10 Years Ago Today – My First Deployment

I’m asked often when I visit my friends I met in the Army if I miss it. I can honestly and openly answer a clear and concise, “NO,” anytime I answer without hesitation. Some of my friends challenge that fact in disbelief…

“Really? You don’t miss it at all? After 8.5 years, you can just move on?”

Yes, I can. Honestly, there is not a moment of the military that I genuinely miss. Not a moment of the Good Ol’ Boy Army that makes me feel as if

Rat Lungworm


my decision to take control of my life and my decision to simply be happy was a mistake.

Just like most of you who take the time to read my blog,

I support our troops, not our wars.”

There is no justification for me in taking someone’s life. It doesn’t bring back anything or anyone. It simply puts somebody else in the same amount of pain you are experiencing, and that person likely had no direct connection to your pain.

That is not closure. That is perpetuating the hatred and violence…so no, I do not miss the military.


Many folks who know me now see a different look in my eyes from the time I was a soldier. I had good moments even great moments, but genuinely 100% happy and at ease moments with a love for myself and others?


I hadn’t reached that point yet. Not nearly.

I made great friends, but do I want to go back and experience war with them again? Eh. I’d rather take them on a river trip and bond with them that way.

I’ve spent today browsing the journal I kept from that point in my life. I barely recognize myself in the pages. I remember the misery. I remember the ostracized feeling from society. I remember the burning hatred I felt when I recognized how helpless I was in the situation. I’d signed a contract with the government, and there was no changing that.

The only control I had after that was over how I emotionally handled how they used me as official “Government Property.”

Let’s just say I didn’t always exercise that control internally, although I did fairly well externally.

Today, I’ve spent hours in the sun reading the journal I kept during that time of my life. Wow. 10 years ago I was confused, angry, hateful. I felt as if my mind and body were being wasted, and I remember shedding tears at some point in just about every single entry. I remember being honest in the words I wrote as an intrinsic experiment with myself to watch myself grow as an adult. I realized I’d reread my entries as a way to understand myself in the future. I was quick to judge, quick to dislike, quick to retort, and I recognized it even then.

Female Sodier Iraq












That was my first deployment. I was 21 years old. I’d honestly not yet drunk an alcoholic beverage. I’d even turned down a shot my sister bought me on my 21st birthday. I’d run a marathon, qualified for Boston, but certainly hadn’t run an ultra, smoked a bowl, given up everything I owned to become a river guide, couchsurfed, gotten my passport, traveled to Spain, Germany, Ecuador, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Antigua, Italy, Mexico, taken a road trip, lived in my car, nor learned to dance socially. I didn’t even have my A.A., not to mention my BS B.S! I’d not learned Chinese nor Spanish, taught Mandarin, hadn’t been paralyzed nor learned to walk for the second time yet.  My Dad was still alive. I still wore makeup. I spent money at the mall on things people told me I needed based on the television, and as a result, I owned more shoes than I could count.

Having read through some of those entries, I found it immediately necessary to share some excerpts.  This is specifically for those who think that they are alone in their misery. Who think that happiness is not achievable. If I was able to bounce back from a place this low simply by taking my life into my own hands, studying myself, and choosing to change…well, I have no doubt you can, too. I was desperate to connect with people because I couldn’t quite figure out how to connect with myself. I found only misery when considering my job. My friends and I considered pretending to be gay but shied away from the social stigma.

angry soldier 11 Jan 04

I realize when I read this, that if I had been paralyzed at that point in my life, it would have devastated me. That entry had been written when I first arrived at Ft. Hood. Interestingly enough, it also describes a lot of the naysaying pressures I described in this story of how running saved my life.

angry soldier 16 aprilI wrote the entry above to simply record my misery. Sometimes it was hard to convince people that running really long distances should be promoted. Really hard.

angry soldierI look at the entry I wrote above, and I have no doubts in my mind about my choice to leave the army. Although I clearly had a ton of growing up to do, I hated war. Well, I hated a lot.  I recognized how little money mattered in comparison to my happiness and my freedom.

Ultimately, I was bitterly lamenting not being able to run the Boston Marathon because of my deployment to Iraq, internally doubting my choice to join the army instead of take my scholarship to University of Chicago, extremely irritated with humanity, convinced everyone who didn’t exercise 12 of the 24 hours a day was lazy, and definitely didn’t have the tolerance and acceptance on any topic that I’ve grown into in the last several years.  My saying used to be : I love dogs and horses. I tolerate people.

Now I simply love.

Here’s how I honestly felt about my deployment, leaving without anyone to send me off to war as a 21-year-old child.

Angry soldier 2 March 04That was a time through which I was challenged in ways I had never imagined. I revisited that today. It was in incredibly hard place to be in to realize that you are leaving your country to go fight someone else’s war, and not a soul was there to say goodbye.

angry soldier 04 April 04This was a month and a half into my deployment. Obviously, not in the best of spirits…

angry soldier 1 May 14This one I find the most interesting of them all. “Achieved.” What does that mean? If I was so confused and disturbed with existence, I can’t believe that I could have said I “Achieved.”  I was struggling with the concept of success and achievement. I wanted recognition because I hadn’t found a soothing place completely within myself for which to run, or exist for that matter. At that time in my life I felt that my drive for running was partly for recognition. It bothered me that my motivation wasn’t entirely intrinsic. Eventually (years later) I had a moment of realization. The entire world’s problems could be solved if nobody worries about who’s getting the credit.

I felt like people already believed I’d “achieved,” because I was a cryptologic linguist, marathon runner, Boston qualifier, etc., but I still felt lost because I wasn’t happy in the military.

I wrote this on my father’s birthday. I find it interesting that I called him fragile at 51. That’s the same thing I thought when I visited him at the funeral home before he was cremated at 59. I loved him as any girl does her father, and during that time he was going through a rough spell of not forgiving himself for how he handled my childhood. I told him over and over that I forgave him, and I truly did.

This entry is where you see a glimpse of my mindset changing. I’m comparing Rosa’s life to that of my own. At the time I was overly responsible, and recognized how much I didn’t like it.  She was constantly hearing how much more like me she should act, and I couldn’t help but disagree…thinking I needed to definitely let go of a lot of my own expectations. I knew I was miserable, and knew something had to change.

There you have it. A glimpse of my angst 10 years ago, in the most confusing time of my life until that point. A kid drowning in her uniform in Baghdad. Weighed down by the miseries of conformity and war on top of getting to know herself.

Maybe I’ll release a few more journal excerpts in another 10 years.

Until then, live, laugh, love, recover, remember to forgive yourself quickly, unconditionally, and NEVER.fight.for.peace.

Tomorrow’s not guaranteed, so live like you believe it!

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One Response to 10 Years Ago Today – My First Deployment

  1. Donna Catotti May 13, 2017 at 3:36 PM #

    Rita, Call me in Haines 907 766-2707. donna

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