Grapenuts and milk anyone?

  • Published
  • By Col. David Benson
  • 509th Operations Group commander
On the tail end of Women's History Month and all the talk about resiliency, I felt it appropriate to tell a story about a lady named Marcia you know her?  

The story starts with Marcia marrying right out of high school in the late 1960's. She and her husband would have two kids and struggle in the suburbs of St. Louis.  Wanting a better life for her family, she began to work to put her husband through college.  After four years, he graduated and they began their new journey together, but things just weren't the same.

His job took them to Mississippi, and after a couple years of trying, Marcia and her husband divorced. With no job and no money, she had no choice but to give custody of her two children to her husband and start looking for a job. The children would later recall visiting their mother on the weekends during this time. She lived in a rundown studio apartment with one bedroom and no TV (internet was not invented yet ... ) and lots of bugs. They would all sleep in a double bed together. Often they would only have Grapenuts and milk to eat for all three meals of the day. Marcia couldn't afford anything else. However, through it all, the children never remembered their mom being sad around them.  She was always happy to see them and bare situations only emphasized the need to spend time as a family playing games or going for walks.  Life was good.

The search for a job would land Marcia at an Air Force recruiting office.  While she didn't have many labor skills, she was an accomplished singer in school and church. 

The Air Force recruiter hired her on the spot and few months later, she was an Airman in the Air Force Band of the Gulf Coast.  With the help and support of her fellow Airmen, Marcia would find a home in the Air Force and build a career with the Air Force Band. After a few years, she would earn enough money to buy a home. Soon her children, who she reluctantly let go of years before, would decide to leave their father and move in with the lady that loved them so much, she once gave them up so they could have a better life.  Marcia would go on to spend almost a decade in the Air Force and leave as a Staff Sgt.  And while she didn't retire, she has always been grateful for the opportunities it and the "family" the Air Force provided when she had nothing else.

Driven by her example, Marcia's two children grew up to be a PhD working for the Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the 509th Operations Group Commander. 

Marcia continues to sing with a band to this day...the band members are a little older and the songs are probably no longer "in style," but this story is not about her career.  It is about her perseverance when she had almost job, no kids (except for the occasional weekend),...just Grapenuts and milk.  It is about her drive to make a better life for herself and her kids.  It is about getting up when you are at rock bottom.  It is about OUR Air Force, the outstanding opportunities it brings and how the Air Force family is there when you need it the most. 

So if you ever find yourself at "the bottom," please remember your Air Force family is there to help.  We "will never leave an Airman behind."  Keep pushing forward knowing every Airman is important to our mission...EVERY Airman.  Even if you only have Grapenuts and milk, you are family.  And, while it may take some hard work and sacrifice, the opportunity for a better life is always there.