I am a veteran. It’s probably one of the more bitter-sweet titles I can claim and hold as an American.
When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I was going to go to the Air Force Academy and conquer the world. All 5’2” of me. I was going to marry Ice Man (who was soooo much better than Maverick) and we were going to shoot down Soviet jets together…and in my world…Goose was alive, Tom Cruise wasn’t weird and I, too, looked good in sunglasses. Then I learned that fighter pilots need to be able to see. And well, I was already quickly deteriorating in my right eye. Then I also learned that I needed to be good at math. So my fighter pilot dreams went out the window much like most young peoples’ ill-conceived or unrealistic dreams for their futures.
My plan changed to becoming an Army officer. What kind, I didn’t know. So I looked into West Point and got an application packet and carried around the West Point catalog with me everywhere…and realized, once again, that I needed to be good at math. (Aside: I learned well after the fact that I could’ve gone to West Point to play softball…but hindsight is 20/20…and certainly my eyesight was not 20/20 in 1989.)
So then I looked into the Virginia Military Institute. I sat in my guidance counselor’s office and talked with him about my plans…and he just looked at me and listened to me and nodded intently…and then at some point just stopped me and said, “Dori. You’re a girl. You can’t go to VMI. You can’t go to The Citadel either. They don’t accept girls.” I felt really, really stupid and acutely aware of my female-ness in that moment. It never occured to me that I couldn’t do something, like go to a military school, because I was “a girl.”
I did find a co-ed military school up in Vermont and applied there. But I needed an Army ROTC scholarship to be able to afford to attend. So I applied and competed for a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship. I was accepted to Norwich University but just missed getting a 4 year Army ROTC scholarship….damn the math all to Hell. So instead, I went to a private Christian school in Virginia, entered its Army ROTC program as a first year cadet and paid for my first year of school with student loans (more math…).
|2LT Dori Dupre – 14 May 1993|
Because I did so well in my first year, and math didn’t matter so much anymore, I was sent to Airborne School as a freshman and earned a 3 year ROTC scholarship. While in ROTC for all four years, I trained to become a commissioned officer in the US Army upon my graduation…and my senior year, I was designated active duty, Military Intelligence, my first choice.
I could write lots of blog posts about my experiences as a cadet. There is significant growth that occurs in a young woman from age 18-22 anyway…but throw in assembling and disassembling weapons and being wet and freezing with no sleep and learning how to navigate terrain with nothing but a map and a compass, alone; and jumping out of planes and being 5’2” in a formation run for miles full of men who are at least 6’ tall…feeling like you are in a dead sprint, and leading your peers in leadership courses…it does test you. And what you learn is that most of us can take a lot more than we think we can. We don’t give ourselves enough credit. Most of it is mental.
I said earlier that being a veteran is bitter-sweet for me. It is sweet because there is no higher calling and greater honor than being in service to this incredible country. It was something I wanted, something I believed in and something I felt in my heart. I don’t care what bellyaching everyone wants to do about this politician and that political party and this horrible system and that worthless voting block and this immoral Congress and that awful leader. It is STILL the best damn country in the world. My service was sweet because I chose to do it and I believed in what our country stands for. ‘Merica.
But my service is also bitter. It is bitter because due to “life” happening, unplanned and unexpected events, some as a result of my own choices and others not, I had to make the difficult decision to end my Army career upon the completion of my 8 year service obligation (4 years active, 4 years reserve). So there is always that feeling within me that I didn’t get to quite finish what I started, do all I wanted to do, serve in all the ways I wanted to serve. I did all that I was obligated to do…but there is still a void.
As we age, we learn that most people don’t get to do everything they want to do, let alone much of what they want to do. And that’s okay.
This Veteran’s Day, I salute every veteran who, like me, started out as a kid with a dream and a pure heart. I salute every veteran who had a number called and lost their personal freedom for two years..or more. I salute every veteran who learned that their country was under attack, needed their service, and volunteered. I salute every veteran who served this country, either a viciously difficult messy 6 years or an easy breezy 2 years, whether they wanted to or not, whether they chose it or not. I salute every veteran who got up and put on a uniform and stood a post and pulled a watch and led or followed others and did the very best they could…until they could at last go home. And I salute all the ones who never got to go home – because they died in service or they died while alive. If there is one thing this country should get right…it is helping to fix our broken soldiers who are living as human shells, dying each day a little bit more with the relentless torment of PTSD.
|Arthur Dupre, US Army|
|Glenn Scotti, USMC|
|Eric DeJong, US Army (West Point graduation – receiving his diploma from President Bush)|
|Jon Dupre, US Navy|
Thank you Dad, Uncle Glenn, Eric, Jon and my other selfless extended family members and friends who are veterans. ❤