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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth McLean’

Women Veterans Speak Out: Dog Tags

Posted by YWM on October 31, 2012

Returning guest blogger, Elizabeth McLean, an Air Force Academy graduate who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years continues to tell her personal story of life after the military.

The following is a monologue that I wrote and preformed  for the Ms Veteran America contest. I was speaking a homeless veteran on the streets of San Francisco. In the scene I leaned against a bench in tattered military garb, with a blanket wrapped around me. Starting out…singing to myself.

 “hello darkness my old friend…I’ve come to talk with you again. While the vision softly creeping..plants the seed while I as sleeping…”

Sleep. Right. I am sure that is exactly what you all think I am doing here. Curled up in a fetal position against the graffitied wall with tatterered garbage blanket I found on the curbside—hell, I haven’t slept in months!

Do you have any idea just how cold it is before the sun comes up? I can’t even feel my own toes in these combat boots. And not like it really matters anyways cuz’ I’ve got everything I need right here in my bag. Canteen, compass, my son’s stuffed animal you threw back at me for you took him away for the final time. And then..I have these dog tags.

{STAND} Oh I see you walking by with you half eaten deli sandwich, thinking you can just toss it at me and I might give you these tags. Well that is not how it works. These tags are the only thing I have left in this world that reminds me that I once made something of myself. I am not anything now!

I used to be this beautiful girl. Poised, sophisticated, hair pulled back neat in a bun. But I didn’t mind getting dirty with the rest of those guys in the Wild West. Sure I HATED when the bombs when off. And I hated those convoys probably more than ANYTHING else in this world. But there was something about being out there…petrified with all of them. That beat the hell out of being alone out here like this!

I thought one day…I might be able to tell my war stories. But it really doesn’t seem like anybody wants to give me a chance. I knew it would be a rough transition when I got back…but I never in million years thought I would end up like this. Tired, filthy, freezing..so incredibly alone.

All I really wanted was for someone to listen to me. To call me a war hero, or at least recognize the fact that I was out there serving too. But instead you just walk by, kick the can and call me another homeless BUM underneath your breath.

Well sir I can tell you….this homeless VET; she fights more battles in a single day then you will probably ever fight in your life time. But she is…tired. You took away my home, you took away my money, you took away what was left of my family….and right now, the only thing I have left is the freedom that these dog tags represent [grasp tags]….and NO SIR…you will not ever take that away from me!

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Women Veterans Speak Out: Life Rules – Determination, Healthy Living and Athletics

Posted by YWM on July 3, 2012

Read the latest article in BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.

Returning guest blogger, Elizabeth McLean, an Air Force Academy graduate who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years tells her personal story.  Elizabeth is an avid triathlete.

I don’t sweat…I glisten. I enjoy wearing stylish and chic clothes when I workout. I care how I look in spandex when running outdoors. I still like my hair to look neat when I pull my swim cap off. I want my race photos to look cute…not scare people away. I relish in the concept of wearing fake pearl stud earrings when I run.  All of the statements above may be true, but I also am determined to attempt to keep up with any man competing…and not let my smile be misconstrued for weakness. Each of these statements makes me proud to be a woman, but not any less of a competitor. When I peel back the base layer of who I am as a person…the word “athlete” is where I locate the most pride. The truth of it is…..being an athlete is what has made me a strong female.

As a young girl, I did not cheer on my star football team boyfriend or learn about how to be a model wife in home economics. I learned how to be confident in whom I was through my athletics and intelligence.  By the time I was able to run, I was competing in local races against the rest of my community. By the time I was 9, I competed in my first half marathon in California. By the time I was 17, I had run over 25 half marathons in countries to include Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia and a cream of locations across the United States. Also by the age of 17, I had twice backpacked the John Muir Trail that was 220 miles long across the Sierra Nevada’s; carrying a 55 pound back with a race to the summit of Mt Whitney. By the time I was 28 I had run numerous marathons, competed in triathlons around the nation, backpacked the Haute trail in Switzerland and completed a full Ironman.

What these athletic endeavors taught me in my youth, were to always push myself to succeed. I learned firsthand that if I was driven enough, my gender would not get in the way of paving the path of my life.  My confidence in athletics and competition spilled over into the classroom, where I was never content with as much as an A- on my report cards. A cyclical pattern of cross-country, track and sport competition encouraged me to not ever settle in any aspect of my life. I knew that if I could control my body, I could control my mind and therefore control my future.  I did not settle in school, in love or in expectations of myself or others closest to me.

It was the fact that I would be graded on my athletic determination and disciplined abilities that convinced me to join the service and enter a military academy. I would not just be judged on my grades, but I would be judged on my ability to stay healthy and in-shape while keeping the rest of my life in order. If I could wake up at 0400 to run with a headlamp on before classes, I could surely keep myself disciplined in my academic studying and the other pillars of my life.

The path to healthy living starts with involvement in athletics. With healthy living, comes more contentment in oneself through career, love and leisure. I utilized this mantra to challenge my airmen in the service to better themselves and those around them. I would never let a member say that a female could not keep up—-if you can’t be militant in your own self-discipline, how can you be in the military at all? If I was the one leading the push-ups and yelling encouragement at the front of the unit, nobody could ever make a comment that women did not hold their place. If had a reputation for being able to push any man to his limits physically, it is not likely they would contest my abilities to lead or make decisions in the field. I can safely say I gained the respect of my airmen and leadership by first impressing them with my physical abilities.  The rest followed after the initial PT session…..

True, I may still add a little extra water proof mascara before my races so I feel more feminine, but it is not the makeup that defines me. It is the fact I am allowed to sign up for the event that makes me who I am today. Without athletics, I do not know where my motivation would have come from.  I am grateful it has been such a large part of my life  and that I was privileged to grow up in the era after enactment of Title IX that allowed my generation of women to participate in sports competition in the first place.

Posted in Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, sports, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Women Veterans Speak Out: I’d like my own Social Security Number Back Please

Posted by YWM on May 14, 2012

Read the latest article in BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.

Returning guest blogger, Elizabeth McLean, an Air Force Academy graduate who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years tells her personal story.

The transition from the military world to civilian culture is undoubtedly a difficult one for a female; everything from fashion to finding your proper place in a community seems challenging. You are peeled away from the rigid military environment and asked to flourish on your own in a society that fails to understand the path that you have chosen. The trials and tribulations of opening your eyes to a new chapter are difficult, but what compounds it even more is when you leave the military and are still connected to a spouse who serves. The question is how do you find a balance of being a veteran and a military spouse at the same time?  How do you come to terms with the fact that you are now identified by your husband’s social security number?

One obstacle can be the already formed spouse club that you are asked to join in order to support your husband.  Here we need to get around stereotypes by both groups.  It is often perceived that military spouses do not particularly enjoy the company of female service members. Spouses may view the military women as a threat and not respect the fact that the woman is serving in such close proximity to their husbands is just about business.  Military woman conversely may unfairly assume that the spouses are women who have decided to live through their husband’s careers and restrict themselves from exerting their own independence. When these stereotypic worlds collide female veterans can feel ostracized and lonely and guilty about not supporting her husband.  As  an ambitious woman adjusting to her new civilian work day, she cannot stand at the bake sale in the middle of the day. This leaves her alone, looking aloof and not supportive of both her husband and her fellow spouses. Just one more barrier to building new relationships.

Additional barriers are the new base restrictions and “dependent policies” the veteran must follow. Suddenly the reality hits that when you have medical or personal affairs that you are no longer “allowed” to take care of without the authorization of your husband. The irony has been laced with frustration when a woman who once led hundreds overseas, is no longer permitted to be responsible for her own dental records or make a doctor’s appointment for her sprained ankle. Those who have

Photograph by Collin Krauthamer

been military spouses for a while are accustomed to this way of life, but for the woman veteran the word ‘dependent’ has never really been in her vocabulary. Bottom-line, in the mind of the veteran is…if Rosie the Riveter can be a cultural American icon and flex her abilities, so can prior service women.

Being that the military still defines the husband and it is a fine line of trying to not shun the military husband from his squadron with your standoffishness, is the answer to bake the cookies and send them with your husband to show you still care about his career? Reach out to the spouse club and offer your words of wisdom on what a deployment is truly like? Let down your own defenses and judgments and ask the civilian spouses what it is that fuels them in life?? Perhaps the answer is to truly define your new self with your civilian pedigree and let pride roll off of your shoulder with what you have done in the past? Perhaps it all boils down to communication and learning from each other.

Regardless the answer, the women veterans must realize that just because you don’t salute the 4 star anymore…doesn’t mean you stop being motivated or that you love your husband any less.  You’ve bridged gaps with logistical nightmares in foreign countries….is it that difficult to bridge a gap amongst the world of spouses? Having pride in independence is perhaps a trait you can help others to appreciate in your new social circle…


Posted in Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces – Women Veterans Speak Out: Love Is The Most Important Thing

Posted by YWM on January 16, 2012

Returning guest blogger, Liz Mclean, an Air Force Academy graduate who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years tells a very personal story today.

In my past articles, I have talked about my drive towards the ambiguous definition of “success” …the constant quest for new motivation. While I have always been someone who recognized the efforts others, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how the unwavering support of one particular person is truly what carried me for the past 27 years. Without him…”success” would have had a much smaller meaning.

Not but a few weeks ago, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized throughout his body. I have had horrendous experiences in life, but finding this news was by far the most gut wrenching.  Much like the opening stanza to Emerson’s Concord Hymn, it was a devastating shotgun diagnosis heard around the world.  Flying out to CA to sit in the Oncologists office as “Jingle Bells” played in the background was surreal, but it was my father’s positive mind-set that still made it seem like Christmas after all.

Liz and her dad Bud

As he goes from doctor to doctor hearing the trials and tribulations of what he must endure ….one thing never vacillates: his positive attitude and his mantra to fight with all his heart. When I say to him “dad, you are an inspiration to start appreciating what is important in life” his response is “I’ve always said love is the most important thing in the world. Some people thought I was crazy. But I have known it is supporting family, friends and having a positive attitude that matters.”

As I began to reflect on life, I started realizing what it was that got me to this point of “success.” There is no doubt I have worked hard on my own, but without my dad’s love and support growing up…I would not be anywhere. Starting to compete in running events in Kindergarten; my dad was there as a cheering squad for every road, cross-country or track event. I can still hear him in the background chanting “Go Liz Go!” as I came around the bend. He was there for every drama performance, every monologue, for my Miss Junior America competitions, my biggest fan for every newspaper article I drafted, my sailing teacher, my horse show applauder, my driving teacher, my example of work ethic and the one person who constantly told me he thought I was beautiful.

When I think back to momentous occasions such as when my USAFA acceptance envelope came in the mail, parents’ weekends, graduation, my wedding, nearly every Thanksgiving no matter where I was in the world…..he has been there. My number one fan.

The point being that sometimes when you think you have accomplished success on your own, you fail to look behind the scenes to who may have been the catalyst. My father has given me faith to prevail …and now it is my turn to stand behind him to help him make this fight.  Cheers to you Dad….you were right….love is the most important thing in the world. Keep calm and carry on.

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mentoring, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – A Challenging Decision: Entering a Military Academy

Posted by danielleac on November 7, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

This week’s blog brought to us by Liz Mclean, an Air Force Academy graduate from a small town who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years, both stateside and abroad.

A Challenging Decision:  Entering a Military Academy

While in high-school, the unwavering goal to enter a military academy, to break away from a broken home or home town mentality meant having to be “well-rounded.” You need not just excel academically, but excel physically, also. You have your bright-eyed young female who graduates high school with a 4.5 GPA, runs circles around everyone else athletically, writes for the local paper, studies abroad in Italy, spearheads charity organizations….and doesn’t have time for the typical boy scene.

But she does it and is accepted to the Air Force Academy where she is asked to enter a whole new world of discipline and must redefine her next set of goals. While she realizes that she has in fact been accepted to college, she can’t help but wonder “What’s my next challenge or goal? Am I doing well enough?…I need more.”

An introduction to a military academy would start with your waist long blonde hair being chopped to a shaggy cut of Zach Morris; your femininity and external identity stripped away. You find yourself surrounded by 1200 driven clones (about 10% of which are women), running to class on marble strips…trying to find a way to stand-out without fashion or accessories.

Your confidence as a woman and a human being are completely broken down, to only be built back-up through the most rigorous challenges. Your definition of self is formulated by your ability to balance a full engineering class load, learn a foreign language, speak in front of varied audiences, excel in every graded physical aspect, discipline yourself to make your quarters and uniform sparkle, be tested on leadership…..and still find a way to be conspicuous. From earning your jump wings in the only existing free-fall program,  to volunteering to be the first wave of cadets to ever deploy…you strive to standout in a positive light.

Through all of this you become more professional, and you forge friendships with the few other women who share your common yet unusual ambition and level headedness. These friends will be part of only a small number of others like you will encounter in life, the type of friends that never seem to slow down, but instead, help push each other to the most extreme dimensions.  

While attending school, you also find the love of your life who sees you for who you truly are; uniform and all. Your relationship is challenged by the rules of the military institution, implemented in part because of the abysmal sexual assault scandal that has unjustly taken the institution by storm. As a woman, you feel more alienated than anything because you have to overcome the stereotype of being easily offended and pay for other peoples’ poor judgment. No doors will be closed when with members of the opposite gender, no sitting on the same horizontal surface and no showing any sign of affection whatsoever. Through all of this, (you and your now fiancée) still find yourselves connecting and consistently on the same page as a GI power-couple.

The academy teaches you to be able to take on nearly any challenge placed in front of you…multi-tasking to the ultimate dimension.  You are transferred from the young Zach Morris high-school graduate to someone who is much more polished and is ready to lead hundreds in any capacity. When graduation comes (and your class has been whittled down to less than 800 from 1200), for the first time in your life you cry tears of joy as you catapult your cap into the sky. You are ready for your next dare in life…and you still wonder at the end of it all “What’s my next challenge or goal to achieve? Am I doing well enough?…I need more.”

Stay tuned for more from Liz McLean……

Read another Liz McLean blog.

Posted in Career Advancement, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – The Quarter-Life Crisis

Posted by danielleac on October 24, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org.

The Quarter-Life Crisis

(This week’s blog brought to us by Liz Mclean, an Air Force Academy graduate from a small town who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years, both stateside and abroad. She left the service as an O-3.)

 

The concept of the “mid-life” crisis should hit around actual middle age; this dramatic era of self-doubt where people start agonizing over the imminent passing of their youth.

Stereotyping of course, it is what I like to call the Peg Bundy syndrome:  age 55, suddenly transitioning to leopard print leggings, spiked high heels, big hair and ruby red lipstick in search of an undefined dream or goal.  The result of the crisis may end up as this burning desire to make significant changes in essential aspects of day-to-day life; specifically in career and work-life balance. It becomes this constant yearning to find the next challenge.

But for a military woman, what happens when that mid-life crisis occurs at the younger age of 25? The world had best be ready for the women veterans who are going to be taking the world by storm with their eternal ambition.

Liz on Duty

Picture a disciplined military academy college alumnus with an additional graduate degree, who has served stateside and/or overseas in a leadership role in a time of a war. Picture a woman who has tackled any logistical nightmare placed in front of her, impacted lives across varying spectrums, traveled the world for business or pleasure, exhausted her own humanitarian efforts, is financially secure, wears camouflage with her hair neatly in a bun and a tube of lipstick in her back pocket, likely found a significant other (who depending on the female, may or may not have been able to keep up with her), pushed the limits of nearly every physically demanding event… and still has this burning void in life with this undefined definition to “succeed.”

The question starts becoming, what’s next? What do you do when you still have self-doubt because you don’t want to sit back and just relax…but want to continually make a difference on the quest to break away from mediocrity? For me, I am hoping the answer ends up as I join the civilian world where I have to continually prove myself with intellect….while signing up for an Ironman in Texas to prove myself physically. For some of my closest military friends, the answer has been to venture towards medical school as a second career, go back to become a pilot after already serving 5 years as a Maintenance Officer leading hundreds, teach English to Japanese forces, or start her own non-profit organization.

People may squabble over the concept of twenty-something year olds feeling like they have a lack of meaningful goals in their lives: we know we are still considered ‘young’ and have our whole lives ahead of us. The fact of the matter is, when you have accomplished as much as these women in the military have in such a short period of time, there is a feeling of not knowing where to find that next challenge so we don’t look back at age 55 and say “I wish I had accomplished what I wanted when I was younger. “

At the end of the day, these ladies simply wonder, “What’s my next challenge or goal to achieve? Am I doing well enough? I need more.”  

                     Stay tuned for more from the life of Liz McLean….

Posted in Gen Y, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »