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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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military

Papa’s Bar – 297 word flash

When I was sixteen my Dad came home from deployment and announced he was going to retire at 20 and open a bar near the base. He wanted to convert an old house, keep the back yard and turn the front yard into parking. I remember Mom looking at him for a long moment before saying, “That’s a hard life and zoning could be a problem for that type of location. Will you ever be home in the evening?” For the next six months, once a week, we had a meal in a bar so he could check the competition.

I don’t remember if there were zoning problems when he found his old house. He had contractors gut the first floor and turn it into a homey, inviting space with long bar and commercial kitchen. The upstairs they opened up into a big family room, with dining area and even a double bed. They named the bar “Papa’s” which I thought was ridiculous. I didn’t know at the time my children would be the one’s eating in that family room and playing in the back yard if they wanted to see Papa when we came to visit.

Years later when my father died we got the following note in the mail:

To Papa’s family, The first time I entered Papa’s Papa introduced himself, asked my name and never forgot it. When I was homesick, that’s where I went, not to drink, but to chat with Papa about life and the military. He did the same for all who entered. He might not have been home with you, but he was there for us. I hope you know he served until the end. Thanks for sharing him.

My wife and I now run Papa’s. She knows everyone’s name.

 

Written in response to the prompt, papa’s bar, for Carrot Ranch Literary rodeo.

Second Chances -297 word flash

            As soon as Clay got in the house he went straight to his wheelchair, dropped his trousers and took off his prosthetic legs. “In my Army uniform, I stood during our wedding ceremony but I hope you understand if I don’t wear either again.”

            “Thank you for doing that. I’m beginning to get it,” Tessa said opening an unexpected gift from her mother. She revealed an intricate wood carving of a person struggling to claw his way up a crevice toward the light.

             “Does that mean something?” Continue reading “Second Chances -297 word flash”

Tribute to Military Pilots – Flash BOTS

An Air Force pilot friend shared: My crew and I were walking to our plane for a training run and stopped in our tracks when the base fire siren went off. We looked around and then up. Our hearts jumped into our throats when we saw a plane rushing the runway on fire. It hit with a huge explosion. We didn’t believe anyone could survive, but not all was lost, within minutes six airmen walked from the smoke. We learned the meaning of “any landing you walk away from is a good landing; some are just better than others.”

In response to Charli Mills June 21, 2018, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.” It can include recovery from disaster, an unexpected insight after a fall, or however the phrase moves you. Go where the prompt leads.

June 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

 

Unexpected News – Flash Fiction

January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.  https://carrotranch.com/2018/01/12/january-11-flash-fiction-challenge/

My offering follows:

With great excitement and anticipation I opened my son’s first letter since he had joined the Air Force. I expected personal news and an address. I got the opposite.

“I’m sure you don’t know, Dad told me to never come home again for enlisting without his blessing. I don’t think it’s safe to give you any contact information because he will force you to choose between him and me. I’m sorry.”

My sudden tears wet the ink. I realized any letters would have to be kept secret and I didn’t know if I would ever see my son again.

Learning Respect for the Flag

“I’m not coming home for a dumb parade to see Dad in a musty old uniform and carrying a flag that means nothing. I’m riding to D.C. for Memorial Day.”

“He fought for that flag.”

Weeks later. “I went to Bike Week in Lake George, NY, after I went to Rolling Thunder. I saw lots of bikes, boobs, and drunks. Not a good scene. On the other hand, only in D.C can 400,000 roaring bikes, lots of flags and tons of veterans be a reverent sight. I now understand Dad’s loyalty to the flag. I’ll be home next year.” Continue reading “Learning Respect for the Flag”

Freedom Isn’t Free

Every May 1 Americans honor the sacrifices of the combat wounded, ill and dying service members on Silver Star Service Banner Day. The history of the service banner dates back to 1917 or 1918, following the suggestions of Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses.  The use of Blue and Gold Star Service Banners was formally adopted into the United States Code and made official, leaving the Silver Star Service Flag overlooked.  A new Silver Star Service Flag and Banner were designed and were quickly accepted widely used throughout the United States. The United States House of Representatives passed H Res. 855, a stand-alone resolution on April 21, 2010, making the SSFOA Silver Star Service Banner official and making May 1 Silver Star Service Banner Day. {Courtesy National Day of Calendar}

I’m glad the U. S. as a whole has come to the conclusion that our service members should be recognized and thanked, whether we agree with the conflict they have been involved in or not. Why we are involved in a conflict is an argument to be taken up with our government. When a new military member raises their hand and says they will serve, they are expected to take orders and follow them without question. It isn’t their choice where they go or if they want to do what is expected of them. It is a sacrifice from the very beginning, family days no longer exist, and staying close to home is a rarity.

When a service member returns from assignment, or finishes their enlistment, they often come home with visible and invisible scars. It’s easy to recognize a facial scar, or missing limb. It’s not easy to recognize what they are now calling “brain trauma”. That refers to the emotional wounds from being involved in combat; what they had to do to survive, or what they saw happen right next to them. War is ugly, sometimes expectations in a non-war zone are just as ugly.

I share this in case you don’t have any personal connection to someone who has served in our military, in an attempt to educate. Our service members deserve recognition and that is what the Silver Star Service Banner Day is all about.

 

Thank a Veteran

Today is Veterans Day. I will be spending the evening with a special group of Veterans who are my personal friends. We belong to the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. Following is part of my portfolio that is on our web-sight page:

When we gather, we catch up on each other’s news and then write for about twenty minutes from a prompt sheet that gets our ideas forming. There are usually four prompts provided by one of our facilitators. After writing, each person reads aloud what he or she has written. Members of the group then offer constructive criticism on how to improve semantics. Suggestions are made for extending the piece into an essay, short story, or whatever. That’s the plan.

This is what really happens; most of us have chosen a prompt that requires a walk down memory lane: it can be a poignant memory with a good, or not so good, outcome while in the military; a humorous escapade from childhood or adult life; something a loved one did or experienced; a subject we feel strongly about and why; or sharing what losing a loved one feels like. After each person reads, the others acknowledge that the emotions shared are legitimate, worthy, and acceptable. The military brotherhood understands the range of feelings and the impact of PTSD. It’s a safe place to share. Personally, I always need my box of tissues; that’s just how I’m wired. Funny, I can talk about a situation, but when I read my own writing, I cry. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

The number that attends the group ebbs and flows. There can be as many as twelve people and sometimes only five. Most attendees have served in a branch (or two) of the U.S. military and others have close affiliations to a current or past military member. There are no rules other than to have a desire to write, share, and learn. And, it’s free.

Attending this group for over a year now has given me some remarkable gains — friends, understanding, and knowledge. I am part of the tribe and I belong.

My husband is a veteran, as is the father of my children. I pay close attention to the Veterans who are my Facebook friends and vote the way they do because I trust their judgement. They have paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. May I suggest, today and every day; Thank a Veteran.

Day of the Deployed and the Family too

National Day of the Deployed honors all of the brave men and woman who have been deployed, are sacrificing, or have sacrificed their lives to defend our country. The day also acknowledges their families who are separated from them during deployment and the sacrifices they make in order for their family members to serve our country.

WOW! A military recognition day that also honors the family left at home.  I’ve been in that position and it isn’t easy!  You function as a single parent the best you can (and get used to being in charge) then your spouse returns home, and thinks he is in charge.  It’s always an adjustment to relearn how to share the responsibilities of the family and household.  Today, it’s almost as common to have the Mom gone instead of the Dad.  I would guess that’s even more difficult if the separation is for a long time.

When my nephew was deployed during Dessert Storm, I sent him the Sunday comics each week.  I got more than one letter of thanks, and it is still mentioned at the holiday dinner table.  He laughs, “If I had been a drinking man, I would have charged rent on them.  As it was, there became a pecking order of who got to read them when I was finished.  They got passed along until they were tattered.”  Those funny papers were a touch of American life and home for the guys deployed.

I recently attended a church service where a young man was recognized before being deployed to Iraq the following week.  He told us he would be back in a year, if all went well.  I hate to admit, when we said good-bye to Dillon, we were all thinking, I hope you do come back.  It made sending him off a little harder to do.

These days the deployed can communicate much easier with home via cell phones and Skype.  I thought it would make deployment easier on both sides, but a good friend, a Captain in the Army, told me it makes it more difficult for some, because the parent at home shares all the troubles (car won’t start, mother-in-law didn’t send a birthday card, child is acting out because they don’t understand where Dad/Mom is) and the person deployed can’t do anything from so far away except feel guilty for not being there. As I said, it isn’t easy.

If you know someone who is deployed, may I suggest you take the time to send them a card or stop by their house and ask the family if they need something done.  I promise, they will appreciate knowing someone recognizes the sacrifice they are making for the U.S.A.

VFW or Coffee? Why Not Both?

September 29, is National VFW Day and National Coffee Day.  It was hard to choose which to write about, so I decided to do a little of both.

The VFW was established on September 29, 1899, by a group of veterans from the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. It has since grown to be the nation’s largest group of combat veterans. They continue “to honor the dead by helping the living.” The VFW promote patriotism, good will and youth scholarships. They also provide military assistance and community service programs, promote youth activities and volunteer many hours in their local communities.

VFW membership since its inception has been instrumental in the establishment of the Veterans Administration, the creation of the national cemetery system and passage of the GI Bill. Through the VFW, veterans honor veterans and serve their communities.  On National VFW Day, take a moment to recognize all the VFW does in your community.

I borrowed those two paragraphs from the National Day of calendar because I wanted to share the background of the organization and what it does.  The one common statement I keep hearing in the Veteran’s Writing group I attend is that the military is a brotherhood, in combat you take care of the guy next to you because you have to and he does the same for you.  People that have never served will never understand that brotherhood and when a military person leaves service that is often what they miss most, someone they can talk to that “gets it.”  The VFW provides that unified group working together for the good of others.  The American Legion is another brotherhood of veterans.  They have my utmost respect and you can bet they all stand at attention when the National Anthem is played!

On to coffee…before someone doth protest….American’s are obsessed with coffee, why do you think we have a Starbuck’s, Dunkin Donut’s, and Tim Horton’s on  every other corner. And we all know about McDonald’s extra hot coffee.  Personally, I make mine at home and take it with me.  I’d rather spend five dollars on a single serving of ice cream.  We all have our priorities.

May I suggest, to celebrate VFW Day and Coffee Day, you share a cuppa with a vet and say, thank you.

 

Freedom Isn’t Free

Currently there is a national push to thank our military personnel, past and present, for their service.  That’s a wonderful thing, because freedom isn’t free.  Sometimes it’s hard to understand why we have “boots on the ground” in some places we know little about.  Our government makes the decision where our troops go.  We don’t have to agree with that decision, but I ask that you support the troops regardless.

Have you ever noticed a small rectangular white flag in the window of a house in your neighborhood?  If that flag has a blue star in the middle it means an active duty military person calls that address home; one of the parents hung that flag with a feeling of pride.  If the flag has a gold star, it means the military member made the ultimate sacrifice with his or her life for the United States of America.

Think about that a minute and relate it to your own life.  Can you call, skype, text, or visit your child at will?  Some parents can’t.  They go to the cemetery and cry, shake their head with disbelief, and imagine the next holiday without their child in attendance.  Does the hurt of losing a child ever go away?  No.  It becomes tolerable over time because you learn to deal with it, but it never goes away.  (We buried a daughter, 13 years ago, when she was 27, after an auto accident; that’s how I know.)

We have many freedoms in this country that other countries do not enjoy.  Are we perfect? Far from it.  Probably never will be, but at least we don’t have a civil war tearing at us night and day like Syria does.  Be thankful for that.  Be thankful for the relative peace we do have.  Be even more thankful for the military that keeps us safe in ways we will never know about.  And the next time you see a little white rectangular flag in someone’s window say a silent prayer the blue star never gets replaced by a gold one; if it is already a gold one, remember, freedom isn’t free and that family has paid the price.

There are Gold Star Mother groups in many cities all over the country.  Visit   http://www.goldstarmoms.com    to find one near you.  They can help a parent deal with loss.

I wrote this from a parent’s point of view because that is what I am.  It can also be turned around that it is the child going to visit their parent in the cemetery.  Again.  Freedom isn’t free.

 

Pediatric Nurses Day

The picture has the correct name for this day; National Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses Day.  I truly hope no one in your family or circle of friends ever needs to get to know one of these very special people, but we know life isn’t always fair.

My daughter had major surgery when she was 3 1/2 to fix problems in her urinary tract.  I’m thankful it wasn’t cancer or a blood disorder.  Luckily she hasn’t needed more surgery as she ages.  That Doc did a great job.  Where, you might ask.  At Chanute Air Force Base Hospital in Rantoul, Illinois.  That was way back in 1978.  The base isn’t open anymore.

As a young mother, away from home, with two children and an Air Force husband, that was not an easy time in my life.  If you haven’t had any connection with a branch of the U. S. military, I will tell you they are a brotherhood.  In base housing, your neighbors are generally immediate friends, because they are away from home, just like you.  There is a bond produced by understanding that a military member’s life is not his/her own.  When the government of the country the member has signed their life away to, says jump. you jump.  It’s not a question, or a I’ll think about it, it’s how it is.  The families bond together just like the active duty members do because it’s necessary.  (I’m not complaining, just trying to explain.  I do digress.)

The nurses, techs, room cleaners, and doctors in a military hospital are all active duty military members, or they were in 1978, maybe it’s different now.  Anyway, I admire them highly.  Taking care of someone you can communicate with is one thing, caring for a baby is another.  Taking care of a child or teen that wants no part of a stranger can be trying too.  I have noticed that sick children seem to be calmer than non-sick.  My daughter’s surgeon said she didn’t feel good enough to be a brat, until he fixed her.  It was worth it.

I am an emotional person.  I cry at things in movies that others don’t even see as poignant. I cry when I’m happy, when I’m sad, and when I’m frustrated.  So, again, I admire any nurse that can care for a child, do their best, comfort the parent, then watch them walk out of their lives as quickly as they appeared.  Maybe it’s the quick come and go that makes it easier for them.  I couldn’t do their job without getting attached.

I’ll repeat, I pray you never have to know one of these caring, capable, super-human nurses.  I’m thankful they exist.

 

 

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