I connected with Iva Rose on Facebook via another friend. I am fascinated with Iva Rose and her spunk and enthusiasm for life. It is addictive. But Iva Rose is not like you or me. We get up, drink coffee, watched “The Today Show”, eat a bagel or cereal for breakfast, drop the kids off at school and go to our jobs. Iva Rose does not do that because she is a Sergeant First Class, serving in the army in Afghanistan. I wanted to share her story with all so I asked Iva Rose to be a guest writer this week. Below is the first part of a three part series. So please sit back and enjoy.
“In a Solder’s Words”
August 29,1989 – This is the beginning of my story, the major turning point in my life. This was almost 22 years ago. At the time, I was dating a very handsome, sexy Captain (CPT) in the US Army. He was the love of my life but he was never my soul mate. Both of us were divorced and this CPT swept me off his feet. I was 33 years old and needed change. I had never lived outside Tennessee. I was in a dead end job and all my friends dared me to adventure out. Before I knew it, I woke up in basic training at Fort McClellan, AL.
At first, I was planning to just do my four years, get the GI Bill for my Master’s Degree, and marry the handsome CPT to become an Officer’s wife. God sometimes has totally different plans for your life. At this time in my life, I was not living the Christian life. I did not consult God in prayer with major decisions and was just a bench warmer on Sundays.
While I was stationed in Germany, the CPT and I broke up. He resigned from the Army. I move on to fall in love with a younger Military Policeman and re-enlisted 1992 for a location to be near him.
The re-enlisting was not the BIG mistake, but doing this because of some man in uniform was. Of course, this relationship did not work out and now, I had another four years to go. From this lesson in life, I always emphasize to my young Soldiers to pray about their re-enlistment options and never do it based on young “lust.”
June 1994, if Soldiers volunteered for Korea, they would get assignment of their choice afterwards. At this point, my Dad started showing signs of Alzheimer’s and my Mother’s failing health grew worse. I needed to get home to Tennessee after I served my year in Korea.
Again, God sometimes has totally different plans for your life. While in Korea, August 17, 1994, I was diagnosed with throat cancer and medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
After my battle with cancer, I was reassigned to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Office of the Center Judge Advocate, Washington DC. In 1996, I would re-enlist for the second time. This time I re-enlisted for six years. This time was not because of some young man in uniform. This time around, I had prayed about the decision. The Army had convinced me that their medical benefits, promotions, and way of life were worth making it a career and retiring after my 20 years. I was 100% focused on my career and on the fast track. I went from Private First Class (August 29, 1989) to Sergeant First Class (SFC) on December 1, 1999. Bosnia and Kosovo were our deployments during this part of USA history.
September 11, 2001–America would never be the same. Our lives would never be the same. Us, in uniform understood what the missions ahead held. The USA economy was thriving but after what Al Qaeda had done to America, there were very few military members that chose to leave for the higher paying jobs that the private sector offered but instead continued on serving their country. Recruiter offices were flooded with applicants.
11 September 2001 would be the beginning of the constant back to back deployments. All Force Command Divisions (FORSCOM) would be home for one year and rotate out on a deployment for one year.
Fall 2003, IRAQ/ weapons of mass destruction were now on our plates. The USA economy was still booming and recruiters were now beginning to have major difficulties in getting their numbers. Keeping Soldiers in the ranks was becoming a major challenge. Re-enlistment bonuses, initial entry bonuses, and all kind of incentives are offered to young recruits. The standard would drop to its very lowest of allowing anyone in the Army.
Throughout history, those serving in uniform have always been a reflection of the best that American society has to offer. After the Vietnam War, the armed forces became a total volunteer force. Only 1-2% of Americans serve in uniform. We, serving in uniform, are held to higher standards. When our nations’ standards fall, so will those that defend your freedoms?
2008, the USA economy began to show signs of recession. I was one year from retirement but I decided that this is not the best time to hang up the uniform. I started dating my ex-husband, Roger Dale Cavanah and we fell back in love after 28 years of being divorced. Veteran Day’s 2009, I re-marry the only man that I have ever lived with. I deploy with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY May 2010.
Why does a Soldier decide to stay in? For me, part of it is the pay and benefits after 22 years of service but a bigger part is, it has become my way of life. After visiting 19 different nations; living in three; traveling to 30 out of the 50 USA states; living in seven; landing in 27 different airports; it is called living life to its fullest. It is also the feeling of giving back to serve others. Freedom is always worth fighting for. We in uniform understand the sacrifices. Another huge part is called Patriotism. I love being an American and the American way of life. My Patterson ancestors have been in uniform fighting for our freedom since Valley Forge, PA and Kings Mountain, SC.
This article and its contents are strictly just my opinions and are not any official endorsements, opinions, or statements of the US Army. I love serving our country and will continue to do so for as long as I can.
20 February 2011
Sergeant First Class Iva Rose Patterson-Cavanah