Grey Eagle: The Untold Story

As I read Grey Eagle’s account of herself, I had to chuckle, for it embraces where we are now, and not the winding road on how we got here.  I believe her post it is a humble portrait, and I think now as she turns into the final lap of her deployment, maybe it is time to open the box, take out, and dust off the big picture of how she got where she is today.  There are many stories of soldiers and their accounts, hers is not the only one, but it is the one in which I see my wife as my hero.

Grey Eagle’s real actual name is Cinnamon.  She grew up in a very small east Texas town near Orange County and the Louisiana swamps.  I was amazed by the gators that roamed like stray dogs in the area the first time I visited.  Their small farm sought not to bring their yield to market for profit, but to feed the family.  I grew up a military brat, my father an officer, and went to high school in Athens Greece and never knew the life she came from.  From my up bringing this whole concept was alien to me, but I have grown to appreciate the hardships she faced.  As a small girl she entertained herself by shooting an worn basketball at a net hung on a old tree.  As the ball fell to earth it would land on one of the tree roots sticking up from the ground.  The ball would bounce in any given direction and she would have to give chase to it.  She learned that if she didn’t wish to spend her time chasing the ball she would have to improve her reaction time.  Improving over the years to avoid chasing that old worn basketball, she became quite the basketball player in high school and went on to earn a scholarship to play in college.  A series of personal events struck, and she had to return home without a degree and not long afterward became a single mother.  She became estranged from her family with whom it is now going well over a dozen years now since she has had any contact, alone she set out to change her destiny.  Raising her children she attended college and worked two jobs, finally securing a license and a entry level job with a pharmaceutical company.  By the time I came to meet her she had worked her way up to a mid-management position, and worked another job so she could provide whatever her children needed or wanted and never be without as she had been. 

Fast forwarding through our life, Cinnamon had become the director of operations and had reached the pinnacle of her career.  We achieved the American dream, suburb home, two new cars, and rising debt.  One day I was involved in a serious accident which resulted in a head injury and some brain damage.  It took many years of rehab to overcome the many things that result from such an injury, and it had changed me.  Faced with a seriously injured husband she no longer knew, or a lot of the time understood, she assumed both roles of the home.  Keeping things together she prevailed and we overcame many obstacles.  It was also during this time that 9-11 happened.  She began to see things as larger than just our little world.  Success, regardless of size was measured by our standards of comfort and possessions, and this churned and burned within her and left her unsettled.  Always a free spirit she felt restless and that there and to be more to life.  That the goals of life had to be more than the size of your mortgage.   By March 2003 we watched as the soldiers gathered for the invasion of Iraq.  We were addicted to following the embedded reporter (Walter someone from CNN) as he made his way across Iraq with the 7th Cavalry.  She saw the tired faces of soldiers, burned by the sand storms, days without sleep and the images of their faces struck a nerve inside her.  Underpaid, under-appreciated, dedicated, driven by a higher calling than personal wealth and motivated by honor, the soldier became a symbol of what she believed in. 

Placing a phone call to the recruiter she discovered that 34 years of age is the cut off for joining the Army.  She was 33 years old and the mother of two teenage sons.  We had to travel to Pennsylvania to locate a recruiter to sign her up.  Within few months of her 34th birthday she was sworn in, and shipped off to basic training.  Always someone would was sort of a health nut, and fit, she quickly discovered two things.  One that the Army’s pace was much different then just penciling in some gym time, and her joints and muscles hated her for that.  The other is that she was at least one generation older than all the other females attending.  Displaced by music, culture, pre-mature grey hair, and the difference in principles she earned the nickname “Grandma”.  This was not really a bad thing, because as time worn on the females turned to her for guidance, leadership, and this dysfunctional band became a unit, bonded and driven to graduate and become soldiers.  I remember when she discovered that she was having problems making the 2 mile run in the required time.  She discovered that while you can’t have your wedding ring, you can have a band.  She asked that I send her one so that when she felt like quitting she could look at it and know she could not give up.  She not only made her time, but graduated in the top of her class a few points shy of a perfect score.  One story that I believe tells you who Grey Eagle is was the day she had to qualify on the firing range.  As she began to prepare for her final qualification with the M16, the weapon jammed, and after clearing it discovered her weapon would not feed the rounds from the magazine.  She quickly removed the magazine and stripped the rounds out on the ground and placed them in the weapon one at a time firing single shot at the targets.  On that day she was crushed when on the final target she couldn’t load the round fast enough and missed a perfect score and Marksman badge by one point, and instead received a Sharpshooters badge.

When she decided to go active duty she researched the units and made two decisions.  She was going to be a 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagle” and wear the patch that legends and history gave honor to those who wore it.  And second she wanted the Air Assault badge.  She admired those wings and read about the 10 grueling days of Ranger type training it took to earn them.  It was settled she was going to be a Screaming Eagle.  When she went to MEPS to get her orders she discovered they didn’t have any opening for her at the time in the 101st.  Instead they offered her assignment to Germany and other very tempting locations.  But she stuck to her guns turning them down, until finally someone called the 101st saying there was a crazy woman who would only go 101st.   They created a slot and cut her orders.  Two months later we had sold our store and pulled into Fort Campbell.  Excited she reported to the replacement unit and soon discovered that her orders were for the MEDAC hospital.  Roughly what this meant was they are an attached unit, and so do not get to wear the Screaming Eagle, they generally don’t attend Air Assault since they are not a combat unit, and they generally do not deploy.   It had been many years since I had seen her cry like that by the news.  On every break they offered while she was in the replacement unit she went to anyone would see her, anyone who would listen to her and fought to have her orders changed to a combat unit and to deploy.  But on the morning of the last day in the replacement unit the 1SGT there told her he was sorry, but her orders remained unchanged and she would report to MEDAC the next day.  Sad, but trying to comfort herself in the fact that she was still an active duty soldier, she accepted her fate that morning.  After lunch she returned to the unit, and the 1SGT called her into his office.  He told her to be careful of what she wished for, and handed her new orders assigning her to the 426th BSB, Charlie Company (Charlie Med) who would be deploying with the division within 6 months.  I can’t recall seeing her as happy and as glowing with pride as the day she picked up her BDU’s with the 101st Screaming Eagle sewn on the shoulder. 

Having gone from executive to enlisted soldier was quite the journey.  We left all we knew behind and began a new chapter in our lives.  Some days are harder than other for her, as with all the soldiers there.  Changing in mid-life for anything can be a difficult task, doing it in the Army while deployed to Iraq has had its share of moments for her.  In the same way she learned to react to the basketball hitting the tree roots, she will learn to be the best soldier she can be, that is her character.

I remember about two weeks after being boots on the ground in Iraq.  They had mortar attack.  The ground shook, the explosions loud, the sound of .50 caliber machine guns responding to the insurgents disruption.  This was new ground for the executive mom from the suburbs.  When she called later she was more aware of her mortality and the hazards that they would face, and later she would become immune to.  But on that day she said to me “if something should happen to me, tell the boys not to be sad, their mom was doing what she loved and something she believes in, honey, I am where I want to be, understand baby, I am a soldier”

That is who Grey Eagle really is, why she my hero, why our sons have chosen the paths of their future, why we wait at home for her return and cherish the moments we have together until the next deployment. 

Duty, Honor, Country are not just words for a soldier, regardless of their branch of service it is who they are, and what they believe.  As you look over the Tribute pages, you see the same response from the loved one left behind.. he/she “were doing what they loved, what they belived in”.  That should tell us something about those who have sworn to protect us as a nation with thier lives.  Whether they are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, or stateside training for the war on terror they believe in something larger than themselves.  Because of soldiers, like my wife, America sleeps at night, never knowing the sounds and fear of terrorism.  Their dedication and devotion to the life they have chosen deserves our gratitude as a nation, and our respect as individuals.  I am proud to be the husband of a soldier.

 

Balding Eagle


3 Responses to “Grey Eagle: The Untold Story”

  1. FVK Says:

    “Balding Eagle” — THANK YOU for sharing this story. I was an early reader of “A Female Soldier,” and remember some of Grey Eagle’s post in boot camp, including the two mile run story. I think I always knew she was pretty special, but this post really solidifies it for me. I’m sure you know how lucky you and the boys are. Thanks, again, for sharing this wioth us.

    Fred
    Milwaukee, WI

  2. Scarlett Says:

    WOW…Thank you for sharing!! What
    an inspiration.

  3. Steve Schalock Says:

    Balding Eagle;

    Thanks… for posting this, for everything. You are a lucky guy!!!!

    Just returned from from where she’s at. It’s about the best you could ask for!!!
    Charlie Med Rocks! Certainly a tough job……….. You never forget. God bless her!!! You never know how much comfort I got from knowing they were there - thank God I never met them in their “professional capacity”. Those who did — never thand them enough! They are world-class medical professionals - under canvas!!!

    Give her at least six months when you are together again. Get help if you need it. Thanks, there is a lot available - but you have to ask. ASK if you need it. The truth is, time is the biggest healer. Give her LOTS OF SLEEP!

    When it gets hot, the bikes are great. See the gym.

    KBR takes great care of the troops!

    So, Balding Eagle… Hang in there! She’s in a good spot! Your Soldier will be home soon - as much as she can be. Part of her will always be there…

    I can’t thank you and her for the blog. Anything I can do, let me know.

    SSG Schalock

Leave a Reply