrie's low self-esteem. She lost so much weight after the divorce, she even qualified to be a physical fitness instructor and made a living that way. Her email to me were filled with new-found joys in life. I was so happy for her.

Then she met her new husband Tim and decided to join the army again. This time Uncle Sam wanted her back, taught her Spanish, and sent her to Afghanistan where, I'm sure, her Spanish came in handy.

I always liked Carrie because despite the pressure she went through with our First Sergeant, she kept her optimism. Her improvements were obvious, but weren't big enough for Army standards. The Army gave up a good soldier when they let her go, and were obviously in need of good linguists after 9-11 when they took her back.

But now, with a new husband and little daughter, her priorities have changed. She's a full-time mom and army wife with her husband Tim heading to warrant officer school next week and surely back to either war in another year.

Carrie and Tim had bought a new home here on four acres in the country about four years ago. I figured they would hold on to that property but instead she said she couldn't wait to sell it.

"We were initially asking $260,000 for it but had to settle for $206,000 just to get it off our hands" she explained. That loss must have been painful for her, because I remember how much she loved her spacious home in the country; it was a dream-come-true.

Carrie and her family are in Arizona for two more days and are moving to Texas and then California where Tim will start another language class. Carrie's life is so much happier now than it was nine years ago when she was strugging to lose weight and get fit. But all these years later I still use her as an example of someone who, determined to reach her goal despite all odds, reaches it and becomes a success. Had she not been discharged the first time for being unfit/overweight she would have made the Army a carreer, perhaps even gone to warrant officer school.

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