January 07, 2012

Name: Genevieve Chase
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Army Girl

I've had so many signs and messages lately, telling me to get back into writing, journaling -- blogging. I've avoided it this long for many reasons not to exclude the fact that I blogged anonymously for five years -- and now I am pretty confident that I can't get away with that anymore unless I change the name of my blog.

ArmyGirl_DrawingBut I've always been "Army Girl" and it didn't seem right to change it. Despite the fact that I feel more like a "woman" now than a "girl," a part of me doesn't want to let go of her. I've let go of enough of her...

The compromise was to start a new blog. The old one is still here but it's hidden now. Someday I'll go back and read through the posts, decipher the embedded messages and code I put in for OPSEC reasons, and turn it into a self-published book for family members generations from now that might want to know a little bit about their long-deceased relative. Army Girl was the legacy I thought I would leave them.

My, my, so much has changed.

I wouldn't say I'm all grown up. I wouldn't say that I have all of the answers. I will say that I have answers to many of the questions I once had, many of which I shared in the first Army Girl blog. Would I know what to do when the shit hit the fan in combat? How would my Pashto language training hold up in Afghanistan? Would I return home, safe and sound, with my unit? Am I a coward? Could I hold my own with the guys? Would I kill or be killed?

So. Much. Has. Changed. I have changed, in many ways. Sometimes I wake up and I don't even know who this person is or how I got here. But that -- that's not a story I can tell in one blog post.

I've always been a writer, but on March 17, 2005, I became a "blogger." I was a young-20-something girl, who aspired to be a Soldier and not just a leader but a great leader. A woman -- a girl who wanted to serve her country and felt pride in the opportunity to do so.

I was going through quite a bit in my Pashto class at 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, New York. As the only female in a class of nine, I had no one to truly confide in. No one that would understand. So the internet became my diary and fellow bloggers became my "friends." To this day, they are some of my closest friends.

It's a different world, the Milblogging community. I don't expect anyone to understand it but just as gamers "get" gaming, Milbloggers get milblogging. Crazy as they may be (and you know who you are), they were there for me when I felt a type of loneliness I had not encountered before. Blogging is still something many people don't "get" and that's okay.

So why now? I once again find myself needing the outlet. There's more to it this time. I feel that there are things happening in my daily life that I need to share, not because I'm so interesting but because I'm on a journey, an adventure, a mission.

Many people think I'm odd when I tell them that a part of me died on April 7, 2006. Many think I'm melodramatic when I say that I walked around feeling like the "living dead." I don't even know how to describe that feeling -- like you're there but you could just be a wisp of smoke and be gone. You feel with every cell in your body -- like you can just as easily not exist as exist. I felt like a ghost. I would pinch myself to feel alive. I would stand in the shower and try to feel every single drop that hit my skin. To everyone else, I was fine. I begged our LTC not to bring me back to Bagram. I told him to allow us to stay and finish our mission. I talked to people, I smoked (a lot). I went back out on the next mission they would let me go on.

Back then, they didn't know much about Traumatic Brain Injury so I guess it wouldn't have mattered if we'd gone back to Bagram or stayed in Helmand. We probably got more rest in Lashkar Gah than we would have trying to make our way back to Bagram. The problem wasn't time available to rest, it was being able to sleep.

The point? My new life is not my own.

I feel compelled and driven by some unexplainable force to take on this new mission. It is so much bigger than what I wanted for myself. And I know I'm not the same. I know my brain, my memory, are not the same. I know that someday soon I won't remember many of the things that have happened. I know this because I have already forgotten so much.

Framed Chase SO IT BEGINS AGAINThe bigger point? American. Women. Veterans.

I want to share, with every servicewoman and veteran, as much of the experience and amazing things that have transpired as I can. And how the universe itself seems to conspire to make American Women Veterans what it needs to be. A majority of the time, I feel like I'm on a fast-moving river and it's all I can do to just steer around the hazards while appreciating the opportunity to have the amazing honor and incredible experience of working for and with some of America's most incredible citizens.

Fearing that I won't remember enough to write a book someday, I want people to be able to share in this adventure with me, as it's happening.

That's what a web + log = blog is. And so it begins again...


Genevieve Chase, posting as Army Girl, was one of the first contributors to The Sandbox when it launched in October 2006. Her numerous contributions to the site include PLEASE DON'T INSULT ME, A FEW CHOICE WORDS and COMBAT .


Thank you, Genevieve. You are right, we need to hear from women like you who are serving, we need to listen and pay attention. I'm one person who can never understand your experiences, but I'm so glad you and others share them. It helps you, and it helps us to grow and realize the sacrifices others make on our behalf. We get complacent, and we need reminders, a kick in the ass now and then. Keep writing!

Yep, I remember reading your original blogs. Keep at it, sister.

Thanks so much, ladies. :)

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