I STARED DOWN AT THE GOLF BALL atop its tee. My hands tightened around the grip of my club. I tried to recall the coach’s advice on how to actually hit this thing.
I swung my arms downward as fast as I dared. Thud! The club bit into the grass just shy of the tee. A total miss. I could feel the eyes of the seven other female veterans on me. “What am I doing here?” I muttered.
It was the same thought I’d had 20 years earlier when my unit landed in Saudi Arabia.
I’d joined the Army Reserve on a whim, looking to inject a little excitement into my life. The training exercises were one weekend a month. I was 35. Single. A phlebotomist at a hospital. I knew Reserve forces were the first to get the call if the U.S. were ever in a full-on war. But what was the chance of that? It was 1987. There hadn’t been any major military conflict since Vietnam. Besides, I imagined there’d be some kind of exemption for an older woman like me.
I made it through basic. My unit was the 350th Evacuation Hospital in Canton, Ohio. My job in radio communications was to deliver messages from combat units to hospital staffers. Our weekend exercises were only drills. Still, it felt good knowing my superiors put that kind of trust in me. I loved the challenge and the camaraderie with the other men and women in my unit.
Two years after I signed up, I met a guy I really liked. He thought it was cool that I was in the military, and we soon got married.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, not that I paid much attention. Seemed like those Middle Eastern countries were always fighting.
Just before Thanksgiving, I go