I bought a property! Or is it I bought property? Not really sure but I think you know what I mean. It’s four acres just on the outskirts of Ellensburg. It’s a country-living feel but still 10 minutes away from the grocery store. So it’s exactly what I’ve been dreaming of. Enough land to have a garden, a trampoline, a badminton court…Most importantly it has room for a tiny house.
Now when I say tiny I’m being generous. My goal is to max out at 900 sq feet which some argue doesn’t qualify as tiny. I like say “it’s on the big side of tiny.” My goal is to build an eco-friendly, budget conscious home than can adjust as my needs change. (I have kids, adopt 13 cats, gain 50 pounds, etc.) Hence the slightly bigger size (for tiny).
So why tiny? Well, for many reasons. The first being that when I was about to graduate from college the common question was “what’s next?” and my answer was usually “I don’t know.” So people would press further, “well, what are your dreams?” “where do you see yourself in 10 years” or “what do you want your mark on the world to be?” That last question really got me. I thought and thought about it until eventually I had an answer; I didn’t want to leave one. I want the result of my existence to be non-existent. I want to die without a trace except for the memories the people I’ve left behind have.
“No mark” has many meanings. It means using as little natural resources as possible. It means living sustainably. It means using humanitarian-approved products. It means fair-trade and conflict free. It means tiny living. A tiny house is the only habitat I can think of that could possibly pass all of those standards.
Economic freedom. I don’t spend very much time at home. Why would I when there’s so much to do? Why spend money on a large home when I’d rather be swimming or hiking or traveling? Statistically tiny home owners owe less than traditional home owners, have more money in the bank and are able to have careers they love without the pressure to make more and more dollars.
Keeping my priorities in check is the final big reason I am doing this. When you live small you don’t have a lot of room for worldly possessions. I have already gotten rid of bags and bags and bags…and bags of clothing (I used to have a walk-in closet). You don’t have room for lots of “stuff” so tiny home owners have to be thoughtful in every purchase they make. Do I really need this? Will this add value to my life? Etc. The inability to go on shopping sprees also doesn’t hurt your bottom line.
I thought I might share how this all works out, maybe it turns out horribly or maybe I am one day featured in Tiny House magazine. Either way, folks seem to be very curious about my plans and I don’t mind sharing. Also, if I inspire anyone along the way that’s an added bonus. To be continued…
You may have read that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has “made a fool of himself” once again. In an interview with Chris Matthews he “failed to come up with the name of a foreign leader he likes.” Sounds pretty bad right? How can we take someone seriously as presidential candidate if they can’t name one influential person on earth? Well, I have some thoughts on that.
First of all, have you watched the interview? If all you read is the headlines you’d get the impression that GJ just sat there going “ummmmm” while the crowd awkwardly waited for his response. This is not what happened.
After being asked what world leader he admires, he pauses then answers swiftly saying “I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment in the former president of Mexico…” (not sure what an Aleppo moment is? Click here.) Before he can finish his thought Chris Matthews puts the pressure on to remember the name and GJ responds saying “I’m having a brain freeze.” Then Gary’s running mate Bill Weld asks “Fox?” in reference to former Mexican president Vicente Fox and Gary says “Fox! Thank you, thank you.” The entire exchange takes less than 45 seconds. What appears to have happened is not that GJ can’t name a leader, it’s that he can’t think of the name of the one he wants to list. This is not the way the media has necessarily reported the incident.
Was this proof that Gary Johnson is an idiot or a very human moment happening on an unscripted show? Keep in mind that when Obama speaks his speeches are usually scripted. When Obama gives an interview it’s usually on a specific topic not literally on anything in the world. Even still, Obama has had his fair share of bumbles.
In a past life I competed in pageants where I underwent interviews similar to the ones Trump, Hillary and GJ are going through right now. Let me tell you that no matter how much you prepare, you will forget things. One time I couldn’t describe an amendment other than the first in an interview. It was embarrassing and strange because at the time I was actually studying the Bill of Rights in a class.
Think about the exhaustion of campaigning and the lack of resources GJ has as a grassroots candidate. He doesn’t have teams of advisors, helpers and specialists feeding him information and giving him security briefs. He doesn’t have teams of young people creating memes to make him look good (or put down other candidates). He doesn’t even have a romantic partner on the trail with him to provide constant moral support. (GJ is engaged but his fiancé doesn’t do much campaigning as she has a full-time job in real estate.) These are things the other two candidates have. These aren’t excuses just perspective.
Second of all, even if GJ just sat with a blank look on his face for five minutes is this even remotely close to disqualifying in this election? Does Gary have any scandals? Does Gary have skeletons in his closet? Does Gary blame the “fog of war” for mistakes that ended lives? When thinking of black people is the first thing that comes to GJ’s mind our “vibrant black churches”? Does he try to quiet abuse victims? Does GJ body shame women? Does he have a history of infidelity and womanizing? Did he trick people into paying for worthless seminars? Does GJ have a history of bankruptcy? As of right now, the answer is no to all the above. The other two candidates can’t say the same. I don’t blame you for wanting an informed president but please try and compare Gary’s mistakes to the other two. Can you even compare?
When you’re making decisions on what good leadership looks like ask yourself this question; What matters most, knowledge, or the intelligence to do the right thing when the knowledge is given to you? So far Gary has undoubtedly shown a lack of knowledge on several topics, but has he shown he lacks a moral compass or is less intelligent than the other two candidates? Furthermore, GJ represents the LIBERTARIAN PARTY. You know, the one that is borderline isolationist. Foreign policy is not what this party is all about. Do they want a strong and ready military? Yes. Do they want to play chess with the rest of the word? No. As one meme put it, asking a libertarian about foreign leaders is like asking a vegetarian how they like their steak cooked.
Third of all, pay attention to how GJ handles these sorts of “Aleppo moments.” The very fact that he brought up Aleppo when having a “brain freeze” this time around shows a remarkable amount of humbleness. GJ addresses his mistakes head-on. He knows he makes mistakes and he knows he’s not perfect. Most politicians lie when caught in a bind. GJ doesn’t do this (so far). He admits when he doesn’t know the answer to something, he admits when he’s not an expert on something and he’s able to poke fun at himself along the way.
I attended a GJ rally a couple weeks back and Aleppo was the very first thing he talked about bringing it up multiple times throughout his speech. He said he wanted to apologize for his blunder and assured the crowd that he does take national security seriously. He cares about our troops and spoke a few minutes on Aleppo and related topics to show he has thought about it and does have a rough plan in place. Maybe it’s a bunch of hoopla but his response was still incredibly refreshing.
Fourth of all, pay attention to media bias. With the exception of Fox News, it’s accepted by most that there is a liberal lean amongst the media and Hillary is worried about GJ. He is pulling voters away from both sides. Hillary’s campaign is actively working on getting those voters back to her side. Unflattering pictures, brash headlines and personal attacks are now being used against GJ mostly among the liberal camp (though I’m sure Trump is coming). Keep that in mind as you follow GJ coverage. Kind of odd that a man with an incredible professional (built a multi-million-dollar company, balanced his state’s budget etc.) and personal (Ironman, has climbed Mt Everest etc.) resume only makes national headlines when he messes up.
I am not writing this to make excuses or even convince you to vote for GJ, I understand the dislike. I am simply challenging you to think critically about what leadership means to you, do your own homework and look at all candidates through the same lens.
When #oscarssowhite happened my first reaction was to ask why. Why are the Oscars so white? Is it because the folks at the academy are racist? Is it because black actors just didn’t have any shining performances? Did the white actors just have shinier performances? I don’t know because I have only watched three of the movies heavily nominated this year and one of them was Star Wars. I have my doubts, but maybe black actors weren’t among the best this year and the last thing I want is the academy nominating a black person just to nominate a black person.
Many have pointed out that it’s not really the academy that’s the problem but more so the casting directors and producers. Black people can only seem to get roles as slaves, other famous black people, or black stereotypes (the dude from the hood, the poor maid etc.). Roles where race shouldn’t really matter almost always go to the white guy. This is a point that has already been made and not one I am trying to make now.
The internet loves Leonardo DiCaprio. He finally got that Oscar and every social media platform blew up in support of his achievements. I have to admit that Leo is probably one of my favorite villains of all time (Django Unchained) but holy crap. Why are people so incredibly passionate about him? None of my personal favorite movies feature Leo and there are plenty of other actors with just as much star power who also haven’t won an Oscar. I dug a little deeper to find out what makes him so alluring.
I learned that Leo seems like an OK guy. He produced a documentary I love (Cowspiracy) and is well known as a planet earth champion and mentioned climate change in his acceptance speech. I also learned that women LOVE Leo. And he loves them. Only if they’re between the age of 20 and 25 though. Mind you he’s 41. Leo hasn’t been in a movie directed by a woman in two decades. He isn’t doing anything illegal and I fully support his right to date blonde super models but I can’t say I found this attractive.
One quick Google search on Leo DiCaprio led me to more questions. In the past two months I have seen an obsessive amount of content on my news feeds about how Leo DiCaprio is a cinematic gift and should’ve won an Oscar eons ago. I can list nearly all the movies he has starred in though I’ve only seen about half. Thanks Facebook. But what Facebook hasn’t told me is that there is such a huge disparity between female and male directors that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision launched a formal investigation on Hollywood. No one seems concerned about this issue at all but if Leo hadn’t’ve won last night all hell would’ve broken loose.
I don’t hate Leo and I think he is a talented guy. He helps prove that people have the ability to be incredibly passionate about something. What concerns me is that he also shows that what people choose to be passionate about seems a little backwards. Whether it’s the Seahawks, Leo or a BuzzFood post (God I love that shit) people are quick to share what’s trendy and shallow. Rooting for the thing that everyone is rooting for is easy but it’s at these moments of extreme public trend that I start to question things. There is serious danger when groups of people all start thinking alike.
I mentioned a point earlier but I don’t really have one. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to think about, I just want them to think. Question your heroes. Get passionate about something that makes you uncomfortable or requires sacrifice. And for God’s sake, don’t post a sexy photo of Leo with a cigarette in his mouth and then go on about how he’s going to save our planet. Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in the world, 28% of sand litter is caused by cigarettes and each year 600 million trees are destroyed to provide fuel to dry tobacco. The Oscars left me angry about sexism and frustrated about race issues but ultimately I was more concerned about the way humans go to extreme heights to glorify other humans that are no more perfect than themselves.
With a pretty extensive list of friends and family in the military I have heard all the arguments about which branch is the toughest, which job is the hardest, where is the true honor? Who’s more of a badass, a Marine or an army ranger? Is it tougher being a Navy Seal or part of Delta Force? But there is one job, a sort of unspoken hero that often gets overlooked. Although they may not be at the front lines and they may have never held a weapon, military wives (and husbands) just might have the toughest job in the military. True love is tested when those who have a piece of their heart go overseas to fight for our country. Alone for months and months at a time, often with children, military spouses sleep alone at night, attend functions without a partner and raise their children by themselves all because they believe in something. For my cousin Juarez and his wife Rebecca, it was a belief in serving this country and rising to the challenges that relationships sometimes face, no matter how big or small.
Juarez and Rebecca met Labor Day of 1999 and Rebecca remembers their first date on December 18th of the same year, her parents’ wedding anniversary. They quickly fell in love and were married on May 19, 2001. Rebecca’s father was a career soldier so she had no reservations about marrying a Marine. Would she need to learn a new culture? Of course. Would they have to move fairly often? Sure. Could her own career possibly get put on hold? Absolutely. But by no means could either of them have predicted that shortly after they were married the country would face one of the biggest challenges of a generation, the 9-11 attack.
Juarez joined the Marine Corps in 1999. After a 10-week course at Officer’s Candidate School, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Juarez served four years active duty and left active duty in 2003. In 2007 he was involuntarily recalled and deployed as a Captain from July 7, 2007 to August 8, 2008 as a Logistics Advisor to an Iraqi Battalion. He was deployed a second time in 2010 for a year in Afghanistan. His last deployment was October of 2013 to June of 2014 as the Operations Officer for the Civil Military Operations staff section of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
With one son (Nicholas) born in 2003 and another (Caleb) born two years later, Juarez’s first two deployments left Rebecca at home with two very young children. The third deployment, has been preceded by a third child, Victoria. All challenges Rebecca could not have expected nor planned for. Fear of her husband dying, fear of her children being without a father and fear of becoming a widow who would never find anyone who could love her and their two boys the way Juarez did were dangerous thoughts. Until his deployment, Juarez’s Marine status had had little effect on their relationship. With the exception of one move to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina there had been very little impact on their lifestyle as a couple.
Deployment brings challenges to all couples; in Rebecca’s case she felt the greatest strain when it came to parenting. Like other commitments, Rebecca and Juarez believe parenting is about the sacrifices you are willing to make to help your children achieve their goals. Like most parents, their hopes for their children are simple; raise children who will become productive members of society who are happy and fulfilled in whatever they choose to do. In order to do this, they make sacrifices, of both the financial, personal and professional nature.
“It’s very difficult to explain the limitations that a family has once one of the parents deploys or leaves the family for an exercise,” explains Rebecca. “When my husband is absent, I and the kids are of course unable to do the same things that I could when he was present in the home. He too is unable to participate in their lives as he would like, and although that seems as if this difference wouldn’t need to be explained, people often are very unintentionally harsh in their expectations.”
Juarez dealt with an array of emotions himself.
“A lot of frustration and guilt, particularly with leaving the kids,” explains Juarez. “A lot of
pride and satisfaction that my family was strong enough to pick up and carry on with only one parent…then it’s back to the guilt that they have to do it at all…”
All single parents understand that this means less time to offer support to friends and family. Outside relationships may perish as a result of increased responsibility and worry within the home, a notion that seems quite unfair given the sacrifice that family is already making.
“You quickly learn how blessed you are to have the friends who call to check-in. That can mean everything during deployments,” reflects Rebecca.
Despite the challenges that the life of a Marine wife brings there are definite positives.
“The best part of being a military wife is being married to someone with so much integrity and commitment to our country,” says Rebecca. “He and his peers understand the value of service and that commitment epitomizes what I believe is the true meaning of dedication.”
Although the road hasn’t always been the easiest, neither Rebecca nor Juarez would change anything. During his deployments Juarez has gotten to meet several Afghan persons of note including the late District Governor Manaf of Nawa and the Provincial Governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada. Rebecca has a great job as the Senior Director of Media Relations and Advocacy for a non-profit association. The two are raising three beautiful, well-adjusted children.
As for words of wisdom for those embarking on the military family journey? Be flexible and embrace the opportunities your life will bring. Recommending or not recommending a military career isn’t something Rebecca feels totally qualified to do because she has never served (though I sort of disagree).
“I couldn’t assume to know exactly how difficult it is, but I am so appreciative of the sacrifices of the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces, that I would hope everyone would consider it,” Rebecca says.
Juarez sees the military as a great opportunity for everyone depending on each person’s individual expectations.
“The military is not easily explained and never is what people originally think it is,” explains Juarez.
Ultimately what makes a military family functional? Love. And lots of it. I asked Juarez and Rebecca what their greatest accomplishments were and they both said each other. Although Juarez and Rebecca are blessed to not need any assistance many military families rate. Juarez notes that many exiting the military find adjusting to “normal” culture difficult and many struggle to find work. Createthegood.org, Operationhomefront.net and Fisherhouse.org are some great resources if you are looking to make life for veterans and their families easier.
“I believe in Socrates’ quote that ‘real wisdom is the property of God’- so not so much words of wisdom as general guidance: be suspicious of others claiming wisdom, stay humble, open minded and hungry for knowledge.”
I have been itching to write this blog on what I believe is one of the most important and relevant topics I have covered to date. The Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide hit just as I was getting ready to leave for Miss Washington. The timing of this announcement could not have been better as I was working on a blog from the LGBTQIA perspective.
The idea to write this piece came from my involvement with the Wounded Warrior Project. Through this organization I was able to connect with a group called the *Imperial Sovereign Court of Tacoma. This organization is similar to the Miss America Organization. Instead of a Miss Washington, they have an Empress and Emperor. The current empress is Empress 36 Mulan Rouge Bradshaw Beaute. The current emperor is Emperor 36, Jimi Cricket Beaute. The organization hosted a drag show called “Rockin’ with our Heroes” that raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project. It was here that I learned of a drag queen that wasn’t present named Brooke Lynn Bradshaw. Brooke Lynn (who was Miss Gay Washington 2014-2015) had an interesting past that didn’t exactly fit drag queen stereotypes, she was once in the Coast Guard. Obviously once I heard that news I was drooling for an interview.
Edward Perez has lead a colorful life. Like many 20-somethings, he got to a point where it felt like his life had lost direction. Edward just quit his job, got out of a bad relationship and living in his native California just didn’t seem to be a viable option anymore. While watching TV, Edward heard the term “homeland security.” Not knowing what that meant he looked it up and a Coast Guard ad popped up on the site as a link. Edward clicked. Three days later he was in a recruiter’s office. Two weeks later he was being shipped off to boot camp.
“It seemed to answer everything that I needed at that time,” Edward reflects.
Perez joined the Coast Guard in 2005. He finished his Coast Guard career as an Operation Specialist or E5. Edward loved the job and he loved what he was doing but in the end, the military lifestyle wasn’t for him. While the Coast Guard once answered the questions Edward was asking, eventually he got to the point where he wanted to something he wanted to do, as opposed to something he had to do.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell wasn’t repealed until 2011, 9 months before Edward would get out of the Coast Guard. Because of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act, Edward had to keep much of his life a secret. The punishment for “getting caught being gay” was harsh. Immediate expulsion and no benefits whatsoever. Drag made his secret even harder to keep.
Edward’s first contact with drag was at an S&M bar called Miss Kitty’s. Edward didn’t know what type of bar it was until he got there. People were paddling themselves and Go-Go dancers clad in leather filled the bar. Needing a minute to get some fresh air outside, Edward exited the building only to find himself surrounded by men dressed as drag nuns in what he described as a terrifying experience. These women were a part of the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a charity group that is quote well known in the drag community. Edward did not realize this interaction was only the beginning of his drag experience.
In 2010, Edward met who would become his drag mother. A drag mother is essentially whoever put you in drag for the first time. They are usually the one to help someone new to drag figure out how to put on makeup, choose what clothes to wear and pick a name. A drag mother will often pass along their own last name. In Edward’s case, his drag mother didn’t have a last name to pass on, so he created his own. He already liked the idea of going by Brooke Lynn and it was his drag mother’s idea to separate the two to make the name a little more unique. Bradshaw is a reference to Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City. Brooklyn, New York, Carrie Bradshaw from New York.
Before meeting his drag mother Edward was very introverted.
“The hottest person could be staring at me and I would ignore them,” laughs Edward.
Edward’s drag mother helped open him up in ways he never imagined. Edward was the person who wouldn’t dance at a club unless he was surrounded by other people. Now Brooke Lynne takes the stage and everyone in the room can’t take their eyes off her.
Participating in drag while in the Coast Guard made “not telling” even more difficult. Although he didn’t have to fear the consequence of his secrets for very long, even after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, Edward was extremely private. Before the act was repealed he would hide his tattoos and try to come and go quietly. Even some of his gay friends didn’t know he was an aspiring drag queen. Even after secrecy was no longer a requirement in the military, Edward didn’t feel the need to waive a rainbow flag.
“It’s different for everyone,” notes Edward. “One of my good friends went out to the gay bar in his uniform and took a picture in front of a rainbow flag. To him he was proud of that where I didn’t care.”
Not to say that Edward doesn’t think gay issues are important. Edward believes there is still a long way to go as far as acceptance in the military. Certain branches are more accepting than others, though all could use improvement. While many are coming around to the idea of having gay soldiers, a soldier in drag would push some people way over the edge.
Starting out performing in small clubs, Edward would eventually go on to be selected at Miss Gay Washington for the 2014-2015 year. This pageant system is very similar to the Miss America organization and includes a talent, evening and interview portion just like MAO as well as an “all white” and “after dark” phase of competition.
Now a student at Sanford Brown studying fashion design, Edward’s interest in fashion design has proved useful in the drag world. Edward designs and makes most of his clothing. He even charges other queens and for his services. Edward’s drag style has gone through many different looks. Starting off with a sort of rocker chick vibe, Brooke Lynn has been everything from the classic pretty face to Goth. Brooke Lynn has branched into a more alternative look.
“It’s sort of like puberty, you think you know what you liked and then what you like evolves as you get older and go through different phases of your life, “Edward explains. “I am still trying to discover who I want to be. We are always learning.”
While drag has changed Edward’s life forevermore, this isn’t something he sees himself doing forever. While some perform drag into their 40s, 50s, even 80s, it’s not something Edward thinks he’ll have the energy to do. Drag is more taxing then one might think. It can take upwards of three hours to do hair, make-up and costuming.
“My favorite part about drag is taking it off,” Edward jokes.
Contrary to popular belief, at its core, drag has very little to do with sexuality. Straight men, gay men, straight women, and gay women all participate. Edward frequently gets messages from people asking for sexual favors and getting mistaken for transgender is the usual. Although some drag queens, such as Brooke Lynn’s drag mother are transgender many of them aren’t.
Though the transition from everyday citizen to drag queen can be a taxing practice, the transition out of the military to civilian life be twice as hard. In Edward’s experience, the hardest part was knowing how to use the resources available to you. There are resources for veterans but there isn’t a lot of clear instruction on how to use those resources. Edward thinks classes on how to access health benefits, GI Bills etc., should be required of veterans as they make the transition out of the military. Even after veterans figure out how to use their benefits it can take over 5 months before they receive the financial benefits. Filling the space between can be extremely difficult.
How can you help veterans? When you have a friend or family member on their way out, do some research to yourself on what their options are. The cultural shock of leaving the military is enough, figuring out a whole new system to live by is a headache many veterans put off. You can find information about military benefits here.
No longer Miss Gay Washington, Brooke Lynn Bradshaw is still making appearances. With the hope of continuing to educate gay youth about gay history and helping veterans where she can, Brooke Lynn still has a few years left in her. Follow Brooke Lynn on Facebook and keep an eye out for her on Capitol Hill and around the Pacific Northwest.
*The Imperial Sovereign Court of Tacoma, Diamond Empire of the Cascades, shall endeavor to create a safe, supportive, and social environment for members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Intersex, Transgender and Questioning community. We shall strive to create and support charitable, cultural, and educational activities, which promote a greater awareness and understanding among all peoples, who make up the rich and diverse community within our Empire, and to promote a positive awareness of the ideals of the International Court System. As serious as we work to accomplish our mission, we shall never forget to have fun while doing it by enjoying all the frivolity and creative outlets the Court encourages.
So far, most of the people I have interviewed for this blog have joined the military because they were searching for something. Maybe they felt lost, maybe they needed a clearer career path and skills to get there or maybe they were looking for adventure. For Dave Barksdale, it was family tradition. Just like his father and grandfather before him, Dave joined the Navy in 1985 and served active duty for over two decades.
Entering the Fleet Reserve midnight, January 31st, 2009 at the rank of Chief Petty Officer (E7), Dave’s active-duty career has been a colorful one. Serving on seven different ships in his career, Dave’s specialties have ranged from fire control to air search and missile Guidance RADAR systems to Tomahawk missile systems. His experience and skill set have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Australia to Japan to Kenya to name a few of the countries Dave has visited. He admits he has had too many deployments to count.
The chance to see the world gave Dave the opportunity to experience cultures and events that I have only read about. Dave has attended the Chinese New Year visited the tomb of Job in Oman and played hacky sack on top of a pyramid in Guatemala.
“Eating frankincense from a tree older then America blew my mind,” reminisced Dave.
Through his own selfless service, Dave learned lessons all over the world. Meeting the aboriginal people in Perth taught him to cherish what he has. In Dave’s experience, people were generally friendly and happy to see him and his fellow sailors. Immersed in dozens of cultures throughout his career has given Dave a unique outlook on life.
“Even in the harshest countries you could always find someone who had no political agenda and would welcome you with open arms,” remembers Dave.
Despite his incredible experiences, a life of military service is never just fun and games and certainly comes with its challenges. Serving during a time when the internet was not what it is today, a sailor survived on snail mail, with an emphasis on the word snail. Mail came but once a month on average and learning of family events so delayed could be agonizing. Even after Dave was married, a new wealth of challenges was brought on. Though a sailor’s work could be dangerous in itself, one of the greatest fears is that something would happen to your family back home leaving you unaware and helpless for a month or much longer.
“Your heart and soul always long to be near those at home,” explains Dave.
Although family at home was a distant thought, each sailor walks away from the Navy with a new family. As Dave and many veterans will tell you, one of the best parts of the military lifestyle is the unbreakable bond you form with your newfound brothers and sisters. Combat only makes these bonds stronger in the moments when you truly have no one else to rely on but your shipmates, overcoming that adversity creates a deep love that lasts until your last breath.
Despite any challenges one faces in the military, Dave recommends serving to anyone, even if only for a couple years. Although a military career might not be for everyone, the experiences are invaluable.
In Dave’s opinion, the Armed Forces are receiving the best support they have ever known. Unfortunately, there will still be those who refer to Dave and his comrades as “baby killers” with some opponents of the military not being above spitting on servicemen and women, for the most part the public appears to support the military. Dave points to ignorance as the greatest threat to the military and believes there have been great strides made by to the public to better understand what the military is doing, hence offering more support.
Like I’ve heard so many times before, one of the greatest struggles veterans face is getting on their feet after serving. Dave told me stories about retired veterans passing away for what appears to be no apparent reason. Whether it be suicide or simply wasting away, it’s extremely difficult to adjust to a “normal” society after living in a high stress and structured environment for so many years. As civilians, it is our duty to do our best to understand and learn about their experiences, recognize extreme signs of distress and offer support and opportunity through jobs and training so that veterans feel as comfortable as possible in the civilian lifestyle.
One topic that has and will always interest me is women in the military. Dave admits that in the beginning of military genderization he was against it. He saw women in supporting shore roles only. After he had a couple female supervisors his views started to change, though there have been issues with fraternization among crews. As Dave notes, it’s very difficult to take men and women directly out of high school and expect them to keep their hormones in check. This can be a problem in any career field, military or not, but when men and women are stuck on a boat for months at a time, you can only imagine what might happen. Although many times, many of these cases are wanted by both parties, unfortunately, as we all know, the military isn’t immune to cases of sexual assault etc. But that issue is for another blog, at another time.
Dave has no problem with women serving in our military. He does feel that there will always be those isolated incidents between men and women no matter how much training you put them through. I met Dave through the Miss America program where he is one of Washington’s most valued employees. Dave believes in women empowerment and I am in awe of how much time he puts into volunteering to help young women such as I better myself.
Dave is currently employed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes as a maintenance technician. He also operates Depoe Barksdale Studios; a video and photography studio that has contributes to the Miss Washington organization but takes on other projects as well.
“A life of service is a life well spent,” are words of wisdom Dave lives by and his actions show he takes those words very seriously. He considers serving his country with honor and distinction his greatest achievement and he continues to live a life of service. With volunteering being his main hobby, (listening to Electronic Dance Music a close second J) Dave doesn’t plan on changing any time soon.
I really can’t think of a better way to get back on my blog game, post-Miss Washington, then to tell a piece of this story. I love learning about different military experiences and the timing of this story couldn’t be better. Love is winning all over the country and life for those in the LGBTQIA community are improving. My first female feature is a part of the community experiencing this change. This blog is number one of a two-parter I was originally going to write as one post. There was so much good content that I split up the blog. Keep an eye out for my next military blog, featuring a drag queen!
Many that join the Army, use the military as a way to discover themselves. It provides an opportunity to travel, learn new skills and adapt to a way of life that is probably quite different from their norm. Kelsie Lyles was one of those people who joined the Army because she was a self-described “lost person.”
“A friend of mine mentioned I would make a good soldier, and my father was in the Army so I talked to a recruiter and the rest is history,” Kelsie said.
Kelsie joined the Army in November of 2011 and left for basic training the same month her own dad retired from the Army. Her current contract runs through 2019 but as of right now, if she’s still enjoying herself, she will sign another contract. If something changes in the future and she isn’t enjoying her work as much, Kelsie will switch to the National Guard or Reserves. Right now Kelsie’s rank is specialist but she is working on becoming a sergeant.
As a 92R in the Army, Kelsie is a parachute rigger. She packs parachutes for the airborne community and rig air drops loads of food, water and equipment. Jumping out of airplanes is her favorite part of the job. Kelsie lists completing long airborne school as one of her greatest achievements and is honored to be a part of the airborne community. Women play a huge role in the Army, and it’s a demographic Kelsie is proud to be a part of.
“Women can do almost any job and continue to drive for complete equality among our brothers.” Kelsie says.
As a gay woman, Kelsie’s experience in the Army isn’t quite the same as others. In recent years there has been a lot of change in the military as to how the LGBTQIA community is treated. Kelsie was fortunate enough to have joined after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed and says she actually faces more discrimination outside of the Army than in it.
Great strides have been made in the military to respect people’s private lives. Programs such as “Equal Opportunity” and “Open Door Policy” exist to prevent discrimination. Kelsie hasn’t been immune to discrimination because of her sexual orientation but believes as a whole, people have and are becoming more open minded to the homosexual lifestyle. Her weirdest experiences are when she uses a public restroom and older women mistake her for a young man.
Recently married, Kelsie and her wife Amberley tied the knot this past March. Like many military couples they had to rush to get married after Kelsie got orders to go to Germany. They were wed in a courthouse with close family and friends and plan on having a larger wedding when they return to the states. Ask Kelsie about her wife and she goes gaga.
“Oh yes my wife… If only I could put into words how wonderful she is,” Kelsie gushes.
Obviously, Kelsie and her wife were thrilled at the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.
“Any two consenting adults have the right to decide if they’re in love and want to make lifelong commitment to each other,” Kelsie says.
The Army and military as a whole is doing better at supporting their servicemen and women while they are active, but unfortunately, this support doesn’t always extend past their military careers. Although Kelsie is still enlisted, she recognizes that the VA can be a bear to deal with. Vets exiting the military often have difficulties receiving their benefits on time. Medical benefits can cause the biggest headaches of all.
What can civilians do to make veteran lives easier?
“Honestly all soldiers really want from civilians is a thank you once in a while and to be left alone,” Kelsie says.
As she’ll point out, it’s hard enough to be away from your families for months or years at a time. Veterans don’t want to argue about personal opinions and politics. Our troops don’t control what they do, they only follow orders because that is what they swore to do.
I’ve known Kelsie since we were young kids playing fast pitch together. Watching her find herself, serve our country and find happiness from afar has been a joy. I have to admit I was a little surprised to find that her experience in the military has been pretty seamless. This was an awesome surprise of course and I am so proud of our country for the strides we are making.
For months I had been looking forward to my trip To Las Vegas, Nevada. I arrived back home Sunday exhausted but slightly depressed coming down from that Vacation high. I was looking forward to getting a tan, experiencing the array of characters one can only find in Vegas and checking out the nightlife. Happy to say I was able to do all three things and then some.
It seemed like I was the last person on Earth to visit Vegas. Tell someone you’re planning a trip and you are sure to get lots of good advice, and I soaked in every word. This vacation I took with eight other people was one that I had to do on a budget. I was able to stay in my uncle’s timeshare so we all split the transaction fees and that was it for board. The plane ticket was the most expensive part but I was able to keep that under $300. While there I had a pretty tight budget. I bought cheap food (eggs, granola bars, Uncrustables, breakfast sandwiches) and only ate out at a nice restaurant once. I didn’t rent a car but there was shuttle from our resort to the strip which was off the strip. The shuttle was $8 round trip. Lots of Vegas tip lists say “don’t think you can last more than a weekend here.” I stayed for a week and had a blast. Though I am still on “Vegas time” or rather “Vacation time” I’d say I not only survived, but I thrived. Below are my top 5 tips for Vegas!
Dang. I knew it would be hot bit nothing can really prepare you for 118 degree weather. Dealing with it is made especially tricky because the water down there is terrible. Even at restaurants the water tastes worse than any tap water I have had in Washington. Plan on bringing a water bottle that filters or buying bottled water there. I did the latter. Most stores will over price bottled water but if you are walking on the strip almost every pedestrian overpass will have at least one person selling water for a buck out of a cooler. I bought my water from these guys all week and would recommend you do the same.
Because I am getting ready for Miss Washington and my half Ironman, I didn’t want to take a ton of time off the gym. I ended up working out five out of the eight days I was there. Related to the topic above it is WAY too hot to do cardio outside though I did see one crazy person running on the hottest day we were there.
If exercising on vacation is important to you try and make sure you have a good gym to go to. While the resort had enough treadmills and bikes the weight room was a joke. A couple of the people in my group went to an off-site gym but I didn’t want to pay for the travel or gym fees so I did no-weight strength training while there. I had to text my trainer Josh for help and I wish I would’ve come prepared with workouts prior. Josh had my back but coming up with the things to do via text is annoying. On the other hand, it was fun to mix it up and do some different strength exercises that the norm.
One could probably plan a vacation to Vegas solely to eat food. There are amazing restaurants everywhere ranging from the exotic to America styles. Nearly every to chef has a restaurant there. We went to Bobby Flay’s but many others including Gordon Ramsey have restaurants in Vegas too. The thing is, these places are all super expensive and it adds up quick. I encourage you to find spot that does some sort of late night special. We’re talking some kind of shady-ish diner or dive that does a midnight – 5 a.m. $5 steak and egg special. We were lucky to have one right across the street but those kinds of late night deals aren’t hard to find. We saved a lot of money eating at the cheap place across the street, and really, how can you mess up breakfast?
My boss gave me this great idea. There is TONS of stuff on Groupon in Vegas. We were able to go to a hypnotist show for $10 each. Two people in my group were hypnotized. One was sent back into the crowd early but one “made it” to the final seven. He claims he can’t remember 90% of what happened but I will forever remember him doing his best impression of a pole dancer. Groupon has food discounts, spa deals and lots of great stuff to do on the strip.
My group was seven chicks and two dudes and this was almost too many dudes. If you have a group of girls dressed up walking down the strip you will get invited to parties at nightclubs. Almost every club has a cover charge but if you walk around the strip I guarantee someone will invite you to a club free of charge and probably open bar too. But only for girls. The guys in our group had to pay $35 for just the cover and maybe one drink. You’d be better off going to Vegas with a group of girlfriends or at east more girls than guys, then you can barter with people and say you won’t go unless your guy friends get let in too. If the men in your group are rich then no worries.
Vegas was almost exactly what I thought it would be. Crazy street performers, an unfathomable amount of lights and parties every night. There were some days spent by the pool and a handful on the strip. I even won $50 on a slot machine so I came out ahead. I went to two clubs, XS at the Encore Beach Club and Koi at Planet Hollywood. XS was definitely more cinematic but my group had more fun at Koi where I experienced bottle service for the first time in my life! The only part of my Vegas experience that really surprised me was how many languages I heard. This shouldn’t’ve surprised me because over 40 million people from all over the world visit each year. I loved the experience and would definitely go back.
Next time I go I will try to stay on the strip or at a place with a free shuttle. I did almost everything I wanted to this time, I went to a club, gambled at a slot machine (it was my first time ever doing that), saw Old Vegas and went to a show. The only thing I didn’t get to do was crash a wedding. We couldn’t figure out where the chapels were and by the time we did they were closed. But that’s ok, because now I have an excuse to go back 😉