Service Reflections: Veteran reflects on her personal battles with war
Service Reflections: Veteran reflects on her personal battles with war
RECORD YOUR OWN SERVICE MEMORIES
A comprehensive, easy-to-complete self-interview called Service Reflections is available on TogetherWeServed.com which enables you to create a permanent record of key people and events from your military service. Your Reflections may be shared with other family members by way of a web address personal to you.
Editor’s note: The following Service Reflections is one of many recorded on TogetherWeServed.com, a secure online community with a membership of over 2 million active-duty and veteran members. This story may contain language which may not be suitable for young children.
CMSgt Katherine Burcio-Marple
Status: U.S. Air Force Retired
Service Years: 1969-1995
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Air Force?
As Memorial Day approaches I can't help but reflect on why I joined the Air Force. My father was my hero, he serviced in the Army Air Force during World War II. I grew-up listening to his "war stories" and seeing how proud he was to service his country. He taught me that there was no greater honor than to defend and even give your life for our country. I decided that I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and service my country. Little did I realize what an adventure it would be!
Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?
When I joined I wanted to fight and defend my country. I wanted to go to Vietnam to do this, but that never happened. I would go to CBPO once a week and try to volunteer to go. Week after week they would tell me I was wasting their time and mine and to stop coming over. I felt that I needed to fight side by side with the guys to feel like I truly contributed to defending my country.
My chance came 21 years later. I was deployed to Desert Storm. I was so excited to think I would finally be able to actually serve my country just like the men. That excitement quickly turned to sadness once I met the brave B-52 crew members that I would be sending off on missions. I suddenly realized that they may not all come back! I watched and listened to them joke and brag about who was the better pilot or how they were looking forward to getting into the fight. I envied them, they were so brave. But when the time came and they were off to war I didn't want any of them to go.
I had so many mixed feelings that I had a hard time functioning in my job. I questioned why we were fighting and after 21 years did I make a huge mistake! I knew I had to get a reality check or I would fall apart even more. So I called the one person I knew who fought in a war, lost close friends and survived! I called my dad. He listened to me talk about my feelings, fears, and doubts than in his soft matter-of-fact way said, "There is nothing good about war, but someone has to fight, someone has to die, someone gets to come home, but no one really wins. You chose to be one of them, now do your job." That was my dad's way of telling me to stop whining and get my butt in gear. That was all I needed to get my act together and realize I had a job to do. I got through it, along with my crews and we all came home safe and sound.
This was one of the many memories that I had in my long and wonderful Air Force career.
From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?
The one memory that stood out throughout my career was when I reported in to my first duty station.
I arrived at Travis AFB feeling like I finally made it. I finally can do a job that meant something for my country. I will be treated equal and like an adult. I was dressed in my blues and ready to face the challenges. But the challenges I had to face that day totally took me by surprise. When I reported in at the orderly room, the Sergeant told me I needed to go to the WAF Squadron first.
I got to the WAF squadron and I was told I needed to go to CBPO first.
When I got to CBPO they told me to sit and wait until my name got called. Everyone seemed to be treating me like I was a bother to them all! I sat for two hours and waited. Finally an Airman called me in and took some information, then sent me to the Wing Administration office to get assigned a job.
Luckily the Wing building was across the street. When I reported to the Sergeant in the Admin office the Sergeant told me that he called around and no one wanted a WAF! He said there were two more offices he could try, but he wasn't sure if they would take me either.
He took me to the first office and asked a Major if he wanted me. The Major took a long look and asked me my age. He commented that I looked like I was 12 years old! He then reached in his pocket, took out some money, and handed it to me. He patted me on the head, told me to go to the bowling alley and get an ice cream. He asked me to come back in an hour and they would figure out what to do with me. I left feeling like a reject.
It was true, no one wanted a WAF because all we do is find a guy, get married, and get out. They felt like they were wasting their time training us!
When I got to the bowling alley I called my mom. I asked her to come get me because no one wanted me. I explained what happened and I wanted to come home! My mom told me to get tough, go back to that office and tell that Major I was there to work and serve my country. I was not to leave until they gave me a job!
So I when back to the office, found the Major and said, "My mother told me to tell you to give me a job and I am not to leave until you do!" Everyone in that office busted out laughing and the Major said he thought he had the perfect job for me. He took me down to the training office and handed me over to them. He wished them luck and left. I wondered what he meant by that!
The Colonel took me into his office and told me he would give me a chance to prove myself. For the next three years, I had to prove myself over and over again, but I did!
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or any other memorabilia, please describe those which are the most meaningful to you and why?
The one badge that stood out the most to me was my Marksman badge. I am an anti-gun person and always have been. When I got orders for Korea I had to qualify on the M16. At first I refused to take the training but was told I could not go to Korea without the training. I wanted the assignment, so I decided to take the training under protest!
When I got to the training I felt completely out of place. I knew the instructor could tell I knew nothing about guns. The first thing they asked us to do is to take the magazine out of the desk we were sitting at. I opened the desk and was looking for a Field and Stream magazine or something like that. I pulled out a big metal object and told the instructor there was no magazine in the desk, just some metal thing. He asked me why I was there at the training and if this was a joke! I told him I had to qualify on the gun to go to Korea. He quickly corrected me on the term "gun"; he told me it was a rifle! He also informed me that the metal thing I was holding is the magazine. He asked me if I was afraid of messing up my manicure! After that, it was downhill!
He continued to make jokes about me to the other students and gave me a hard time. By the time we got out to the firing range, I was angry and determined to prove him wrong about me. I fired expert the first time and the instructor did not think I did it. For some reason he thought someone else fired into my target. This was impossible to do, but he could not believe I could fire that well. He made me do it again with him standing by me. I fired expert again. After that he eased off me and changed his attitude. I left there feeling like I really accomplished something. Not that I fired expert, but I proved women, even petite ones, could do as well as men in one more area.
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
There are so many individuals that stood out and made a big impact on me. But there was only one that gave me the challenge to continue past my first enlistment, CMSgt Sizemore.
My career started at Travis AFB and 26 years later ended there! I will never forget CMSgt Sizemore at 22 AF. As an Airman, I worked in the Flight Training at the 60th MAW. One of my duties was to compile the Aircrew data from the squadrons and send it to the Chief every Friday. On one of those Fridays, I was having a very bad day and was not sure if I wanted to stay in the Air Force. I went over to the Chief's office to give him the Aircrew Training Report and he noticed I was upset. He sat me down and said, "I am sure that one day you will be sitting in my chair, at this desk, doing my job.." I left his office knowing that I had to accomplish this goal that he set for me. And I did!!! My last assignment in the Air Force was with 15AF. The unit got reassigned to Travis AFB from March AFB. I was assigned to the Director of Training office and one of my duties was to collect Aircrew Training information on the units and build a briefing for the General. The same type of job CMSgt Sizemore had. When we arrived at Travis I went into my new office, which was the same office the Chief was in 23 years earlier. In fact, I think it was the same chair and desk he sat in!
Can you recount a particular incident from your service which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?
One incident that I often think about and it still makes me laugh happened during my first enlistment. My roommate and I entered our dorm room in the "Best Dorm Room" contest. My mother made red, white and blue bedding for our bunks, and curtains for our windows. We painted our walls red, white and blue and put little American Flags on our lockers. But we had our one big wall that we painted blue that looked empty. It needed something to dress it up. We couldn't figure out what to do with it.
On Sunday we went to Mass on base, all of the sudden it came to us, we can "borrow" the big American Flag in the Chapel and hang it on our wall! We decided to pray and ask if it would be alright. We both decided since the idea came to us in church, it must be OK! Later that day we "borrowed" the flag.
On the day of the judging, we were so excited. We figured we had to win because of how patriotic our room was. We got 2nd place! Another room, that was painted and decorated in black and red, beat us! We were in shock!
We both got called into our WAF Commanders office the next day. We thought it was to get our award for our room. But that wasn't why! The First Sergeant and the Base Chaplin were with the Commander in her office. When we saw all three of them, we knew what it was about. We were asked where we got the American Flag. I calmly replied that we "borrowed" it from the Chapel and that we asked God and He gave us permission.
What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? If you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?
My last year in the Air Force I had to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I decided I wanted to be a Correctional Officer or a teacher. I applied for both. I went through the hiring process for both and waited. My dad told me to take the first one that offered me a job. I knew he did not want me to be a Correctional Officer. That was the job I really wanted. The teaching job came through first, so I took it. I became an AFJROTC Instructor at Hemet High School in California. It was as if I never left the Air Force. I still wore my uniform, had to answer to an Officer and taught young people.
I taught at Hemet for 1 year, then transferred to Canyon Springs High School. I was there for 5 years. After 6 years of teaching in a High School setting, I decided I needed a change. I got my multiple subjects teaching credentials, and I changed to teaching Elementary students. I was hired to teach 2nd grade at Monterey Elementary in San Bernardino, California. I have been there ever since. I also taught 4th, 5th, and now I am teaching 6th grade there. I enjoy teaching and I'm glad I took my dad's advice.
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?
My life had been influenced by the military long before I joined the Air Force. My father filled my head with all his stories about the Army Air Corps, and I dreamed of following in his footsteps. I decided at an early age I would prepare myself for the military. I read all I could find about the military services. I went to sleep dreaming about being in the military. Plus I went to a Catholic School, which is almost like being in the military!
After joining the Air Force I learned more about self-discipline, respect for life, ethics, and the importance of camaraderie. I try to live my life governed by these four acts. Without them, I would not have reached my goals to date. Without them, I would not be the person I am.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Air Force?
The advice I would give to those that are still serving is to never lose focus on the MISSION. The MISSION is to protect and defend our country and all that it stands for. This is a huge responsibility for anyone to do, but only a chosen few can do it well. Be one of those few and stay focused. There is no greater honor than to serve your country by dedicating yourself to the MISSION.
In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
Togetherweserved.com has allowed me to find old "war buddies" that I thought I'd never hear from again. It has given me the opportunity to reconnect and share my life with dear friends that were a big part of my life in the military. This may not have happened if not for Togetherweserved.com.
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