Publications for Linda Adams

Published November 28, 2013 by Linda Maye Adams

If you’re interested in my publications, please visit my publication list on my website.  I’ve identified stories that about Women at War and Women Veterans.  Enjoy!

Cover for Red, White, andTrue

Cover for Red, White, and True

Also,  if you’re interested in more veteran experiences, check out Red, White, True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present.  This is a collection of stories from veterans, including my story, “War Happens.”  The book comes out in August, 2014, but you can preorder it.  Is that an awesome cover?

Rabbit on the Army Menu

Published August 20, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

I was surprised to hear on the radio today that Whole foods decision to sell rabbit is such a big deal.  It’s even getting protests.

The reason I’m surprised is because rabbit has been on the Army’s master menu.  I don’t know if it still is, but it definitely was in the early 1990s.  Now, if you know anything about how the government works, deciding what went on this menu would have gone through many hands and been vetted and changed before anyone down the chain saw it.  The fact that rabbit wound up on the menu probably means that it’s popular in the places most of the soldiers came from (possibly also that it was popular at the time the menu was created, but the Army hadn’t gotten around to changing it!).

One of my additional duties was to be on the Dining Facility Council.  I ate in the Mess Hall, so I was happy to make suggestions to my eating would improve.  At the time, we had a mess sergeant was actually pretty receptive.  I suggested adding cream cheese for the bagels, and it was in the Mess Hall for breakfast in a few weeks.  He also mentioned the master menu the Army had, so I was curious and asked to see it.

That’s how I found out rabbit was on the menu, alongside of the Chili Mac and Breaded Veal.  Granted, I had never seen it served in the Fort Lewis Mess Halls.  I also wasn’t about to do any food experimenting if it was made in an Army mess hall.  I still remember Southern food day.  They’d gotten a new mess sergeant, and she thought to make all Southern food for dinner.

What she didn’t think about was that some types of food are an acquired taste.  Like pigs feet, which was the main course.

They ran out of hot dogs and hamburgers.

I imagine the same thing would have happened if they’d tried serving rabbit.

Desert Storm Started the Conversation about Women at War

Published August 18, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

When I went to a science fiction convention a few years ago, Janine Spendlove, who is active duty Marine, was telling a story about a discussion she had with a male officer. All the men are referred as Marines. All the women are referred to as female Marines.

Never as Marines.

It was a constant reminder that women were there, but we weren’t quite part of the organization — and this is a place where teamwork is drilled into our heads. The army could kind of ignore us and that we were different.

But when Desert Shield started the build up that would eventually become Desert Storm and a war with Iraq over Kuwait, suddenly people started noticing that there were women deploying. Whoops!

Forty thousand women deployed, the largest deployment of women to war at that point. I remember seeing a lot of news articles, mostly about mothers who were leaving their children behind.  Mother’s deploying!  Leaving children behind!  There was a lot of hand wringing about this.

Maybe it’s me, but we were all soldiers, and there were some of us who were leaving children behind. The children are still affected, whether it’s a mother or a father. I left parents and grandparents behind, like some of my fellow single soldiers, and it affected them, too. War is one of those things where it has a huge reach and affects people who aren’t even there.

A former soldier on a blog post elsewhere said that the military treats men like they’re disposable. I think that’s true in a sense. The soldier is a tool, and as as long as the tool is working right, the military’s happy. Women, however, did not elevate up to the role of tool. It was, in a way, like someone had ordered them to use these tools, but they didn’t really want to. So we ended up being a tool when they wanted us to be one, and when they didn’t, we were, well, this group that no one quite knew what to do with.

Women couldn’t be in combat. Yet, we were going to combat. And, in the case of Desert Storm, two women were captured.

One of the issues of the law that “prevented” women from being in combat was that they could be side by side with the men, have the same risks, but not be able to earn any of the medals. In the army promotion system at the time (though I suspect it hasn’t changed much), it was done by a point system for your occupation. The points would have times where they would drop, and if you had enough points, you were promoted. The medals were worth so many points, so when the women were excluded from earning them, they ended up losing out on the promotion opportunities as well. The officer promotions are different, but those medals also count in important ways.

So that put the women in the position of being ordered to do what was needed like the men, but not getting the same opportunities. Desert Storm’s new face on war brought that out, and it continued to be a focus during the two wars that followed. It’s only now — 24 years later — that we’re starting to see opportunities for women open up.

The video that inspired this: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365247457/

Desert Storm: The hazards of preparing for deployment

Published August 11, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

One of the challenges for my army unit during the mass build up that would become Desert Storm was that we didn’t know if we were going or not. I’m on a Desert Storm mailing list, and one of the veterans asked when we were notified, and i had to say that no one ever came out and said, “You’re leaving on XX date.” It simply happened, as a natural, logical conclusion on the process.

We would be preparing for deployment for about three months with this not knowing. I’m not sure if it would have been easier if we had a date or leaving it to the unknown. An actual date would have brought in the anticipation as we approached. Yet, as we did get closer, the rumor mill churned out that there was indeed a date. But it was also constantly shifting, so maybe that’s why no one told us anything. I think a shifting date would have been the worst of the three choices because I would have readied myself for that date, and and then it wouldn’t have happened, and I would have had to go through it all over again for the new date.

Every day was spent in some form of preparation. Getting supplies ready, making sure we had wills done, getting shots, and, of course, training. It was constantly wearing on us, almost like a river flowing down stream that eats steadily at the rocks on the shoreline.

The women soldiers couldn’t really have a reaction to this stress. If we had tried to relieve the stress — if that was even possible — in ways that women tend to, the men soldiers would have sneered at us for being weak.

There’s a scene in the most famous of Star Trek episodes, The City on the Edge of Forever, which kind of sums it up. The crew that beamed down to the planet has just found out that Dr. McCoy somehow changed the past and the Enterprise simply no longer exists. They’re effectively stranded unless they can fix the problem.

Uhura has the following line of dialogue: “Captain, I’m afraid.” (Sorry, I couldn’t quite get a clip of her saying this, but occurs right after this scene.)

If we even said anything like this, most of the men would have taken it and exaggerated it to point where we sounded like we were the most incompetent people, as proof women were not competent of doing anything men could do.

The men tended to express their fears one of two ways:

  1. They strutted around with a tough guy facade and proclaimed, “I’m going to kill me some (OMITTED).”
  2. They played soccer and football.

The later was done during physical training in the morning, and the men soldiers got very aggressive during the games. The games were actually pretty violent, and the women learned to stay out of the way. I still had to participate because it was physical training, but I had no desire to be squished flat. I went down to the end of the field to be the goalie, where it was at least somewhat safer because most of the action happened on the middle of the field.

The games got so aggressive that one soldier broke his toes during pool volleyball! Another sprained his ankle on the playing field, and a tackle broke the leg of another, making him non-deployable.

But women had no such stress reliever. We were simply expected to suck it up and drive on and pretend like we weren’t who we actually were. Like I said, the Army had no idea what to do with us.

Writing About Desert Storm: Red, White, and True Anthology

Published August 4, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

Cover for Red, White, andTrue

Cover for Red, White, and True

This month, my story “War Happens” comes out in the anthology Red, White, & True. I wrote the story for this back in 2012, and it went through something like four revisions. Considering the amount of revision I had to do, I was amazed it got accepted in the first place!

The original version was 1,500 words, and the final version was over 3,000. Part of it was that Tracy Crow kept saying to go deeper. That part was really hard for me. I hadn’t really written about the war like that before, and there are places I still don’t want to venture.

But I’d thought about writing about war. It’s like I wanted to purge myself of the poison of whatever war is. But I was still in the army at the time, and they wouldn’t have done too well if I’d wrote about the not so good sides of war. But fiction, I was safer. Put in a fantasy world, and it wasn’t real, except in the story.

That caused me to veer into quite dark territory in my fiction writing, and I was completely unaware of it. By dark, usually things were resolved for the main character, but not overall in the story. Like in a recent science fiction story that just got rejected again, the army decided to experiment with making soldiers cyborgs. One of the characters volunteered, and then couldn’t get out of it when things didn’t work the way she wanted. The army was disappointed with the volunteer rates and decided to order everyone to do it. The first sergeant gives all his soldiers an “out” before they’re forced to do this, and the main character is able to escape, but the army was still doing the experiment.

That’s a lot of the way I felt as a private. Mission first, private second to last, and woman soldier last. Because sometimes something would happen, and the results wouldn’t be right, and all you could do was accept it. In the last months before I transferred from Fort Lewis, we had a terrible platoon sergeant. She was so bad that it was going to be either the transfer or I would get out. In a job, you could quit and go somewhere else. In the army, you’re stuck.

And the first sergeant thought it was a big joke, that she really wasn’t that bad. So he didn’t do anything, and all of us suffered in frustration and anger. My own squad leader (who I was older than at that point) would come back from meetings with the platoon sergeant and take her anger out on me. Not cool. But she was in charge, and I really couldn’t say anything.

It wasn’t until all the sergeants got fed up and mutinied against the platoon sergeant that something was finally done. The sergeants had been plotting and documented everything, and the platoon sergeant was gone.

I think in my writing, I’d sort of been dancing around this darkness. But once I had to write “War Happens,” I dove right into it. The story was about a friendship that was destroyed by the war, and I wrote it in one sitting.

I remember when the first request came back for editing, I thought I knew the place she was talking about. I went in and fixed it, thought all was well. Then Tracy came back again and wanted more about the experience. At that time, I had just taken a workshop in writing where my strengths were analyzed (workshop was discontinued after three sessions, but is coming back in a different form). One of the things I found out was that I entirely left setting out of my stories. So this time, when the revisions were supposed to go deeper, I understand instantly what they were looking for and what the story wasn’t doing.

But it was so hard actually doing it. There was a part of me that didn’t want to wreck the original story and what I’d done with it. But there was another part of me that was dragged into kicking and screaming, because it was much safer for me not to go into that much detail. Details meant more of the experience — both to the reader, and to me, and I tapped into things that I’d forgotten, sometimes willingly.

The deadline was tighter, too. I dropped everything else and worked on only it for an entire I think. It was exhausting writing it, and I was never more grateful to look at it and realize I was done. Then I noticed it had doubled in size!

It had also changed quite drastically (I’m an organic writer, so this is common when I write). So that little devil popped onto my shoulder and suggested that I might have changed it too much, because it was still like the original and not like the original. I plopped into an email, pretended like my head wasn’t screaming “You screwed it up!” and sent it. Everyone was happy with it. Only minor edits to clean stuff up after that.

Earlier this year, I had a review done of my writing, which is different from a critique. I’d had one done before, but this time, everyone told me I was writing really dark. I knew instantly that goes back to being in Desert Storm. I’m now now working on shifting my writing to be lighter and happier.

War has a very curious legacy.

Book Information:

Red, White, and True: Stories from Veterans and Families, World War II to Present

Edited and with an introduction by Tracy Crow

Available from Amazon

Follow on Facebook

Even as we celebrate the return of our military from wars in the Middle East, we are becoming increasingly aware of the struggles that await veterans on the home front. Red, White, and True offers readers a collection of voices that reflect the experiences of those touched by war—from the children of veterans who encounter them in their fathers’ recollections of past wars to the young men and women who fought in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The diversity of perspectives collected in this volume validates the experiences of our veterans and their families, describing their shared struggles and triumphs while honoring the fact that each person’s military experience is different.

Leila Levinson’s powerful essay recounts her father’s experience freeing a POW camp during World War II. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tracy Kidder provides a chilling account of being a new second lieutenant in Vietnam. Army combat veteran Brooke King recounts the anguish of raising her young children by day while trying to distinguish between her horrific memories of IED explosions in Baghdad and terrifying dreams by night.

These individual stories of pain and struggle, along with twenty-nine others, illustrate the inescapable damage that war rends in the fabric of society and celebrate our dauntless attempts to repair these holes with compassion and courage.

Summer, Mirages, and Dog Periscopes in Los Angeles

Published August 2, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

When I hear flip-flops, I always think of summer, and Southern California.  As scary as it sounds, when I was growing up, we didn’t initially have air conditioning.  So it was leave open the front door, leave closed the screen door, and crank open all the windows.  Didn’t help much though.  Hot is hot in California.  Even in Virginia, with the humidity as bad as it is today, isn’t the same as August in California.

I’d walk around the asphalt playground and feel the heat rising off it around my shins and calves.  Then, the city sometimes patched cracks in the street with tar.  When the summer sun hit it, it always smelled like the tar had just been laid down a few minutes ago.  Hot enough to melt.

From the backseat of the car, I’d see the heat rising off the cars on the freeway.  It wasn’t actually visible, but it made the air waver above the cars, sort of like what steam does.  Sometimes the heat would cause mirages, too.  Mostly, I would see them on the road ahead, looking like a layer of water sitting on the surface, until we reached it.  I was reminded of this yesterday when I watched a Smithsonian special on the Titanic.  Think of it as a layer cake.  You take a slice out and you can see these layers.  The layers are the different temperatures of the layers of air.  For Titanic’s area, they layers were cold, and Los Angeles was, of course, hot.

I haven’t seen a mirage since I left Los Angeles.  I hadn’t thought about that until I watched the special.

Summer also turns everything yellow and brown in Los Angeles.  With the draught now, it’s even more so:

Dry brush at the roadside, brown and yellow

I took this back in February. I was a passenger in the car, so someone else was driving.  The fence is to keep falling rocks off the road.

 

I used to joke that my father never needed to mow the lawn.  He just let it grow tall in the backyard and then die when the summer came.   It was so tall that our min-pin Bubbles had to take a leap with each step to see where she was going.  Snoopy, who was a lot older, wiser, and often cranky, would just forge ahead in the grass, his curling tail poking up like a periscope.  He always knew exactly where he was going, even though he couldn’t see it.

Of course, that yard was great for adventuring for us kids.  When we first moved into the house, I forged through it myself, looking for treasures.  I found this piece of concrete with crystals set into it — crystals was what I called it at the time.  It was some kind of quartz in a yellowish-white.  I also found, curiously, blue beads in the exact shade that was my favorite color.  Maybe one of the reasons I like turquoise is because it was so much the opposite of the colors I grew up with!

From The Daily Prompt

Time for another Odd Trio prompt: write a post about any topic you want, in whatever form or genre, but make sure it features a slice of cake, a pair of flip-flops, and someone old and wise.

Desert Storm: We’re going to war — wait! You’re a woman!

Published July 28, 2014 by Linda Maye Adams

By the time we hit two weeks into Desert Shield, the army started to figure out there might be some special challenges.  Saudi Arabia is pretty well-known for its view of women.  The women are not allowed to drive, and yet, we were a transportation unit with women drivers, so we would be coming into direct conflict with that.  So it was off for more training.

The women soldiers were sent to a nearby post auditorium, where we barely filled the first two rows. There were not a lot of us in our battalion. We were a mix of Caucasian, Black, a few Hispanic, and two Native Americans. I sat in the second row with a friend.

A male staff sergeant — that’s a platoon sergeant rank — walks in. He was Arab, and his distaste for women soldiers was really evident. His jaw was set and his eyes were flashing. His tone bordered on confrontational, and at times, it seemed like he wanted to pick a fight with us.

He was likely one of the few Arab soldiers on the post and was ordered to brief us. He did his duty, but he didn’t want to. But that’s part of being in the army. You don’t choose which orders you want to follow (anyone remember the film A Few Good Men and Tom Cruise’s cross examination of one of the officers?).

Some of the things he told us included:

  • Showing our forearms was obscene. After the briefing, I rushed out and bought two long-sleeved shirts for my off-time. Believe it or not, I didn’t have any! I’m from Southern California, and I simply never wore anything long-sleeved.
  • He also told us that suggestive book covers were off-limits, too. I leaned over and whispered to my friend, “There go your romance novel covers.”
  • If we met the eyes of a Saudi male, we would be struck.

As I write about this briefing, though, I wonder how much of the briefing was the sergeant’s opinion, or if the army was completely clueless about what the women might encounter. Maybe a little bit of both.

It was quite frightening to think about how easy it would be to make a mistake that could be disastrous — and all simply by being American women. I came away from the briefing afraid of encountering Saudi men at all — not exactly instilling confidence as the army intended!

But one piece of “training” that was absent was equal opportunity. The classes were required, but largely covered racism, not sexual harassment and were for lawyers to say “We checked the box.” The army did not teach the men how to serve with women.

The Huffington Post published an article on Why Your Daughters Need Science Fiction.  It’s about science fiction, but parts could be about the army, too:

Because girls are excluded and discouraged from [geek culture at] an early age, boys within this culture do not learn how to relate to girls and women as part of their peer group.

This creates all kinds of problems including discrimination, a condescending attitude and sexual harassment / sexual violence problems within both the scientific and science fiction communities.

Like science fiction, women were excluded from some military jobs. By Congressional Law, they could not participate in front line combat. That, in turn, created companies where men had absolutely no exposure to women and did not socialize with them beyond have girlfriends or relatives. Those men also served in companies with women.

Add to that young male soldiers who grew up only socializing with women in the context of dating and looking at women as they are portrayed in the media. It’s no wonder that the military is still having problems with sexual harassment of women soldiers 24 years later. They’re still stuck in the mindset of training, but they aren’t fixing the actual problem. And war has a way of getting inside the cracks and making things worse.

%d bloggers like this: