What I left behind

A list of things I left behind when I left the Army.

218205_1554589639473_4580361_oMost weeks I get the opportunity to tell young nurses or CNAs about my medical background.

I tell them while they fill out a short paper with their demographics that they do not have to look up and to just listen. I explain my role here at the hospital of reviewing and correcting payroll, ordering supplies, and the basic administrative roll of two inpatient units. I tell them I am a mother of a son at home and a girl on the way. I tell them that before I was all of that I served in the Army for ten years. I worked in Baghdad Emergency Room for over a year and my second deployment I was a manager of an outpatient clinic. I tell them that I have seen, smelt, IVed, sutured, splinted, scrubbed, and wiped it all. I tell them that when they have questions, they do not have to dumb things down for me (after all, I have seen more trauma in one month in Baghdad than most of them in their entire careers) but assure them that my scope has been limited to acute care and that they doing something I vowed never to do: do inpatient care.

I separated from the military because my contract was over and I was tired. Yes, I was half way to retirement, but by that time my son was one and I really just hated that he had to share me. That my husband had to share me. That as long as I wore a uniform, they would always come second.

Here is a list of things I left behind when I left the Army. Some good, some bad, but I do not regret it for a second.

  1. Structure This is something everyone at work will say I never left behind. I might not have left it out of what I can control, but it is the lack of structure everywhere else that is missing. Core Values are no longer universal. Schedules are not honored. Integrity is not something most people have. There is no check and balance process either. If something fails, then it fails, and it is not only okay but acceptable.
  2. Patient Care I am so done with patient care. Not that I am inhumane, or lack compassion. It is the opposite. When I was younger, I gave so much of myself that at the end of the day there was nothing left. I had no boundaries and I would never say no. When I wore the uniform, it was my duty to never say no. I followed orders. Today, I find a healthy medium in helping those who help others. I finally let my EMT certification expire without the intent to renew ever. I will never touch a patient as a healthcare provider again, but I will do the shit out of some paperwork.
  3. Being Publicly Naked or Watching People Pee This might seem strange to begin with, but seriously, nothing is sacred. If the showers are only open for 30 minutes and 40 women need to share 8 stalls, you just make stuff happen. The only other place this occurs is probably prison. I have no intentions on ever visiting. As for the pee, to ensure that women do not cheat on urinalysis, one must physically watch urine leave the body and land into a cup. This is the ONLY way to make sure. There is no way to get around how awkward the whole situation is for all parties involved. *shudders*
  4. Sexual Harassment This could be its own post. And maybe I have just grown out of it in age and dress size, but the atmosphere of the military harbors a sexual humor that can easily be abused. Some guys went to college and raped people, others joined the military. Some are famous comedians, others are colonels. I am happy to say that where I work now, these things are not as prevalent.  That and as I have matured, I speak up more and louder than ever that these things are never okay.
  5. Sense of Team My boss is my boss. My coworkers are coworkers. They call me when they need something and for the most part I stay in my office and say hi in passing. Since I am not a nurse, and do not share similar personal or professional goals as most of them, I am not so much a part of that team. If i was in a different state and some one was wearing a t shirt of the organization I work, I would not feel comfortable approaching that person. We never worked together. Its a big facility. We probably have nothing in common. But when I go somewhere away from home and see someone in a uniform, there is instantly the sense of trust and commonality. I can look at their sleeves and know where they have been. I know that if something were to go down in that particular place and time, that we could communicate in a way to save as many people as possible. That is what we do. Most people do not have this in their blood. To us, it is second nature.
  6. A Forced Body Standard This is a love hate relationship. I lack the discipline to workout consistently on my own and I know that. I also know that I do not have the stress of meeting any kind of BMI standards and do and eat whatever I want. I miss being fit and being good at running. I do not miss doing it. Too sorry that I am not sorry.
  7. Not owning ANYTHING In the military, you do not own your house, time, family, car, phone, sleep, food, I could go on forever. You own nothing. Everything about your life is subject to inspection at the drop of a dime. I have had to inspect people’s homes for cleanliness. I’ve had to meticulously comb personal budgets and set up payment plans for their debts. I have served people divorce papers. I have even personally and physically removed children from their home and placed them in protected custody. I hold no degree or formal licensing to do any of these things, but as a 20 something year old leader, I was deemed the guiding voice of reason for my subordinates. Let someone come into my house and tell me to take out my own trash. I now have the freedom to tell someone where they can stick that trash and remove them from my home. Doing that under military contract is a good way to lose about 1/2 of your pay for two months. Oh, you do not even own the money you work for.

There are various reasons why people stay. Medical benefits and retirement are HUGE factors in today’s economy. Job security is kind of iffy and depending on who you vote for is extremely uncertain. I really do not lose any sleep knowing where I am now is where I am supposed to be and where I am going is far from the life I knew.

In 8 short weeks, I will have a daughter. If my mother’s curses prevail, she will be exactly like me. This is terrifying. As terrifying as my mother sending her little girl off to war. TWICE. I can only hope that I can teacher what I have learned through my life in a way she can respect and appreciate, because one day she will leave me behind to fight her own wars.


Dacia Arnold is an author that struggles to find a balance of work, motherhood, marriage, writing, and the occasional craft. Her first full length novel, Apparent Power, is in the works to be released December 2018. Dacia served 10 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and deployed twice to Iraq and often incorporates these experiences into her writings both fiction and non-fiction. She currently lives in Denver, Co with her husband, two children, and a fat beagle named Watson.

Reader Comments

  1. Wow, very honest response. But I say kudos for leaving and putting your family before the military. I wish more would have that realization and act on it. Congratulations on your baby girl! Blessings.

  2. I have never served, but many of my family have: my grandfather and my husband’s grandfathers in WWII and the Korean War/Vietnam in the Army, my uncle in the Marines, my brother and his fiance in the Army. I have a deep respect for what they have done–and I know that I could NEVER do it. I also know that many of them do not even try to explain to me what it felt like serving. They just don’t think I could understand. Thank you for shedding some light into some of the experiences you had.

  3. I was never in the military, but I was a military wife for eight years. We had two children while he served, and we spent a lot of time apart. I saw many young wives leave their husbands because they could not endure the separation. I’ve seen navy wives go to the bar on the base as soon as their husband’s ship set sail, to hook up with a guy just coming ashore. It broke my heart. A common sentiment in the military is: “if we wanted you to have a wife/family, we would have issued you one.”
    I am thankful that I had our children to keep me occupied during his absences, and the wives of some of the officers were a great source of comfort and understanding.

Leave a Reply to Cynthia Guenther Richardson Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: