April is the month of the military child and Cathy wrote a children's book from her daughter's experience of being a soldier's daughter. In 2017, Cathy deployed to Afghanistan and had her daughter stay with her sister in Canada. It was a hard year for both her daughter and her mom. They both grew through their experience and the book Mya the Solider's Daughter covers some of the challenges May faced in the year of being separated. But this interview doesn't just focus on her deployment but instead covers many different aspects of her time in the military over the 23 years of service that continues today.
This episode is sponsored by Gracefully Global LLC
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Cathy Alexander immigrated to the US from Grenada in 1989. When she graduated from college she couldn't find a job and decided to join the military. Even though she had her degree she wasn't a naturalized citizen yet so she did not pursue the officer path. She found boot camp challenging but excelled physically. She then went to Advanced Individual Training and because her class didn't start for six weeks had to do whatever duty was assigned to her. Once class began she enjoyed it more and learned a lot.
Her first assignment was at Fort Dix, NY. It was cold but had an intimate environment among the soldiers. There she learned how much she loved to teach. She also deployed for training to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. After her first assignment, she decided to leave active duty and became a teacher. She also continued to serve in the Reserves. In 2003, she was mobilized to Fort Dix, NJ to help prepare members for overseas deployments. In 2001, she became a citizen, and then in 2006, she became an officer through a direct commission. She continued to serve in the Reserves with occasional activations.
Then in 2017, she found out she would be deploying to Afghanistan. As a single mom, she knew that she had to find someone to watch her four-year-old daughter. The best option was to send her daughter to live with her sister in Canada. During her deployment, she served in the role of Medical Advisor responsible to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Police Hospital Commander, Afghan National Depot Commander, and was also responsible for the medical logistics support of over 165,000 Afghan police.
Reintegration and the time apart were hard on her daughter and she wanted to share her story through her love of writing. She wrote and published a children's book from her daughter's perspective and experience to talk about the challenges her daughter faced in their time apart. Her daughter was involved in the whole book process and even helped pick out the clothes she wore in the book. It is important to hear the stories of children. Not just their parents when it comes to deployments and the military.
Cathy also created a Run/Walk Event to honor the 12 soldiers who died while she was deployed to Afghanistan. She wants to build a foundation to give back to the families. She is thankful she was able to come home from her deployment. Not everyone is so lucky.
She encourages people to join the military and learned so much from her experience serving. It opens doors for your future.
My Solider's Daughter
The Tale of Buzz-Anna the Traveling Bee
Wise and Witty Words for Your Life’S Journey: Inspirational Words to Help Measure Your Life and Keep You on Track
Girl's Guide to the Military: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpLsrfrX3UrvJnCG7XvGDJQ
Before Women Could be Fighter Pilots - Episode 29
Being a Single Mom in the Army - 46
Empowering Women Through StoryTelling - Episode 107
Check out the full transcript here.
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Welcome to episode 129 of the Women on The Military Podcast April is the month of the military child and I'm starting off April with a children's author Cathy Ann Alexander she wrote a children's book from her daughter's experience of being a soldier's daughter called, "Maya the Soldiers Daughter" in 2017 Cathy deployed to afghanistan and had her daughter stay with her sister in canada it was a hard year for both her daughter and her they both grew through the experiences and the book maya the soldiers daughter cover some of the challenges maya faced in the year of being separated but this interview doesn't just focus on our deployment but instead covers many different aspects of her time in the military over the 23 years of service that today you're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast here you will find the real stories of female servicemembers i'm Amanda Huffman i am an air force veteran military spouse and mom i korean women in the military podcast in 2019 as a place to share the stories of female service members past and present with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military if you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world keep tuned for this latest episode of women on the military so Cathy i'm excited to have you here.
Cathy Ann Alexander 01:36
Thank you Amanda thank you so much for having me on your show and thank you for what you do and thank you also for your service.
Thank you. So let's start this interview off with why did you decide to join the military?
Cathy Ann Alexander 01:48
So you know Amanda I would like to sit here and actually tell you that i have this great American story of being a patriot of having family who served in the military you know maybe saying I have an uncle who served in Vietnam or father who served in Korea but for me my story is basically i have to say is basically the American dream story I joined the military honestly just to have a roof over my head literally. So I'm originally from the caribbean island of Grenada I moved here a couple years prior to starting college and that's a family situation so long story short I was homeless. So when i got to college i literally stayed on campus and that was my home the entire four years of college and prior to starting college I was working at JCpenney's and I met this woman who was very kind to me and what she did was she allowed me to stay with her. She had a basement apartment and she allowed me to stay with her during the times that I was on break from school so when the winter break the christmas break when the University pretty much say you got to go home I ended up staying with her during that time period and then the last two years of college i applied for what's called resident assistant ra and being an ra you get your own apartment. So for those two years i had my own apartment so I didn't have to worry about having to rush to her house and i had options then but then it was getting close to graduating college and I didn't have a job. I didn't have a job lined up. I did an internship and i said well maybe i'll get a job but i wasn't quite sure so what I did Amanda is that normally they have recruiters come so when there's events on campus they have recruiters come along and I took one of the recruiters card after speaking with him as a backup plan just in case like I didn't get the job after graduating college showing up after graduating college I didn't have a job. I didn't have an apartment of my own so went back to my friend's house and ended up staying in her basement, once i graduated. So I graduated in may so here comes June, July, August, September still looking for a job and that is when I decided you know what let me just go pull up that recruiters card and so it started i call the recruiter and i enlisted in the army i joined the Army as a specialist because I already have my college degree so here i am this specialist with a college degree science degree had a degree in meteorology i wanted to be a while ago and i enlisted in the united states army and that is how my military career started.
Wow, it's a crazy story.
Cathy Ann Alexander 04:38
I know right?
were you already a citizen when you enlisted into the army
Cathy Ann Alexander 04:44
So, this really good question so no, I came to the United States in 1989 as a permanent resident my father lived in the us so he sponsored me and at that point i was not a citizen so I was told by the recruiter at the time, I found out later that was not quite true. But it was still that because it was not a citizen I could not come in could not join the military as a commissioned officer. So I enlisted.
So the reason you didn't look at being an officer was because the recruiter told you you had to be an American citizen.
Cathy Ann Alexander 05:17
Yes. That's what he told me. But like I said, later on, I found out that was not necessarily, I believe the recruiter had a quota to me, but I did become a naturalized citizen in 2001, after being in the military.
Yeah, I think it's a little complicated. But when I did ROTC, there was a young man who wanted to become an officer. And he was having trouble with his citizenship, but eventually got to citizenship and became an officer. But he was doing ROTC with us while he was working through that process.
Cathy Ann Alexander 05:47
So that's really interesting.
Yeah, it is. That kind of makes sense. I was gonna ask, why did you enlist instead to become an officer? Now I know.
Cathy Ann Alexander 05:55
Right? Yes. But you know what, Amanda, that's one of the one of the questions I've been asked over the years too, because because I have the opportunity to now to be on both sides as an enlisted soldier. And as an officer, I actually would not have done it any other way. I really appreciate the fact that I was president enlisted soldier, so I can better understand the soldiers who I lead and guide as an officer and just get a better appreciation for all soldiers as opposed to just looking at you know, looking at the military from just the lens of an officer. I got to experience it from the side of an enlisted soldier, you know, for many years before coming becoming an officer.
Yeah, I think it gives you a different depth and perception of Milt though the military by being both enlisted and being an officer. It's kind of like I'm a military spouse, but I'm a veteran. So I kind of have both sides. And so I can tell the story in a different way than someone who has never been in the military and as a military spouse, exactly.
Cathy Ann Alexander 06:53
Learn from me, I get to relate and understand the enlisted soldier a lot better, you know, in my perspective than commissioned officers, because I understand the job that they do, because I've been there done that, you know, type of concept.
Yeah. And now word from our sponsor. This week, we are talking to Kathy and to kick off the month of the military child, but she isn't the only military children's author. I know. I met Graziella Tuscan hero Sato, the author of the award winning Captain Mama picture book series, when she was on my podcast in Episode 29. I love reading these books inspired by grassy Ella's Airforce Aviation Service to my boys because it opens up an opportunity to share my own military story. But my favorite memory was in 2019 when I brought a copy of her series debut "Good night Captain Mama" to both of my boys classrooms on Veterans Day. I read the books to the children in the class. I also wore my uniform from my deployment and was able to take off the patches and share the story of my service. If you are a military mom, veteran or mom who wants to empower her children to learn about women in military service, I highly recommend both of Grace eolas books. I'm excited for the upcoming third book in the series, I was one of the 225 people to support her recent microlending campaign via Kiva to make this next book happen. Get your copies of the Captain Marvel books with embroidered patches directly from Grassi Ella's publisher store, I'll provide a link in the show notes to my favorite package, you can also go to www.gracefullyglobal.com. Let's get back to the show. So you went to basic training and then nit what was that experience? Oh, boy. That was experience that that was different. So right. So once I listed I found out from the recruiter that I was going to be going to a Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, which I found that was pretty much call for lost in the woods because it's way out in the middle of nowhere in Missouri. For me it was different. And the reason why I say it was different because I didn't have anyone in the military. I literally knew no one in the military at that time. So there was no one I could ever reach back to or reach out to and say well, what will basic training be like? What would I have to do? What are some of the things how do I get through basic training? So it was it was another challenge in in terms of being able to have someone in the face on a daily basis yelling at you one of the challenges for me, one of the things that make it a little difficult for me was the fact that having a college degree and here I am been in basic training after enlisted in the toy family and friends. I got a little bit of pushback. And some of the people said to me that wow, are you just doing that because you couldn't do anything else? The military is usually for people who drop out from high school or they can't find a job or do anything else. So when I got there and I actually saw the admiral spear and the whole drill sergeant concept, I really started to kind of doubt myself and pretty much, maybe they will tell me the truth. So it was a little, you know, a little difficult from that perspective, because here I am with a college degree, and a lot of the kids were younger than me and you know, straight out of high school. So that was some of the challenge that I face outside of that in terms of the physical experience itself, you know, the push up the setups to run, I was always into, you know, into running, and I did a lot of that. So that was easy for me. So I really enjoyed that aspect of it, it was just another Okay, another run another set of push ups on a daily basis. Part of the experience also is you have to engage with other people, because you hear you're in this environment and in the barracks and in barracks where people from all over the country, that was a little difficult for me, Well, the reason why was a little difficult for me, because so back in the Caribbean growing up, I didn't grow up with my siblings, either I was raised by my grandmother and uncle, and I had some cousins, so I didn't really have that whole concept of a large family and being in the whole social atmosphere and being able to be around a lot of people. So it's kind of like an introvert. So I always wanted my own space. And it was very hard to have that in basic training, because you're in an open Bay, you go to the shower, there's 50 million girls in there. So that part of it was challenging. Overall, the experience was, was great. I, you know, I got to learn how to fire a weapon. Prior to basic training, I didn't touch a weapon, I couldn't move fast. And the idea of touching on M 16. So go into basic training during the whole nine weeks of training coming out, being able to qualify should be able to go through the obstacle course through the different training that helped me I utilize a lot of those skills today. So I think it was really overall, it was a good experience, despite some of the fact you know, despite some of the challenges I faced internally, why am I there, but overall, the the experience was great. That's awesome. So it was challenging, but then you stuck through it, and it was good for you. And so you went to your first assignment and what was that like? After basic training, I went to AIT. So for some of the personnel, I guess non military who not familiar with that. So after the basic training is basically where you become you learn your soldiering skills. And he is basically where you learn the job itself. So you know, in the civilian world, where you have that nine to five, so once you leave the basic training you have, you have to go into you know, duty station, and you have to retrain in a particular area. For me, the job that I took, I was a preventive medicine specialist. So that's going to my because of that job, I was trained in my he was in San Antonio, Texas. And one of the interesting things about that was the training was supposed to be 10 weeks, but I ended up being in San Antonio for six extra weeks. And the reason for that is because once you graduate, the way it's set up is that the the Tod the start time for the schools and that always align with a graduation time from basic training. So by the time they got to San Antonio from basic training, the one cycle the one class cycle already had started, so I had to wait six weeks before the next cycle started. And here's why I struggle with that a little bit of manner. So during that six weeks when you're waiting, it's not like you're on vacation, right? So you are doing extra duty. You were doing whatever the drill sergeant Dean was the job for the day. So it could range from being and detail at the dining facility washing pots and pans and also range from cleaning the drill hole floors or any type of detail latrine detail any type of detail that was deemed necessary at the time. That is what I ended up doing for those six weeks before the actual class started. So not a vacation. Exactly, not a vacation. But the overall trend in itself was great. learn the skill of being a preventive medicine and what that entail preventive medicine, you learn about full service facilities, you learn about how to do inspections, foodborne how to deal with foodborne illnesses how to deal with waterborne illnesses. I did a lot of mosquito surveillance. I became an expert on the mosquitos and one of the fights against the going jokes at AIG being in that particular job. We walked around with the bug nets as part of our rucksack bag so a lot of the other kids who said oh there goes the bug catchers. I put a Bug Catcher AIT yes. That's funny, but you enjoyed it and you like the job once once you got to do the training and weren't doing the details.
Cathy Ann Alexander 15:11
Right, once I learned the job, so it was, it was interesting. So once I left it, I ended up at Fort Drum, New York. So my contract was for four years. And it's an interesting story here that I would like to tell. So Fortran, New York is one of those places where a lot of soldiers did not like to be stationed at about maybe a week prior to graduating AIT the drill sergeant, usually let the soldiers know where they're going to be stationed. And when the drill sergeant found out that I was going to Fort Drum, they made it a joke. So they came out to the drill floor, they said, Oh, we have three soldiers, that's going to be going on a nice vacation spot, a nice location, location, upstate New York, where it's extremely cold and showing up when I that's a fortress. That's exactly how it was. So it's been a Fort Drum is pretty much is about 20 minutes from the Canadian border is bright outside a town called Kingston. And it's a little town called Watertown, where there's actually nothing there. But yeah, so I spent four years there. I was in a field unit and a lot of train and exercise. But I have to say, in all 23 years since I've been in the military, my full years patient of full drum was against the most enjoyable four years, the most groundbreaking if I may say in terms I've been in the military, and leadership building for years of my life gave me fortitude, there was a family type of atmosphere for Trump and leaders that were above me, the sergeant saw in charge at that time, I have to say they have been some of the best leaders that have encountered in the military. So I will definitely, if I had to relive that experience again, I'll definitely definitely do that.
That's really good. I know, first place we're at was a tiny town in New Mexico. And we had such good friends there. And like, there wasn't really much to do, there was a Chili's and an Applebee's and a Walmart. And that was pretty much it. And I loved being stationed there because there was such a good community within the people on base. And it's one of my favorite assignments, even though it wasn't like the best place to live. But it was a great place to be, especially as a lieutenant. Right. Well, you know what, actually, I will have to share that sentiment also, Amanda, because even though that it was really cold, because we spent a lot of you know, and I will share with you some of the, I guess the trend and experience, but there was a lot there was that atmosphere of creating that family. One of the things we have so I wasn't so single soldier at the time, I lived in a berets, one of the programs that they had, which was part of the Morale, Welfare and recreation. The MW program was the boss program, which is a better opportunities for single soldiers. And I became very involved with that program a little later became the battalion boss representative. And as part of that program, we create, we planned and created a lot of trips for soldiers right outside for drum club, there was what's called 1000 Islands, I'm sure I'm not sure if you had 1000 Islands, but this this place where they have a lot of lakes and a lot of sightseeing. So we did a lot of events there. We hosted a lot of trips there. And we did a lot of West Coast mountain soldiers time and mountain soldiers activity. So there was always something going on for the soldiers to engage in, and to feel Philippine like a family while we away away from home and away from our own families. So in that aspect, you were it was a great experience. After you were there for four years, what did you do next? So I did my four years at Fort Drum. One of the things which was part of my training there, I was an instructor, because part of the preventive medicine job was to do a full sanitation instruction. And so the water you know, water inspection, food service facilities, learning about all of that, and I used to teach that. So all of the different units had to have soldiers trained whenever we got went to the field. So that was part of the training. And as a matter of fact, that was my first time getting what's called a quote unquote, deployment in the military. Back in 1998. I spent one month in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan doing a training been involved in this NATO exercise training where I was able to take my skills and utilize it over there. So once I knew my my four years, I knew I was not going to re enlist. I realized for active duty. So once I made time was going to be I decided that I was going to teach because I already had developed the experience as a teacher in the military. I decided to take that experiences as a teacher and transition into the civilian world. So I already have my education, I already have a degree. And that's when I, I signed up to be a New York City teacher and a transition from children, which is four hours away from, you know, four hours north of New York and went to New York City and I became a New York City High School teacher teaching earth science. So from active duty, I transition to the classroom. Literally, I couple of days after leaving active duty. I was in the classroom teaching, but I decided that I was not going to get out the military totally. And the sheriff you know, but once you enlist, once you have that original contract, it's usually for eight years, the recruiters don't normally tell you that but four years active duty and four years inactive. So instead of me going into the IR, the inactive rather reserved, I decided to just become a reserve soldier. So I did full time teaching, and then I was part time or weekend warrior, essentially. And that's what I did. They do they are like four years active four years in active but you don't need to worry about that. Exactly. Tell you the truth. They don't tell you that you that's the same thing with officers. Mine was four years active and four years in active. Four years. If you mind me asking you to New Mexico? No. Well, we did three years in New Mexico. And then I went to Ohio, three years in Ohio. I think so. So I don't know somewhere around there. Somewhere. Right? That's a matter Six years total. I think half of it was in New Mexico, but I was in Afghanistan for a year. So you know, that part kind of makes it all confusing. Okay, so we share we share something in common, right? So you transition to being a teacher, what you learned about how much you love teaching and well being in the military. And then you were in the reserves. And so you were drilling once a month, two weeks a year. So what was that transition like? So that was, well, it was interesting transition, right. So one day I'm wearing, you know, brand new uniform wearing camouflage and boots. The next day, I'm in front of some high school kids, teaching them about rocks, right? So I was a earth science teachers. So teaching, there was a little challenging, because here I am in Manhattan, well first started off in Manhattan teaching and then I transitioned to Brooklyn after so yeah, teaching New York City cares about rock, sedimentary rocks, igneous metamorphic rocks, right, and teaching about geology and teaching them about the weather. And so it was tough because being in New York City, in New York City environments, you don't have a lot of that against geological landscape. So it was tough teaching them about rivers and how river meander and because I can visually see that, so it was a lot of Ask him to go on field trips and be able to take them out of that environment. So they can ask, you know, they can see, subtract, you did a couple of that, but it was overall challenges I had. So that was back in 2001, when I started teaching, and I'm actually still bill in New York City teacher, I just transitioned. I'm currently on a three year active duty tour. And I'm on leave of absence from teaching. But the piece that was challenging over the years, it's been able to manage civilian career and the military career at the same time, because even though I took off the uniform full time, I still had to work one weekend, a month. And by the way, Amanda, it's really not one weekend, a month. I know that. Yes. Because throughout the month, there is always something going on. There's always some training, you have to come complete, there's always some type of task going on. So some occasion that one weekend a month end up being like a couple of days a month. So for me transitioning right after in 2001. Yes, it was the one we can with the occasional couple days here and there. But let's fast forward to 2003 right. So after 911 and 911, with a lot of the mobilization taking place, I was assigned some 7238 Medical Support Battalion, and that unit was activated. So here I am, and just got back to duty, you know, December or September timeframe of 2001. Now I'm back on active duty from 2003. And I did a chore from 2003 to 2000 thought the interesting thing for me was that I did not do overseas deployment. So it was infantry deployment, I was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, which at the time was one of the largest mobilization platform. So a lot of the soldiers who were deployed overseas at that time, they will come through for dex and my job at the time as again, being a preventive medicine sergeant. I was responsible for all of the medical threat briefings and all of the preventive medicine training. So I did a lot of classes prior to the soldiers going downrange. So here I am just letting them know you know, these are the information you need to know Get there safely and come back safely. So I did that for two years, being a part of the great team of preventive medicine specialists, and overall medical personnel stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, right, taking care of soldiers and doing that whole medical readiness, soldier readiness and getting them prepared for further deployment essentially. So for guests, for people who don't know, right, once a soldier gets activated and mobilized, they don't just get on a plane and go overseas right away. They have to be trained, we have to make sure all of the medical readiness is in place, and all of the shots are updated. So that's part of the team that I was on making sure all of that was conducted prior to the soldiers getting on that C 17, or whatever it was to go downrange to to serve our country. I mean, I remember Fort Dix, I never went there. But I've heard the name of like people going there for deployment training. I went to Indiana to camp out very the deployment training.
Yeah, I'm sure you probably had a Fort Dixson because it's Fort Dix, which is actually right now it's been changed to update Lakers and McGuire, the one of the large Air Force bases there, which is a McGuire. So a lot of people know about the McGuire prior to know before knowing about for decades.
So you did that for two years, you said that it was hard to balance your military career and your civilian career. So did you take a leave of absence, like you're doing now from teaching for those two years? And then transition back? Yes. So over the years, actually, from 1997, when I joined to present day, there has been a lot of that over the years during that time. So once again, as a as a New York City teacher, which is I have to say, New York City, I have to give credit to New York City Department of Education, they have been very supportive New York City in general, because I also served with a lot of a lot of soldiers who are firefighters and police officers and teachers to New York City in general. And I'm hoping that it's been it's the same with most cities across the country, they've been very supportive of my deployment. So whenever a soldier gets mobilized activated, what we have to do is just provide orders to the Department of Education, and they will put us in a leave of absence. So essentially, being a reservist, you don't lose your job, you get a leave of absence, you can be gone for up to five years. And once you did that, then you you're going to return to your job, if it's a position, if it's a job where while you're gone, that there has been like your colleagues or other people being promoted over you over the time, whether it's one or two years while you're gone, then once you return, you supposed to be promoted also, because there cannot be any area that show that you were not treated the same way or given the same level of employment status as the other employees. So yeah, so that's been a situation over the years, every time I've been activated. Every time I'm on mobilized status, I am on a leave of absence from the teaching. That's interesting. So let's jump forward a little bit. And you said that whole were talking earlier that you were a direct commission. So let's talk about how you went from being enlisted to being an officer and what that process was like, So, I from 1997, up until 2005, I, you know, I was enlisted soldier, and it was towards the end of 2005. I said, Okay, I understand my experience beside of enlisted, but I wanted to do, I wanted to take it to the next level, I already had my degree. And by that time, I now had earned a master's degree. So in 2003, I earned my master's degree in education. So, now I have a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree, not saying I can stay as an enlisted soldier with a Master's because there are many enlisted soldiers who are doctorates. And you know, they do great things in the military. But for me, I just wanted to also experience that side of being an officer. So I found I had to go through what's called a career manager. And I contacted the career manager in the medical field. And at that time, I had to put a package together. So once I found out that they have the route to go from enlisted to the rec commission, all I had to do was basically put a packet together give all of the required documents, my transcripts, my copies of my degree, and all of the all of the required medical training, you know, a copy of your physical, you know, your physical exam, the physical training, so all of those information was put together, put a packet together, and then that packet had to be presented before board and it was presented before the board and then pretty much give you a series of different job options. And once I presented the packet before the board then back in 2006. So that was in 2005. Then in 2006, then I found out that I was going to be commissioned and I was going to join as a second lieutenant which is the lowest right usually in some cases, some people with a degree join as a first lieutenant but there's usually that usually happens in certain specialty. So because I joined as a general branch, I will say, which is 70 Bravo at the time, which is just a general area of concentration, then I was at, you know, I had to come in as a second lieutenant, but for me, that was okay. Because every experience already knew what it was like to start from the bottom. And I was okay with that. So in 2006, I commission, I went from enlisted to an officer becoming an officer. That was, that was I have to say, that was different because when you enlisted soldier, right? You pretty much salute everyone. Once you once you become a commissioned officer, and now people are saluting you. So the first maybe I'll have to say, the first year, it was a little strange, because you know, I'll be around walking, if you know, if it's a soldier and you the officer, as long as I'm not. There's not another officer with me that outlines Nathan, that enlisted soldier has to salute. And Amanda, honestly, there were some times where I forgot to render the salute, because I was still thinking that I was, you know, I was a sergeant. And by the way, I actually went up to the rank of e6, Staff Sergeant before I before the direct commission. So yeah, so that point of becoming an officer took some time to get used to, and I wasn't that used to it. It's just different levels of possibility, different levels of, I guess, honor and respect that the military has. But at the end of the day, we all soldiers, it doesn't matter who enlisted or officer, we all have a job to do. And that is accomplished, you know, just basically accomplishing the mission of the army and of the units and taking care of soldiers that's been appointed over here. So over you. So yeah, so the transition was a smooth one for me. And from 2006. To today, just fast forward, I went from being a Second Lieutenant to now been a major. As a matter of fact, February 1, maybe three years since I've been the rank of major and I, I got promoted when I was deployed to Afghanistan. But segue I just, I was going to talk about your deployment and excellent way to go on that segue. So you got promoted to major while you were deployed to Afghanistan. Yes. What was deploy. So, you know, a lot of soldiers talk about deployment. I know a lot of people talk about the military and deployment. Amanda, when I found out in 2017, that I was going to be deployed, and I was going to Afghanistan. I was a little worried. And no, it was pretty much the time where we do a little bit of drawdown when I'm having a lot of agas major activities. But anyone who finds out why are they getting ready to deploy, you kind of get faced with that whole What if you know and then what it could happen anywhere it could happen, just driving down being on the highway, just driving down the highway. But it took on a different a whole nother angle, once I found that I was being deployed. And for me at the time, so I had a four year old, a single parent, I have a child, she's now eight, and at that time, she was four. So when I found that I was being deployed, I had one option. And one option was basically to take her to Canada to be with a family, I don't want to say I have one option in the sense that I had no family support and a friend support in the United States because I was going to be gone for a year, the closest family that I had, I could take care of her for the whole time frame was my sister and my sister live in, you know, in socialism, Canada. So here I am. So I packed up my daughter and to go across the Canadian border to spend a year with my sister. So to this day, I'm very grateful for my sister for providing that opportunity for my daughter. Um, so my daughter became a Canadian citizen for a year, once I dropped out my daughter to Canada, it was basically it was game on because I know I had to be in the right frame of mind the right mental state, especially for the job that I was gonna get ready to go to. So I was deployed as a team. I was one of a 16 men team. We were medical advisors. And it was it was a really good job. It was really good experience. As a medical advisor, I was responsible for training and advising the Afghan leadership my role, I was responsible for advising the Afghan National Hospital commander and the National logistics officer, basically the one who was responsible for the logistics for the entire country, the entire Afghan police force, which entails 165,000 soldiers. So my job here Yeah. Being responsible for taking care of 165,000 Afghan police responsible for ordering responsible for the medical logistics essentially, without going into depth in terms of the detail. But that was my job for one week one year and working at that level with the Afghan government. It was it was a great great, great experience. It pushed me beyond my own I guess capabilities and on what my definition of my capabilities, I had to do daily briefings to two or three star generals. And so you know, when the briefing at that level, you have to know what you're talking about, you have to, you have to be prepared. So it was basically pushing me out of my comfort zone. But that year of deployment got me to really understand what it takes to be a leader and to be able to do a job where you can, you can pretty much provide results. And that's what I did for you taking care of soldiers taking care of Afghan soldiers and provided them the needs for them to continue to be in the fight and help us to continue to fight the enemy and continue to create an environment in the world that safe for all to live in. Yeah, that sounds really interesting. And one of the things that I think is really interesting about your story is that you decided to write a book by your daughter, and I know you're, you have it, and I have my dad, right here. So can we talk a little bit about my other soldiers daughter, and how it all came to be? Yes. So um, for me, I actually got a little bit of what's called mom guilt, my daughter was four, and I felt bad. You know, here I am serving my country, right and taken off and just live in Howard family. And so I wanted to do something to kind of give back to her to Canada as a tribute to her and let her know that despite the fact that I was overseas or serving, you know, serving my country, I also, you know, I'm also her mom. And I also want her to understand that I didn't neglect her. So I wanted to tell her story from her voice from our perspective. So this is called Maya soldier's daughter, and is basically telling her story of her journey, what she went through while she was deployed to Canada. And one of the things that she experienced, a lot of times when kids are left, you know, my daughter was very attached to me, she still is, because there was only the two of us in our household, she was very attached. So when I took her to Canada, he had an illness where it caused her to go to the bathroom literally every five minutes, because she had anxiety, she was very stressed. So she dealt with that it probably took her but three months to recover from that. So she had our own separation, anxiety, hormone separation, I'm stressed, I didn't talk about that part of the book, which I do plan to talk about that at a later book. But in this book, I really talk about her story from from the lens of her being in the classroom, being in a different country, being in a family and how she missed her, her mom, and I wanted to show in a show that her mom is obviously serving, you know, serving our country, but I was saved. And you know, as pretty much told by her guardian angel in the story, who came to home one night and tell her that your mom is saved. Let me show you her. Here she is, and she's going to be back home to surgery. So just a children's story, you know, as a tribute to my daughter for for leaving her while I was deployed to Afghanistan. Yeah, and this episode is gonna go live in April, which is the month of the military child. So I think it's really so important that we talk about military kids and the challenges that they face because deployments are hard on the parent who has to leave. But they're also really hard on the kids that are left behind, and they're resilient. But it's so hard for, you know, kids to go through that. And so I think it's really cool that you talk about, like, really deep emotions that she felt and the struggles that she had. And I liked how you put the book together. So it's really good. Thank you. I appreciate that. Because one of the angles that I'm looking at in terms of the promotion of the book, a lot of times that we you know, we talk about deployment, but we tend to forget the families and the children and for lack of a better phrase, right children deploy to right. That was my Azzam. So my daughter's name is Rebecca, but in the book I call her Maya, but that was my own little deployment. What happens to the children when the parents are deployed? What are their experiences? What are they going through? Right? They have experiences sure they have a voice they have stories, so we need to also start looking at planning from their lens as opposed to just looking at it from Oh, here's that soldier Oh, she's able to she's been for Benin for 20 something years she's able to go to Afghanistan and take care of the war and help out and you know, in defending the country but let's also talk about the children and their experience. And that is why I wanted to tell my story my has a story to tell she Case in point right now with my my tool here and where I am now in Massachusetts. She's now here with me and this is her fourth school as a military child being only a this is a poor school. She's been in and as you said earlier, Amanda that children are resilient. Yes, she is very resilient and I'm very thankful for her resiliency, but we also have to be To make sure they're from the, you know, they're mentally strong also to go through what we go through. Because you know, we just pick them up and say, Okay, let's go. Mommy's going to Massachusetts now I'll buy. I'll see you in two months, Mommy's going away. But we have to make sure that their voices heard. And that's one of the reasons why I tell my other soldiers daughter's story. Yeah, that's so important. And did you talk to her specifically to come up with ideas for the book?
Cathy Ann Alexander 40:26
Oh my oodness, yes, a lot of information in the book she actually helped write. There is even down to picking out her outfits. In the book. At the very end, what is really cute that I like to share at the very end of the book, there is the song. And this is so the lyrics to the song is there. And this is this is a song that I've been singing to her since she was one in a one year old. And that is all a song. So for me, military pretty much says, right? I love you, I love you. I love you so much. I love you. I love you. I love you so much. And that's basically how I feel about her. And I wanted to let her know that despite the fact that I love the military, and I serve the military, I'm serving in the military, you also all here I want you to you know, I want you to be a part of that experience. So I want you to share that and incorporate and put your own touch on the box. A lot of information that's in here. It's inspiration from her. For example, She if you notice, I like her pajamas in the book that she's where she knows Penguin, her favorite stuffed animal is a penguin. And she wanted to make sure penguin found its way somewhere in the book. And that's how she ended up with having a pajamas with a penguin on. And also she wanted to have some of her friends in the book. So the children in the classroom, some of her friends, you're from suburbia school, and from church, they all are, you know, merged as part of the story. That is why I tell my story. And that is why you know, I'm a storyteller, and I enjoy writing. Because I just want to be able to write and be able to lend a voice to a lot of people who want to do the same thing. I just feel like well, you know, they are afraid to do it. But I want to be able to share that and let people know that writing can be therapeutic. And it's important to share your story because everyone has a story to tell.
Yeah. And I also know that you are doing a run walk event to honor the 12 military members who died while you were in Afghanistan. Right? Yeah, Amanda. So for me, I was always deployed as an individual augmentee that basically means my unit was not mobilized. I was not deployed my unit I was the army snatched me up individually and said, You know what, I need you to go over there and do this job. So I was there. So with people from all across the country, but what I decided to do upon returning from home was I wanted to honor the soldiers that were lost while I was serving boots on ground. So I arrived in Afghanistan, I got there. So my deployment was from April to May, from 2017 to 2018. I didn't lose anyone from my team. But every time a soldier was lost, we had what's called black out and just imagine sitting in your barracks room. Right? Your little soldiers, you know, entertainment is being on the phone, like on the weekend, watch the movie and the iPad, or you know, whatever it is you do on your phone, and all of a sudden, it's just total backless, right. It's total Doc, anytime you have what's called blackout. That means we lost the soldier and I experienced blackout several times. And there were 12 soldiers that were never able to make it back to their families. So I wanted to do something to honor those soldiers. I was lucky, I was one of the lucky ones. I made it back safely on American soil, unable to walk around those two of the knots. So in 2019, I started a run walk event. And that race is to honor the 12 soldiers that died. My goal is to create a foundation and out of those soldiers I so it's going to be a double annual race. And so for example, the first year that event I responds and I donated it to the Green Beret Foundation, because the last soldier who died was was a Green Beret from my home state, New Jersey. And I wanted to do that donated to in his honor. But every year as I do the race, I want to raise funds and the ultimate goal is to create a scholarship in honor of the children of the fallen soldiers. And that is the plan. Amanda right. So it's all about giving back. I was able to come back safely. I'm still in the military, I'm still enjoying the benefits of the military, the ability to lead and take care of soldiers, you know, as as an officer, and I think it's very important that we give back I don't need to just wait for society for civilians. To take care of all soldiers and say, oh, let's just have, you know, the civilian population on our soldiers. I'm a veteran, I as a veteran can turn around and honor our fallen soldiers. And that is the goal with this foundation I'm working on is so honor the soldier to create a circle, what I'm doing is just creating a circle around us 12 for father, and eventually I want to write a book, a children's book, about the soldier was able to get in contact with their families and get the permission, I want to write a story children's story about those soldiers. So in that way, I can share their story. And you know, so we we want to be able to create a face, right create, give them a voice, lend a voice to the fallen soldiers, make them come alive, and have people understand what soldiers go through what was the sacrifice that we pay that we either so everyone can continue to experience and enjoy the freedom of this great country. And in the very beginning, I started Amanda and I said that for me being joining the military is an American dream. And for me, Amanda, I have to say it's truly the American dream. I came from a small island in the Caribbean, Grenada, I was raised in a raised in poverty. And being in the military, being in America, being part of this great country. And this great military has opened up so many doors for me and given me so many great opportunities. I would like for people to know that. So the military is not necessarily a taboo. It's a place like oh my God, why are you joining the military is only for for dropouts are for kids who don't know what I want to do. Now, the military establishes, it helps you to develop and become a leader and helps you to develop your voice to understand your voice and share that experience with others. I've made so many I've met so many great friends in the military, over the 23 years that I've been in, it just helped me to become resilient, and to appreciate life and appreciate everything, everything I do, and just been able to go outside and been able to go outside and take a deep breath and enjoy that fresh air. It just helps me to just become a more well rounded individual. So I think that's something if I had a choice, I think everyone should start two years in the military to be able to get that experience and be able to have great conversations with veterans like yourself and you know, participate in grid, integrate programs like the ones you you're presenting here, Amanda? Yeah, I think you just answered my last question, which was what advice would you give to people considering the military service and it sounds like you highly recommended and it's opened so many doors for you. And and we also need to mention that you also have written two other books. Yes, I'm gonna put links to all your books, you can say the titles if you want and your other two books, but I'll put links in the show notes to both to all three of your books, and then also to the run walk event so that if people want to find it, they'll be able to find it really quickly. But can you talk about both of these buzzing and witty words?
Cathy Ann Alexander 48:03
Yes. I always enjoyed writing. That was for me, that was my, my soul is my go to, and the wisest way to words for your life journey. It's inspirational words to help measure your life and keep you on track is basically 102 different quotations that I coin on pretty much came up with on my own. It was inspired by a lot of previous quotations. But what I want to do is be able to give people a light from me, you know what I believe I mentioned at the beginning, I was always an introvert, I was quiet. I didn't do a lot of social interaction. But what kept me going was words, were just reading, whether it was just a poem, or just cotechino just quotes I just bought, I always enjoyed reading. So I wanted to be one of the opportunity to be able to share words, inspirational words to help someone because for me was is what's helped me through a lot of difficult times in my life. So these are all different quotations. For example, here, it says to energize you energize your life, you must charge your soul, it is better to get some fresh air on the first floor and to suffocate in the basement. So just words is really what helps me going I wanted to share that. So this is about self help, and just motivation. And the talent was added to travel and be this is gonna be a series. This is the premise of actually just completed part two. So I'm working on the illustration right now. And what's interesting about this book is this is based on the true story. It was just a little accident that happened one day where I commuted I lived in Jersey and commuted to New York City to work and I took the bus. I'll take the bus to go to work on a daily basis at one J. As I was getting on the bus, there was a bee that got on the bus also. And so halfway through the vibe on the way to the New York City. This B was just been a nuisance and just scared a lot of people on the bus and everybody was like oh my goodness, let's get to be up a bus and Literally that's what happened people like open the windows let's get to be at the bus so I took that experience on the bus as a target into a children's story The Tale of azana to traveling the and the goal is to take Rosetta and have Rosanna traveled to different countries there's gonna be a part of it Afghanistan Allah says a person is gonna be a being traveled to Afghanistan and yeah so that that's how I was added to traveling be was was born and so yeah I those all those books are available on Amazon and also can be available on my website, which is my name Kathy and Alexander calm. But he also asked me a mandate and me wanting to say what what advice I will give to anyone joining the military, I'll say, Go with your heart. Um, for me after I joined I detached myself from friends and family because a lot of people told me well, you made you made a mistake. Why did you join the military and that's not something you want to go into your heart if that's what you want. Go with it. The military has been a great place for me, it has given me the opportunity to learn a lot and make many great people and go many different places. I mean, I get to go to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Afghanistan, even though most people might not think it's Kuwait and just the rich experience, I think everyone should be able to get an opportunity. So yes, there are a lot of difficult parts of the military, I don't want to make it seem like a bed of roses. The tritanus is challenging for some people who might not necessarily like the physical aspect of it, but it helps to build resiliency, it helps to keynoter best create motivation, and helps to inspire you and just make you become a more well rounded individual. So if anyone has the opportunity to join the military, I definitely I would definitely encourage it. So if anyone wants to know anything more about the military decided, you know, trying to decide whether or not you should join, feel free to reach out to me I'll you know, be able to provide some additional information and you know, my own personal share some of more my own personal experience of what I've gathered and learn from the military over my 23 years, oh my goodness, 24 years Come come November is gonna be 24 October.
And I just launched a YouTube channel, girls guide to the military. So there's videos on there to help you in your decision making process. The first three are all focused around deciding if you should join the military. So I'll link to that too, in case people want to check it out. And thank you so much for sharing your story for writing your books and just showing your heart I love how you're giving back to the community and giving back to others. It's just it's really inspiring, and I really appreciate the work that you're doing. Thank you, Amanda,
Cathy Ann Alexander 52:53
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate what you're doing. Also, it's very, very important that military women voices are heard. So thank you, and thank you for your service to this great country. Appreciate it.
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