I just realized something a few days ago. This year, on March 6th, it will be 50 years since I joined the Air Force. Hard to believe it’s been that long. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday, but in other ways, it seems like another lifetime ago. Back in those days, there weren’t that many women who joined the military, and it was tough. I chuckle when I hear today’s women talk about being sexually harrassed at work. I’m not sure they know exactly how bad workplace harrassment can become. For those of us who joined years ago, we could tell them.
Basic training was so different for women back then. Believe it or not, we had a whole class on how to wear makeup, and Revlon provided makeup supplies. You could readily identify a WAF (Women in the Air Force) by her blue eyeshadow. I still wear blue eyeshadow. Old habits die hard, I guess.
The women were housed away from the men, so we rarely saw them during our training. I’m a little jealous of today’s AF women. They get to do everything the men do. We weren’t allowed to go to the firing range. I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad, so I was a darn good shot. When I got stationed out in California, I called the range and told them I wanted to try out for my marksmanship ribbon. The person I was talking to laughed. He told me they “didn’t waste bullets on girls.” Nowadays, that would be grounds for a lawsuit, the ACLU would get involved, and it would be a nightly troubleshooter report on the news. Back then, I just sighed and hung up.
Joining the AF was the best decision I ever made, but it was a scary one. Because there were so many horror stories about women in the military, everyone tried to talk me out of it. Even my recruiters. They said I was too “nice” to be in the AF. Pretty sure it was because I used to leave work at lunch and spend it helping them with paperwork. Unpaid secretarial services. They didn’t give up, either. On the way to enlist, one of them spent the whole drive trying to talk me out of it. Years later, they recommended me for a recruiting position back in California, and when I got the call asking if I’d do it, I did. Another great decision on my part, and I got the personal satisfaction of them saying how wrong they were.
During basic training, I remember feeling like a fish out of water. It was really hard on all of us, because we were missing our families. Every morning, our trainer would come into the barracks and yell, “It’s 0500, you will get up, you will look pretty, and you will smell sweet.” Amazingly enough, we would be outside in about five minutes, but I’m sure we missed the pretty and sweet part.
I remember standing out there in formation. It was dark and I always looked for the North Star. That was my star. Just seeing it made me know that no matter how hard things were, there was light at the end of the tunnel. That star is what got me through basic training.
I still find myself sometimes looking for the star. No matter how bad things get, no matter how many people we love pass on, no matter what health problems we face, no matter how crappy things in our world sometimes seem to be, that star is still there. A small beacon of light, reminding us we’re not alone. If God can count the hairs on our heads and love us more than all the stars in the sky, then it’s all good.
Everyone should have something to hang their hopes on. To me, it’s that star. It’s gotten me through some rough spots in my life and it’s still hanging in there, just like I am. My advice? Find your star. As long as you can see it, you’ll know one thing for sure. You can do this!