October marks the 25th anniversary of when I deployed to Desert Storm. My company deployed from then Fort Lewis, Washington, to Saudi Arabia on October 28, 1990. This month also was the 25th Anniversary Reunion Cruise in the Caribbean.
For the months leading up to the cruise, I had a surprising amount of anxiety about it, because some really not so good things happened during the war. People put under so much stress show who they truly are, and sometimes that’s not a good thing. I had a friend who self-destructed under the pressures of war, and all I could was watch as it happened.
One of the things I’ve heard over and over is people asking, “Why don’t you talk about the war?” to veterans, not really understanding what the veteran is hearing. I think they’re asking “What was it like?”—which is why I wrote Soldier, Storyteller.
What the veteran is hearing is that they have to tell some of the stories—and all of us have at least one—where things got beyond bad. I don’t think it’s something where you can really talk about it and “get over it,” because it’s so far off the end of the scale of comprehension.
So going into the cruise, I kept wondering how touching this part of my past was going to affect me.
The pieces sort of started coming together once I got my passport. It was off to the travel clinic to get shots (you can tell Washington, DC has a lot of overseas travel. We actually have a travel clinic at a local hospital!). I got a typhoid shot and one for hepatitis. Target was having a good time of it because I had a prescription for malaria medication, which must be a bit odd!
The cruise had a way of getting people talking. I was telling the pharmacist at Target about it, because he’d never been, and afterward, he was thinking of going.
After that, addressing the formal wear. We had two formal nights on the cruise, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never done formal wear before, so it was highly likely that I wouldn’t get it right. I’ve always had a problem with dressing up because when I was growing up, my main source of clothes was hand me downs from my aunt and the thrift shop (on my own allowance). We weren’t poor, but rather the person who did the driving had a very skewed view of shopping. He thought that you should be able to walk into a store like a surgical procedure: Pick the clothes off the shelf and buy them. Otherwise, he didn’t want anything to do with it.
Yeah, try that with women’s clothes where none of the sizing is standardized.
Because of my flat feet, I also can’t wear any heels—do you realize that leaves out about 99% of women’s shoes of all kinds? I had visions of being turned away like the women at the awards ceremony, who wore flats with their elegant gowns. I was going to be wearing sandals that looked like tennis shoes.
I found cocktail pants that were in chiffon, some silver jewelry, and used a blouse I already had. I figured they’d hide the shoes. I saw comments on blogs that the cruise ship staffs have turned people away, but try not to unless it’s too much too casual.
I packed two bags, one standard suitcase and a small carry on. Then it was off to Galveston, Texas for the first day of the reunion, and the first cruise ship sighting: