Beauty For The Brave

I was nineteen when I first enlisted in the United States Navy, not having the slightest clue of just how fundamentally such an action was going to change my life. The trip to boot camp is, as I remember it anyway, terrifying, a whole new world is just hours away, one that many people don’t get a glimpse of other than what is dramatized in movies. For me, I kept thinking of Full Metal Jacket, and on the plane ride over kept having these utterly horrific images of some crusty drill instructor barking in my face about how great the Virgin Mary is, or how fat I was.

It’s the kind of journey you take on your own, and in and of itself requires bravery. Whether you are going to Iraq or will serve onboard a Nuke Aircraft Carrier or just spend your entire military career riding a desk, there is still something special about raising your right hand before flag and country and pledging your life to the protection of your fellow citizens.

Boot camp was a harrowing experience, but not necessarily the piss and napalm horror story that Hollywood likes to project. You learn much there, and the first of it is comeradery. You are putting not just your life and well being but often times your sanity in the hands of people you didn’t even know the day before. I remember the guy whose bunk was next to mine, Samuels was his name, I remember that first week and the both of us didn’t think we were going to make it, and in a way we leaned on each other.

Second day he admitted to me, “I cried last night.”

“Yeah, me too. I wanna go home.”

And for the first week there, that was how we said goodnight to each other.

“You cryin’ tonight?”

“Bet your ass. Like a fuckin’ baby.”

A week later it was less of an admission and more of a joke. Two weeks in neither one of us could understand what the hell there was to cry about.

Military life is hard life no matter where you go. Even boot camp. Our division started out with I want to say upwards of eighty people, we finished with barely sixty. Some were filtered out early on, popping positive for marijuana usage, or caught up in medical screenings. But some just couldn’t cut it. Some guys were crying long into the second month before a way was finally found to get them out of there, others were discharged based on a “Refusal to Train” clause. I can’t remember the exact wording or location for the legality, but basically if you absolutely refuse to follow any and all orders, you just found yourself a ticket out.

But not before someone finds a way to make life hell for you.

It was at the end of bootcamp that I learned another valuable lesson that I keep with to me this day. See, the last weekend you spend in basic training is called “Liberty Weekend.” It starts off with an impressive graduation ceremony where you and your shipmates march in formation, and the next two days you are allowed to leave the confines of the base for the first time since arriving at boot camp. Often times family flies out to see their newly transformed sailors.

I wasn’t sure. Everyone I ever knew in my life and cared about lived in California, and Boot Camp was in Great Lakes Illinois, right outside Chicago. I wasn’t sure anyone would come out to see me, but as it turned out, my grandmother, my mother and my then girlfriend (who over ten years later I call my wife) flew out.

Shrugging off my drill instructor’s incessent begging to allow him to take my mother out for a night on the town, I relished in spending two days with some of the people I love most in this world, and then and there I learned the healing powers of that love and support.

Later, when I was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, I would be reminded of the power of family. Going on a six month deployment, my wife was there for me when I left, in a rather teary goodbye in the middle of the night, and she was standing on the pier waiting for me when I finally came home in the summer of the year 2000.

Family is an important part of all of our lives. It’s where you came from , and for many of us, it’s how you get by, maybe not on a day to day basis, but week to week, or month to month. But it is particularly important for members of the military.

I was blessed. I joined the Navy and while I did plenty of sea time, we only came close to seeing action once, and the mission was called off at the last minute, passed on to the carrier that came after us. But even in my relatively safe capacity, my loved ones were a source of nourishment for me. The letters from my parents and my wife could sustain me (along with the wrestling tapes which became something of a fad for us during that 2000 cruise), lift my spirits, and remind me that no matter how bad things seemed to be, I was only so many days from being reunited with those that made my life richer.

But I realize that my service was easy. On average, a hundred soldiers die a month in Iraq, and even more are seriously injured. I’ve been to the Middle East under better conditions, it’s hot, the culture is strange, and everything is alien. For the brave men and women over there now, they not only have to contend with what I dealt with, but also now the everpresent reality of being killed or maimed.

And for the lucky ones that do make it home alive, but not well, even when they return to American soil, they still have a long road ahead of them before they can establish a sense of normalcy to their lives.

It is for this reason that we at Comments From Left Field have decided to support the “Beauty for the Brave” campaign. 100% of the proceeds go to Fisher House which is an organization that builds homes outside of military hospitals so that family members can have a place to stay free of charge while their loved one receives treatment for injuries incurred while serving overseas.

Me, I don’t know if I could have fulfilled my time in the service without the support of the people I call family, and I had it easy. Imagine coming back from Iraq, no legs, or an arm missing, learning how to walk again, or how to reenter life as left handed when you have been a right hander for all of your life.

Now imagine doing it alone.

That is the kind of scenario that Fisher House seeks to avoid, and I for one support them completely.

The Beauty for the Brave campaign (which you can reach also by clicking on the banner off to the left) is simple. It merely asks women to point out one beauty product that they use on a regular basis, and go without once. Lipstick, moisturizer, anything. Skip it for just one shopping trip, and instead use the money to donate instead.

Michael Grossman, advocate and part of the Beauty for the Brave drive, emailed me this morning and what appears to be a seemingly small sacrifice on an individual basis has resulted in a surprisingly good return, reaching a third of their goal in only a short period of time. He asked if we would help, and after talking with Mike, here we are.

So I personally ask you, for our female readers, just go look up your favorite lotion, check the price, donate, and skip it next time you go shopping, it’s that easy, and trust me when I say that there could hardly be a better use for that money. As it stands, even though I don’t qualify as a woman, I’ll overlook that little inconsistancy in order to donate the ten dollars that it takes to purchase my favorite hair goop. I’ll probably wrangle Mrs. M to trade up on lotion, too, it’s not like she doesn’t have about twenty bottles of the stuff lying around anyway.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for reading this, and hopefully, you’ll find it in you to contribute to the campaign. My personal opinion, you could support the troops by putting a yellow magnet on your car (that was probably made in China), or you could actually support the troops.

Thank you.

UPDATE (Mikey T.): I would just like to add one thing. It is fine that we are supporting this cause and asking you to do so as well but for these things to really become viral it requires a little push by each and every one of you. With that in mind, please take a moment to click the button to the left and spread the word about Beauty for the Brave to your friends and family.

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