I had this whole post that I was gonna run today about rejection. It was a great post, but something happened that made me pull the post. Nothing bad, just a little perspective on life. I thought that if y’all would let me tell you about what happened to me Sunday morning I’d explain why rejection isn’t that big of a deal. It’s a little long, but I wanted to give you most of the story.
I went into town on Sunday to buy dog treats. Usually, my husband would, but he was a little busy at post participating in the Bataan Death March. (It’s a little 26.2 miles march around White Sands Missile Range in remembrance of the boys and men from the area that died and survived a force march by the Japanese on 6 April 1942. Full military gear, with really heavy packs. It’s all day since they aren’t exactly running, but marching,those 26.2 miles.)
Anywho, there I was in town and I decided to stop by Starbucks. (Caffeine-free, people! I know I’m pregnant.) This older gentleman came over and asked me if I was pregnant. I said I was, and he motioned out to my car and mentioned he noticed my Air Force plates. Yeah, my hubby’s Air Force. (This is usually when I start getting a little nervous.) He mentioned he wouldn’t hold it against me, he was Army National Guard. I’d already bought my coffee, but he asked if I had time to talk to an old man. He just mentioned he was Guard. Tell me how a military wife says “no” to any old soldier?
It was a nice windy Southern New Mexico day yesterday, so of course we sat outside. He got this far off look in his eyes and mentioned he had just come from the post. He was there to help start the march. This perked my historian heart. A quick trip to my car later, and I was set with pen and journal. Do tell me more? The old man chuckled and shook his head. He was in town for the ceremonies surrounding the Bataan Death March. Roughly 69 years ago today he and his buddies were in the original march in the Pacific. And I meant to take notes, but I was drawn into his story.
The stories of men being left to die because it was either him or his buddy. The tales of helping support each other through the long walk, each step almost making him give up. The dreams of his girl back home, who would leave him while he was a prisoner of war for another man. And I was there in his world. I could taste the bile, and feel the hunger. Yep, captive audience who thought it was a lot better than the silly ol’ movie they showed at the post’s theater last night. (Which was a great movie, but Benjamin Brat on the silver screen isn’t the same as sitting in front of someone who lived through the events.)
Anywho, a couple of hours and another frappacino later, and the old man smiled over at me. The far away stayed in his eyes as he talked about meeting a nurse and semi-settling down in just enough time to fight another war. He was career military, and his wife stayed beside him. She raised their kids while he left her. He talked about her death, and he told a story he loved about standing in the commissary (our version of the grocery store) trying to remember how his wife made his favorite dish. Some young woman came over and offered to help. By time they checked out, she offered to make his favorite dish that night. He went to her house, only to find out when her husband wrote later that her husband had just returned from Iraq two days prior and it was their anniversary. But both the young woman and her soldier husband were grateful to share their anniversary with a hero.
He shook his head as he told me he wasn’t a hero. After he asked if this was my first, he obviously noticed it wasn’t the first pregnancy. We talked for a bit about my miscarriages and tubal pregnancy while my husband was places I couldn’t call him up. We talked about the lonely nights, and the time my truck broke down in the middle of a move without my husband. (That shop never did give my truck back.) We talked about me moving, only to have my husband leave a week later. We discussed the medical problems I’ve had with this pregnancy, away from family.
As we went to leave, he walked me to my car. Then he snapped his heels together and saluted me. He shook my hand, called me a hero, and thanked me for my service to my country. He claimed military spouses are just as much heroes as their spouses. I’m not huge on hugs, but I couldn’t let a hero like that go away with a hug and my thanks. He walked towards a car a little bit down the parking lot.
A young woman walked over to me, her hand held out. She looked me in the eyes and thanked me for taking the time to listen and talk to her grandfather. Then, she pointed to the sticker on my car and the license plates before she said she was so sorry for me. Air Force and stationed at an Army post. She was attached to an Army unit on one of her tours overseas. And she walked after her grandfather before I could say much.
I start querying agents in a week. Saturday the nerves were bad. Saturday, my world revolved around getting an agent and being published. Saturday, I looked in the closet and rolled my eyes at the uniforms on the floor that the greyhound turned into bedding. Saturday, I just knew a rejection letter would cut me deeply.
Isn’t it funny what a difference a day can make? Yesterday for a few hours the idea of querying agents was as far from my mind as it’s ever been. And if the old man can survive the horrors he survived, I think the rejections are the least of my worries. It’ll still sting, but they aren’t worth the tears before they show up, or even after they show up in my mail box.
That old man gave me something I can never repay him for; perspective on life.
For more information on the Bataan Death March, the history & the yearly memorial march (that my husband completed yesterday), please visit http://www.bataanmarch.com. And, yep, my husband was in the Heavy Category, ABUs (his work uniform), boots, backpack and all with four other members of their detachment. They survived, and it only took all day.