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Zylkia Swensen

Zylkia Swensen

Kentucky, United States

LN Nurse, B.S.Computer Programing, BA Human Development and Family Studies, US Army Veteran Quartermaster, Logistics and Author, Mother.

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About the author

Hi everyone. I am Zylkia Swensen. I am the bio-mother of 3 amazing kids. I have been poor, hungry, mistreated, and abused...but it did not stop me. I sweat blood and tears, I beat homelessness, and Survive Basic Training. Now I am a desperate mother. A year ago my ex-husband decided to take me out of our son's life and I lost it. While on treatment, I started writing my story for healing. after finishing it notice it was a learning process I wanted to share with the world. Hopefully, you will find inspiration and fight for what you want in life.
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The Voice of a Phoenix

Your Life Matters

This is my story: I had struggled with depression all my life and as a coping mechanism, I authored a book to spread self-love and individualism. I learn that Suicide is Never an option and gave me something to live for. Using my own story to help others

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Motivation & Inspiration
55,000 words
100% complete
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I. Overview 

  •  This is my story: I had struggled with depression all my life and as a coping mechanism, I authored a book to spread self-love and individualism. I learn that Suicide is Never an option and gave me something to live for. Now, I want to expand my family by IVF or adoption. Find that one thing you want more than anything and GO FOR IT, life will end on its own, why rush it? So, stand tall, look in the mirror, and scream: "My Life Matters!" 

  • The Voice of a Phoenix is a very personal book. It took me a long time to finish it because I still feel the pain of my “darker times.” Writing The Voice of a Phoenix helped me immensely because I was able to understand my pain. With every chapter I wrote, I learned things, discovered so much about myself, and applied anything that could be beneficial to my own life. Pain is part of life; you can't learn without it, step by step, but never stop. Life is worth living and worth fighting for no matter how many times you must start over. 

  • The book is, funny, sad, and inspirational, light enough to be understood by anyone. 

Sales arguments

  • ● Encourage people to give life a second chance.
  • ● Show them that they are not alone and urge them to seek help.
  • ● Change the way society sees mental health and hopefully awaken a movement to save lives.
  • ● Open the way for the world to talk about Suicide and awareness.

Similar titles

  • Suicide Prevention: An Ethically and Scientifically Informed › books Samuel J. Knapp, ‎Samuel Knapp · 2020 · ‎No preview This book offers essential information about assessing, managing, and providing mental health treatment for suicidal adult outpatients.
  • Rethinking Suicide: Why Prevention Fails, and How We Can Do › books Craig J. Bryan · 2021 "When I joined the Air Force in 2005, hostilities in Iraq were escalating, resulting in more frequent and longer deployments for just about everyone serving in the military, including psychologists.
  • Suicide Prevention: Stahl's › books Christine Yu Moutier, ‎Anthony R. Pisani, ‎Stephen M. Stahl · 2021 A practical and easy-to-use guide for healthcare professionals on the prevention, assessment and treatment of people at risk of suicide.


● This book is for everyone. If you are having Mental Health and for those that live and takes care of them. The book is simple to understand, enough to be OK for Children 10 up. Suicide don’t discriminate, sex, age, or social status.

Advance praise

The Voice of a Phoenix is a book that can truly agree that the content matches the title. I especially love that Zylkia did not just jump into the book and make it just about depression; she made us feel her feelings and carried us along from her childhood to every one of her relationships to the birth of each of her children. I love it! I love how detailed and honest she is, and through the book, from when I got to chapter six, my emotions got more intense. The way Nana treated Zylkia and her kids almost made me shed a tear; no mother deserves to go through the pain of someone hurting their children or living in a motel or women's shelter just because they need to get away from their abusive husband, and I was really hoping she found a man who would be her soul mate and love her completely, which she did at the end when she got married to Ken, her best friend and husband. Losing her children was her greatest fear from the moment she was about to lose Kian when he was thirty days old in chapter six, and any woman will understand why she nearly lost her sanity when Andy, who wasn't her biological child, was taken away from her in chapter ten, and how Andrew used her love for Andy to get the house from Zylkia. When I finally got to the end of the book, I was truly happy because she found happiness in her life, got married to her soulmate, and I loved how she still gave marriage a chance the fourth time because many women won't want to marry after having those bad experiences with Javier and Andrew. I also loved how she was with all of her children at the end, excluding Andy. I love how she raised her and Ken's children and how she's working at Party City, where every day is a party, and you can be sure she's truly happy. She ended the book with positivity and advice for the readers on why they shouldn't give up on themselves. Zylkia the phoenix rose from her ashes, and the book couldn't have ended any better.


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Homeless Mother of 3
Did you know that Tampa, Florida, is a good two hours for a trip
from Orlando to Florida? I didn’t. I bought the flights to Tampa
because they were a lot cheaper than the others to Orlando, so to afford the flights, I chose the nearest city, and it was none other than Tampa. I had a Walmart gift card with $200 and no cash; I got stuck in Tampa with no way of getting to Orlando. I sat down and prayed for help. I thought about
Veronica, so I called her. I updated her about what was happening, and she responded with fantastic news. One of her favorite cousins lived just twenty minutes away from where I was. She called him, and he agreed to give me a ride. He was a real sweetheart. We talked, and I told him why and how I got
to Florida, and he really listened to my story. My kids were asleep the entire trip, and I was looking around with the hope that I could spot Disney from where I was. As we reached Nana’s house, he hugged me and shook my hand, and walked away. I opened my hand and found a $100 bill. God sent me an angel. That day, I believed the phrase, “Angels are everywhere; you just must spot them.” Nana was lovely, and her apartment complex had a vast pool. I could feel the Florida breeze—the freedom. It was Wednesday when I got there, and the next Thursday morning at eight, I started walking up to the city. I stopped at every single business around the square and asked for a job. I came across Burger King down on Narcoossee Road. I walked in and asked the white guy for a drink. He saw I was struggling a little with my English, so he started talking to me in Spanish. This White boy was named Dwight, but he was half
Dominican and half Puerto Rican. I saw an opportunity, and I asked him for a Job. He said, “You can come on Tuesday for an interview. I happened to be hiring for the summer.” Bingo! Job, check; I walked back home and gave Nana the good news. She was amused by the news and delightedly said, “Girl, you are done for the week, we must celebrate. Let’s get to the pool!” After the pool, we have been taken to the library by nana and her daughter. She said I could rent up to twenty movies a week for free, and with kids, that was just great. Nana set up a small TV in our room, and we slept on a blow-up mattress. We all slept together, and for the first time in a long time, I was
happy. I started working the next Thursday. I was hired to work from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. so that my kids would be asleep for half of my shift. It would give nana some time without the kids. I decided to clean the house as payment for babysitting and shelter and to pay whatever was over her regular utilities. One day, Nana and her daughter were watching TV, and I was cleaning the kitchen while the kids were watching TV in the room. Nana looked at her daughter and asked her if we have some chocolate cake. I went and looked in the pantry and only found brownies. “But I don’t want brownies. I want chocolate cake!” She yelled. A couple of hours later, Nana’s daughter asked me if I wanted to go to the supermarket with her, and I agreed. I remembered that Nana wanted chocolate cake, and I went to grab it. I asked Marry not to tell Nana because I wanted to surprise her. When we went back home, I immediately started cooking and baking. Soon, the house was full of the fantastic aroma of well-done chocolate cake. “Marry, why do I smell chocolate cake?” Nana asked. Marry looked at me and smiled, and I knew she was asking me if she could tell her about the surprise. I nodded my head and said, “Yes, tell her.” When Marry told her I baked the cake for her, I got a reaction that I wasn’t expecting. She said, “Seriously? What does she want? She must be wanting something if she is buttering me up. Marry! You said we had brownies. I want brownies!” Marry and I looked at each other like, “Huh?” “But, Mom, you asked for chocolate cake. She was just trying to be
nice,” Marry responded to her. “Don’t be naive. No one does that for free.” I went and locked myself in the room with my kids and did not come out until it was bedtime, and I was going to put the kids in the shower. Nana still ate the chocolate cake. However, I never got a thank you though. After three weeks,
I was asked if I was interested in moving up to shift coordinator manager. I immediately agreed and said yes. A promotion meant more money, and I was obviously in need of money. I came back to Nana’s house to tell her the good news when I found out there was a handyman in the apartment. I
did not say a word and set aside. After he was done, Nana gave me a weird look. “If you notice, I change the locks,” Nana said. I responded, “Yes, I did. Is everything okay?” She replied, “Oh yeah! Now it is. Now you can’t bring your husband and moved him here. Do you think I was born yesterday, or am I stupid? That I—?” She was yelling. I stood totally confused there, and I
said, “Nana, I never had your key to your apartment. And are you for real? Why would I bring my husband?” She did not answer. I kept the good news to myself. The next day, when I went to work, I got sent home early because there were too many employees but not a lot of business. I walked home to
find out that Kian, who was three at the time, had an ugly scratch on his face. I asked Nana what happened, but she still did not answer. I took my kids to the pool. I figured if I stayed out long enough, my kids wouldn’t be a bother to
her. I decided to buy them dinner at Walmart, and then we would go “home.” I asked Yankee what happened to Kian’s face. He said, “Nana made breakfast, and since Kian did not want to eat, she picked him up by his neck, and since
he was really heavy, she dropped him. And it scratched his face.” He was only three. I cried. I had no idea what to do next other than try to get out of there as fast as I could. I wanted to say so much; words were flowing in my head. I was confused. If she had told me there was going to be a problem with the
kids, I would have made a different plan. She said it was okay. We obviously did ask her before we moved there. Hermaiony did not cry herself to sleep. She was only five at the time.
Why would someone hurt my babies? I didn’t even spank them myself!  Then she said, “Now I know you have that money saved up for a car, so I am dropping you back at the airport. You can go back from where you came from.” I said, “No! That can’t be. I can’t go back home. I can get killed if I go
back home. My husband is a psycho!” She responded as if she didn’t care, “Not my problem.” I took the kids out and sat beside the pool, and I started making phone calls to every shelter in the Orlando area. After a good thirty minutes of crying, my bad luck, every shelter was full, but then I received
a call from a woman’s shelter. They had a room available, and it would be ready on Friday by five. I immediately took it! I went back to the house to tell Nana the news, but she took it the wrong way. She started saying that it was too big of a coincidence that the day she kicked me out, I have a place to go! I was so confused. She called me many names, and then she sent me off to bed. After saving four paychecks for $250 each, I went and bought a car the very next day. While looking for apartments, I met a friend who took me to get
the car. However, the process took longer than I expected. The shop looked shady to me, but I had no time to evaluate; I needed a car. I bought a Ford Explorer 1994 for $1,000. I found this guy on Craigslist; I think I got lucky that I did not get hurt. By eleven at night, I started driving back to the shelter,
but when I called them, they said that I was too late, and they had a curfew. Now what? I freaked out. I looked at my phone and called a friend I met on a dating site. We were not dating, but we were on texting terms. He calmed me down and told me that he was going to help me and that I should not freak
out. Because I used everything, I had no money. I bought the car. He offered to pay for a night at a local motel, and I was very appreciative of him for this act. I was able to get into bed at around 3:00 a.m. The next morning, I woke up at seven o’clock and started getting the kids ready to go. They looked so happy that they were jumping on the bed. They never even once asked me why we were sleeping in the streets. All they cared about was that we were together. I got in the car and started driving toward the women’s shelter. On my way, I called the office to let them know that I was on my way. They said that my room would not be ready until five after they finished painting it. The lady on call recommended taking the kids out somewhere and coming back after five. I kept driving with no destination. I started wondering how difficult this was about to get. I called Lana—the girl that gave me a ride when I was going to/ get my car. She told me that she could take us to Disney, for free, if we wanted as she was off duty that day. I asked, “What! Free? What’s the catch?” “No catch,” she responded, “I worked there, and we are allowed to bring friends for free.” Oh my God! This is a dream come true at the worst time in my life, but I was very grateful, and I gladly
took the offer. We had so much fun. We went to three different Disney parks including Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. We sneaked food that I bought with my food stamp card, and we ate it while we watched the shows. At that moment, my children and I were on top of the moon. We
were at Disney. By 7:00 p.m., I could barely walk. I was so tired, and I felt like my heart was going to pop out of my chest. Kian fell asleep, so I had to carry him all the way back to the parking spot. This boy was three, but he weighed fifty-four pounds. By the time we made it to the shelter, I was done. I carried Kian up the stairs while Yankee had Hermaiony. We went inside
the room and got comfortable. I had to carry all my stuff back to the room, so I went back outside to the car. I walked the kids to the showers. It was a big room with at least ten “private” showers. Since they all showered at the same time in different showers, it was the first time I was able to put my kid’s
through bedtime in record time. Yeah! I just had to run with the soap from the shower to the shower. We walked back to the bedroom where we were not allowed to have anything: no water, food, or snacks of any kind. How are you going to have a shelter for mothers and then don’t let them have food
in the room? I literally had to run to the car and gave them food and then walked back up. Breastfeeding Kian was a good thing because a warm bottle of milk was out of the question.
The next Sunday morning, I woke up around 9:00 a.m. I decided to take the kids to church. After the sacrament, I talked to the bishop, and I explained to him that I was in a shelter and that I needed $150 for a deposit. I told him
that although some shelters were free, this one ran on income. Church gave me the money but I could not deal with not being able to feed my kids in a safe environment. No matter what you believe, you can’t argue that the nicest people you’ll ever meet are Mormons. The shelter has a cafeteria, but the feeding time was not suited to my work schedule at all. Also, besides the fact that I was paid more than anyone there, I had to do an hour of “voluntary work” a day and four hours on my days off. How am I going to do that with just three hours of sleep each day? One night, while talking to my night shift porter at work, he told me how he lived in a motel with his wife, and they paid $150 a week. It was more than what I was going to pay at the shelter, but with a refrigerator in the room, no “voluntary hours,” and no public shower. I took the money the church gave me for the shelter, and I put it toward the motel. Even though this was a small step up, but still, it was a step up. While in the room and letting the kids jump on the beds, I kept looking for a place to live. Of course, I was not planning to live in the motel permanently with my kids, but no one would rent me a room with three kids. My husband’s words became real, but that was not going to be my future! I was going to prove him wrong. So I kept calling places until a Puerto Rican lady answered my call. I explained to her how no one wanted to rent me a room because of how
many kids I had and that I really needed to catch a break. She saw through my sorrow and gave me her address. Yes, I could have been murdered, but that was not the thought I had in my mind back then. In fact, I considered myself blessed because she was not a crazy lady. The room was $75 a week
for a month. I thought if I can save $75 a week within a month, I would have enough money to pay for a down payment for an apartment. The room came with full access to a kitchen and a private bathroom. “Yuppie! I can cook now!” I said. Moving was easy for us because we did not have any furniture. I could not pack faster enough. The motel was not bad, but because there
was a bar right next door, there was a lot of crime and fights around us. We arrived at her place, paid her, and I put out stuff in our room. This was the first time in three weeks that my children and I headed to the supermarket. Now, I was able to cook a healthy, full meal for my kids. We slept on the floor,
but we didn’t care. We were moving forward, and that was the important part. I called Nana and let her know where I was and that I am coming soon to pick up the rest of my stuff. She was back to a normal, friendly, and helpful person again. She said that she would help me with the kids until I get a sitter. I accepted it because it saved me money, and it was a good thing to save money faster. She sounded better, not angry, and even a bit apologetic We did well for two weeks until my roommate told me that her landlord evicted her sooner than she thought and that we needed to get out that same day. I called Nana and explained to her what was going on. I asked her if I could stay with her just for three days because by then, I would have the keys to my own apartment. I found this place close to Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, Florida—the famous OBT. It said no deposit if you clean the apartment yourself and only $199 for the first month of rent which was $400.
I had $300 on me, and by Friday, I was going to get paid again, so it worked out. The next morning, I went to work, and when I came back, Hermaiony was asleep on the couch. I asked Nana if she was sick because she normally doesn’t take naps, especially on the couch, and she responded, “No! She is
not sick. She fell asleep crying after I spank her for breaking my CD tower with my great-grandson.” I was shocked because Hermaiony was a tough cookie. If she fell asleep crying, that means she got hit hard. I grabbed my Hermaiony and put her in my car; it was a good thing I never unpacked. While coming back in and telling the boys to get in the car, Marry looked
me and said, “You have to understand where she comes from.” I teared up and turned around. After that, I had no idea what I was going to do next. So I went to the store I worked at. I sat with the kids on a booth, and we just started watching a movie on my phone. A little later, one of my employees walked up to me and asked me if everything was all right and what was going on. I told her everything that had happened and that I planned to sleep in the car. By the time, I finished telling her what happened, her dad came to pick her up. After a good two minutes, she came back to me and said that she told her dad about what was going on with me and that he wanted to help. My eyes teared up. I was so embarrassed but also so grateful. I walked outside, and he asked me what happened, and I told him the same thing. After listening to everything, he said, “I want to help, follow me,” so I did. We stopped at this really nice hotel where he paid for a room and told me to get some sleep. I was amazed by his gesture and how God was with me the entire way and how I encountered so many angels along the way. That night, after I did my laundry in the bathtub, I went to bed around eleven; after all, who knows when I will have access to water again? The kids were sound asleep, so I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. I have touched rock
bottom. I lacked savings and had no family. The next couple of days were a bit blurry, but I did remember my boss allowed me to go home early because my kids were running all over the place. Luckily, Burger King did not have kids’ playgrounds. I remember another employee offered to help me to get the kids showered, and I was so grateful. Then one day, I finally got the call. The apartment was approved! However, I needed $350 for the electricity, and without it, they could not hand me the apartment keys. Now there was only one problem: it was Thursday, and I would get paid on Friday morning. I did
not have a penny, and my address was limited to where I parked my car in front of the store. I was not worried about gas as I had enough for the next day, but now I needed to drive twenty-five minutes with no gas to pay that electric
deposit so I could pick up the key to sleep in a building finally. I had only the exact amount of money for electricity. However, I did not have money for gas. I sat down on the sidewalk at 8:00 a.m. as I watched my kids jumping up and down in the parking lot, and then a miracle happened. One of my regular customers, Mr. Mini Blueberry Muffins and Senior Coffee—his real name was Angel, and he was an angel for real—saw me and gave me a newspaper folded in half. He told me not to open it until he left, and I didn’t, but I made sure to say thank you. I was confused about what to do with the newspaper.
I had no idea what I was going to do with it. Maybe there’s a shelter room available on the paper. To my surprise, it was better than that! It was a $20 bill! Oh my God! I ran and got the kids in the car and went straight to get gas and off to get my key! After paying the electricity, I went to the apartment
complex, but the key was denied. The lady said that I had to wait until the electric supply in the apartment was done before they could give me the key, and that could take up to twenty-four hours. I was devastated. I was going
to sleep another night inside my car with my babies. Can I please catch a break? I broke down crying while driving back to Narcoossee Road so I could be there to work the next morning. That was the moment when another angel crossed my way. I received a call from our bread delivery man. He was wondering if I got the keys to my apartment. I was hysterical. I told him what happened, and he asked me to stop driving and meet me. He met me at a gas station. He gave me $80 so I could get gas, dinner, and a room. I was going to pick up the key early in the morning, and my manager would give me the day off so I could get everything together. That night, I took the longest shower I took in a while. The kids fell asleep quickly, so I got a bit of time to myself. That night, I came across the girl that rented me a room; she was homeless
too. I proposed a deal that if she would babysit for me, she could have a room in my apartment, and I would pay the rent. She immediately accepted it and was glad about it. The kids were excited, too, as they really liked her. The next morning, we went to the apartment, and everyone that lived around me gave me something. I got beds, couches, pots, etc. My room had kitchen stuff and a microwave and much more. I even wound things in the trash or at the churches around me. The kids got a bunch of clothes, and it was the first time in months that I did a real grocery. Things were finally turning around. Then within two weeks, my roommate moved out. She went
to live with her aunt. I never found out why. So I finally had an apartment, but I would have to take the kids with me. I couldn’t do that often again and again! Thus, my manager gave me the weekend to solve this. I went to a payday loan place and bought flight tickets for my mother to come and help me until I found a babysitter. I always knew I could count on her no matter what. It did not take long because my neighbor was looking to make extra cash. She agreed to babysit the kids for $50 a week and bless her heart, as that was the only way I was able to “make it” in life. After being a manager for a couple of months, I started thinking about the move up. I wanted to join the army. I barely saw my kids, and the pay was not great either. I no longer was at rock bottom; I was in step one and I was ready to take another step.  

Have you ever had a dream that sounded awesome but at the same time you were scared to take that step? Well, that was me when I was in high school. Of course, I was a kid at the time, and my boyfriend did not let me take the military test. So I just didn’t do it, but it was always something that I wanted to do, and it made a void in myself. I was fascinated with the army. I still love the uniform, logos, pictures, backpacks,
and everything, and I think I was more of a fan than anything else. I was twenty-eight years old, and Javier decided that he wanted to join the army. We used our tax refund to pay for a class that was going to help him pass the ASVAB test. The test was in English while the primary language of Puerto Rico is Spanish. As you already know that things were not good between us, but at the same time, I just had a third child, and for my kids, I really wanted to make it work. I wasn’t just going to quit. One night, I received a phone call from the owner of the school within a week after he started taking the class. She was worried because Javier never showed up. I was confused
because he would leave in the afternoon every day to go to school. I told her that I would take care of it. When Javier came home, I asked him how the school was. He said, “I am really learning a lot of stuff that I did not know. I am excited I might pass the test this time.” I looked at him with a look of disappointment and just plain frustration. I was really trying, and he was just not taking anything seriously. “You f—— a——h——! I got a call! You haven’t shown up to class.” He stood cold. I just turned around and went to bed. After a couple of weeks of me physically driving him to school, he went to take his test. He came home excited and told me that not only did he pass the test but also he got enlisted and was shipping out in the next three days. Now, with the military, you never know, and the truth is that some people do get lucky and ship out right away. He went to a local reverend and told him he got enlisted
and that we needed to get legally married. We got married without a dress and a ring, just like the first time. After we were married, he packed his stuff and left. I really thought that for the first time, he was going to take care of us, and I even felt bad for ever doubting him. Only a couple of hours later, he
came back home and told me there had been a change of plans and that he was not shipped out yet. I immediately knew that he had lied to me and that he never got enlisted; in fact, he never even took the test. At that moment, I decided that if somebody was going to work hard for my kids, it had to be
me. This experience taught me not to trust anyone in life other than myself. At that moment, I started studying to take the ASVAB. I was decided and determined, and one day, Hermaiony got sick. We were in the hospital for a total of six days. I did not let that stop me. I brought books and started
studying while Hermaiony was napping. During that day, Javier brought Kian so that he can nurse, and so I could see my baby. He would also bring Yankee and his daughter, Marie, who was seven at the time. After six days, Hermaiony and I went back home. I called the recruiting office and made an
appointment to take the test. The next morning, Kian had a fever, and I had to take him to the doctor. He had the same illness that Hermaiony had. So this time, I had already booked another room in my local hospital for six nights. I called the recruiter again and rescheduled with them. I took this as a sign that I was not ready to take the test. After six nights, Kian and I went back home. He was eight months old at that time. The day before my test, Hermaiony woke up with a swollen mouth. It had badly swollen, and her mouth was covered with blisters. I saw this kind of illness in my nephew long ago. He
was four at the time, but it was the same symptoms. Long story short, I was back in the hospital; I called the recruiter and explained the situation. At this time, they thought I was making all this up, so I asked to be rescheduled after all this was over. After four days in, I received a call from Raquel, my former sister-in-law, and the father of Yankarlos. She said that Yankee had the same symptoms as Hermaiony and that she was on her way to the hospital. That was it! “I get it! Okay?” I yelled, talking to God. “I won’t take the test,” I said. I took it as a sign that I was not ready and that I had to drop it. I did.
Yankee was in urgent care when I got a call on my cell. It was Raquel. She wanted me to talk to the doctor because Yankee was not as sick as Hermaiony. I told the doctor that even though he was not as sick, I was not able to keep up with medicines while still in the hospital with Hermaiony. I asked the doctor if it was okay to keep Yankee in the hospital so I could take care of both my kids; he agreed. I was in that hospital room for a total of eleven days. Hermaiony was only two years old, so they gave her a hospital crib where Yankee slept, and Hermaiony and I slept in Yankee’s bed. Some mornings, the nurses would get confused because the chart did not match the bed orders. After I listened to God and quit my idea of joining the army, my kids did not get sick again.
Years later and after I was in Orlando, Florida, I went to take the practice test for the ASVAB. I entered the National Guard recruiting office, and after I was all good to go, I noticed I was in the wrong office—talking about starting with the left foot, right? Anyway, I went to the correct office for active duty. I
explained what happened, and they scheduled me for the actual test. I failed. It was going to take me thirty days before I could retake the test. During this month, I was working from 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Kids had to get up by seven, so I would maybe sleep a couple of hours. Then I would stay awake and get on a computer that a friend let me borrow, and I logged in to to see if they have a practice test for all kinds of tests including the ASVAB. I took every imaginable class to be able to pass this time. The test was not horribly hard, but with my dyslexia, math and reading weren’t my forte. I remember going to the park in the morning to practice my running, study, and then work. I barely slept, but also I did not need it. I was in survivor mode, and with little food and sleep, I was still energetic; I had to be, as I didn’t have a choice. A good week later, I received a call from my recruiter that I passed the test! I was so excited, but I knew my struggle was not over;
it was just the beginning. Telling my mom that I was going to go and join the army was not easy. There are three things in life that she just can’t tolerate: Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, and the military. She did not take the news well. She started by saying that I was a slut and that all I wanted was a soldier
lover. I just kept quiet; I knew this was coming. Then I proceeded to ask her if she could take care of my kids until I was done with basic combat training; she flipped, called me a bad mother, and hung up. It took her a couple of days
before she called me back. She still wasn’t very happy. She said that if I was going to bring the kids that she was taking custody of them; I said that’s not happening. I was asking for her to “take care” of my kids for five months. I was going to give her $700 a month for groceries and kids’ stuff. She said no and hung up. Three days later, she called again. She said she was not happy about it but that she understood why I was doing it, and that she will take care of the kids. She took it way better than when I told her I was a Mormon (which is a different story altogether). I sold my car, and with that money, I paid my boyfriend back for the flights to Puerto Rico that he paid in advance. I had a solid plan. With the help of my boyfriend, I was able to execute it, but then I had to take a step back from the situation. I told the nurses at MEPS that I was still breastfeeding Kian, although he was almost four years old. I did not know that they would disqualify you for that. I could not join for three months. So now what? I sold my car, quit my job, and now what? Well, we still left for Puerto Rico. I had my tax return money saved up; we moved in with my mom because I was leaving “in three months.” Since I was in Puerto Rico, my boyfriend and I called it quits. Also, I had to find a recruiter in my city. I went to their office, and they gave me so many excuses of why I should do reserves and not active duty. Then they said I had to take an English test and that if I fail, it was going to take me longer to join. Seriously? I just came from the United States where everything is in English. I just could not take any more excuses, so I went and called my old recruiter. Currently, I have been in Puerto Rico for three months. A female sergeant answered the phone, and better yet, she remembered me. She was really upset about how
everything went for me, so she helped me out. I moved back to Orlando for two weeks, enlisted, and went back to Puerto Rico. I had a job and a shipping date. I started running and working out to be ready for basic training. Also, I started studying because, with my dyslexia, I knew I was going to have a
hard time memorizing anything they gave me. I made sure I watch videos of all kinds of different introductory training videos so I would know what to expect. I would record myself saying the general orders and the Soldier’s Creed. I was ready.
A couple of months passed by, and the shipping date got close, but I was not ready for what really was going to happen at basic training. When you first get to Fort Jackson, they put you in this room with very long tables, and we were writing and signing papers. Then they took us to an area where they would very quickly make us dump our bag and remove anything that
is considered contraband. It was eleven at night; at that moment, one of the guys decided to give attitude to the drill sergeants, a bad idea. They all ran to him like a pack of wolfs howling at his face; I started shaking; this s—— got real! The closest experience I had to this was a marine sergeant that
decided to talk to all of us, marines or not, like a marine. When I heard this guy barking, my chest got tight, and I started sweating; I was so scared it’s not even funny. I got lucky, though, because I packed everything in separate Ziploc bags. If you want to have a mental vision of what I pack, join me and
watch my video BCT Female Packing List. I still can’t watch it without feeling embarrassed, so feel free to make fun of me; it’s okay. My drill sergeant did too. The next thing we did was pick up our gear. By the time you are done with that, it was 6:00 a.m., time for chow. The food was amazing, I have to
say. It was a “free open bar” cafeteria, eat all you can eat, with no judgment, or so I thought. Then we went straight to the bay, and we had to change into summers PT. We had five minutes to put away our stuff and change and be
back in formation. We were awake for forty-nine straight hours, and every time someone fell asleep, we would all have to do push-ups. At this point, they had the males and females completely separated from each other, and man, girls are horrible! They got us in so much trouble. I remember one soldier; her name was PVT Burlington. She was this super tiny twenty-nine-year-old with a big mouth and attitude. She would get us in all types of trouble. One day, she was looking bad, pale, and dehydrated. I walked her down to the
office so she could get medical attention. When I did, the sergeant-in-charge told me to make sure everyone was cleaning when she made it back, and I did. Girls did not like that, though, so when I told them what the sergeant
said, they blew me off and kept doing what they were doing. Only a few girls started cleaning, and by few, I mean three, including me. We were dropped on the floor scrubbing the shower when the female sergeant walked in yelling
at everyone to drop on the floor and do push-ups. The three of us that was in the shower cleaning stood still. I crawled to the corner to see what was happening. “OMG! They are smoking them! What do we do?” I said. “Let’s keep cleaning,” SPC Bodley said. “If we are cleaning, can they smoke us?” PVT
Battersby said. We saw the sergeant walking toward us, and we just kept scrubbing. We never looked up to her eyes, but we could see her boots when she turned to look at us. I froze. Are we in trouble? I wondered, but no, she turned back around and left. A sense of relief came to me; we were spared. After that, all the girls came asking what they can do to help. It seemed like finally, we were going to work together, but I was wrong. On the third night, there we were finally allowed to sleep, but we needed to pack our duffel bags and wait in military formation until the sergeant said it was okay to go back inside the building. We were standing there for four hours, and we were not allowed to put the bag on the floor. Of course, Tiny Burlington weighed less than her bag; she flopped, face planted, and when we picked her up, she flowed backward and fell on her back. Then it got cold. It was a good forty degrees outside, and we were in light PT clothes. The formation got tighter and tighter until we had some
source of body heating. We made it in by 3:00 a.m., tired and grouchy. We had to choose between showering or sleeping one hour before we had to be given information. I took a two-minute shower and then went to bed. During those two hours, I woke up three times, and every time, I realized where I was, I would have a panic attack. It was hard to sleep like that, so I got up early. The next day after shots, pictures, and more papers, we were going back to the bay to catch a short nap, but it was interrupted when this really tall, blonde Californian-looking drill sergeant started going at us because some females had a mess in their lockers. She flipped; she dropped us and made us do a hundred push-ups. That doesn’t sound so bad, but with two hours of sleep, it was. Oh, she went nuts, and then Burlington happened. She decided to get smart with the drill sergeant. I did not hear what she said, but it did cost her. In the morning, we were getting on the bus to go to basic
training called shark attack. That same drill sergeant told the others to keep a special eye on Tiny Burlington. Burlington freaked out, and she pulled her name tape from her uniform like, if without that, they wouldn’t notice it was her. As soon as we got on the bus, the female drill sergeant started yelling. “Head down! Don’t look!” We drove for like fifteen minutes when it all began. “Get off the f—— bus! Go, go, go!” We were carrying around our bags. I was running. I could barely see anything; everything was moving so fast, and then I realized I was flying. The landing was not as magical. I face-planted
to the floor when I realized I tripped. I got run over by tall guys, and I felt like a total loser. The drill sergeant kept saying, “Don’t help her!” I got up and ran to the assigned area. The shark attack was intense; you didn’t know what to expect, and the way people talked about it made it worse. The truth is that nothing bad happened, but you are always expecting the other shoe to drop. During the shark attack, PVT Burlington had no name tape, so she captured the drill sergeant’s attention; when she went to ask her about the name tapes, PTV Burlington was hit by a solid six-foot-tall African American
kid. The drill sergeant pulled her out of the way and asked her for the name tapes, and then she discovered who PVT Burlington was. They brought her up front and smoked her for taking her name tapes off. The next morning, after breakfast, we had a meeting with the commander. It was his first day
introducing himself to the company, and honestly, CPT LaRosa made basic training less scary. While we were sitting and listening to him telling us a hundred times that this was his last cycle, PVT Burlington opened her mouth again when the same female drill sergeant asked her to do push-ups because
she was standing instead of sitting when the commander clearly said sit. The female drill sergeant was barking at her like she literally was going to get her head ripped off. Then she said, “You are weak! Do another push-up!” “Let me see you do them!” Tiny Burlington said to the worst female drill sergeant
we had. She got smoked so bad her body could not take much more when she started throwing up and pooped herself. “It’s coming back and fronts,” she said. After that, she yelled suicide, and they don’t take that lightly in the army. She was sent home soon after, not fast enough, though. They separated us by platoon. I was in the third platoon—the Reapers! Our drill sergeants were DSG Blackdog and DSG Motherf*** Bell! Like she said while she smoked us because one of the girls rolled her eyes at her. She was awesome, though, sweet, and I learned tons from her. The real villain was DSG Blackdog, but he was a fun sergeant too. The first day, I felt safe when around him as a leader, and then one day, he turned into an a——h——. He would always tell us that women in the army belong in the kitchen and that older females were a waste of money; I was both. I remember one day we went to do our first field exercise. We had to jump, climb, crawl, and much more. One of the girls from my platoon was already losing faith in herself, but when she climbed that tower, she fell and dislocated her ankle. DSG Blackdog just stood there and said, “I told you to cannonball.”She asked him for help, and he firmly said no, that she could crawl out herself and that she was pretending to win sympathy. Once she was able to pull out, she took her boot off, and her foot flopped. It was shattered. She then spent six weeks in the hospital. My days were simply for my own survival. I tried to survive one meal at a time because imagining having all day in that place was not really motivating. So I used to look forward to our next meal as my save point. I felt trapped, and alone; I did not fit in and I was the platoon’s loser. I could not run for s——, and that hurt me along the way, but besides that, I never failed a PT test, but I was not the athlete of the year. I learned and studied, and I did what I went there to do. The shooting was my favorite part. Learning how to shoot a rifle was the most amazing experience of my life. I was not the best, but I was not a loser at it as well. It was the one thing I knew I could do, but then everything got complicated. You see, I am very clumsy, and being clumsy in the army sucked. I made so many mistakes and was punished for them by myself that I was so embarrassed, but there was nowhere to hide; you just push through when someone calls you a loser—push through even when they are telling you that you will never make it. The army was humiliating because of the way broken soldiers were treated. Being hurt while in basic is like asking for money in the corner. Humiliating but necessary because I was in pain. I started feeling this sharp pain in my left leg. I went to the doctor, and they said, “You don’t have a hip fracture yet, but you need crutches.” Because if not, I would hurt myself more. I took the crutches, but they came with a price. We were treated like we were disposable— people that are “being paid for nothing,” humiliated in public often with no chance to avoid it. So as soon as I could, I left the crutches and integrated myself back with the “good” soldiers. Then one day, something happened. We were left alone at the bay. This is what they called downtime. You are not supposed to sleep, but they know you can fall asleep, and we did. One of the girls thought it was a funny idea to yell, “At ease.” When she did, everyone stood up. When I did, I heard my hip snap. F——, it hurt! However, there was no time to cry; DSG Blackdog walked in, and we had the equipment to carry back to our bay. With every step, I felt an ice-sharp pain coming up my spine. I cried the entire walk home. I remember all the girls looked at me, but only one came back to help me, and she was not even in my platoon. She was an awkward girl, very shy, and yet she came to help me. Some of the girls asked me what happened, and I told them what I told you above, and then the drama came. As I was walking to the showers in pain and very tired  Cooper came into the bathroom and said:

-“I heard what you said about me, and I’m warning you, if you tell anyone, I will tell them you were fraternizing with someone so you will get suspended.”

I looked at her and said, “Not now, Cooper—”
She cut me off.
“I’m telling you—”
“Not now! I am in pain, so not now!” I said and walked away. Nothing happened after that other than I ended up with the losers again. The doctors did a test and then sent me back. I was going to be out of training for two weeks. I was going to be there but not training because of the crutches. During
this time, I was doing minor things, and DSG Blackdog started messing with me by calling me names and asking me if I drank enough milk when I was younger. He would insult me and humiliate me every chance he could. However, this behavior was not only long while I was with the losers but all the time. I remember one day he decided to smoke us. I can’t remember
why, but he was brutal with me. He knew my weakness was running, so he made us run in and out of the building within one minute. Of course, my legs are short, and I am lower than the rest, so I tripped over some sandbags and finished the race with my face in the mud. The bigger guys picked me up
and helped me back in. I was the only idiot with mud all over her face. One night, after chow, coming back to the bay, DSG Blackdog took us, his platoon, a different way than the rest of the company. Then he made us run up the hill; the hard part was that we had to run in formation, not jog, but sprint up the hill. My legs are half of some of the guys there. I was the first in line in formation because I was so tiny. Let’s just say we had to do it three times, and the last time, PVT Aston pushed me up the hill so I could do it. Have you ever felt like a bobblehead doll? I have. I remember one day when SPC Smart decided to be dumb, and he got in trouble. He was sent to do pull-Ups, and of course, DSG Blackdog looked at me and said, “Go with him.” “I can’t, Drill Sergeant. I’m a female, and I can’t be alone with him,” I replied. He agreed, so he sent Bodley, the other “older female” to do pull-ups with us: two females and Smart. Bodley was not great at PT, but this girl could do pull-ups! I was just there, hanging. “Do one!” He said. There was nothing I could have done that made me hold to that grip, and without a grip, I had nothing. “Do half?” He said, and everyone else laughed. “We will be here all night, DSG,” I said. Everyone started laughing; there was nothing better for your self-esteem than three hundred soldiers laughing at you. That was not the first time Smart got me in trouble. Smart was a jock; he was tall and muscular and sexy, but also, he knew that physical punishment was nothing for him. Drill Sergeant
also knew that, but every time he got in trouble, I was the chosen one to be his battle. Let’s say, he made my experience…interesting. The night before the gas chamber, we were told to put up the tents and do sixty minutes of guards with the rifle, watching the perimeter. While you sleep, your battle takes over, and so on and so forth. They would wake us every two hours to smoke the hell out of us until it was morning. The gas chamber was an interesting experience. I was terrified but I got lucky. You see when you walk into the chamber, they separate you into groups, thirty soldiers at the
time, and when already inside, they would divide you into three teams. The first thing they make you do is to lift your mask then seal it and breathe. It is meant to teach you how to seal your mask. If it burned after you seal it, then you did it wrong. When I did it, I did not feel anything but this intense feeling that I needed to sneeze. As the DSG would keep explaining what we were going to do, all I could do was a sneeze. I think I sneezed around eleven times before the DSG stood in front of me and yelled, “Are you allergic to this shit,
Private?” I shrug my shoulders. “I had never been in the gas chamber before, Drill Sergeant.” He smiled. Then he had us take off the mask and say the Soldier’s Creed. I did it, but something happened. I was not burning; I could breathe just fine. I felt like when you accidentally snore pepper when you
are cooking. At least, it was like that for me. The DSG noticed that I was not coughing and that I was hyperventilating, so he said it was going to be over soon, and he started the countdown to zero. I was okay after that. Watching others throw up and jumped up and down was terrifying and funny all at the same time. Basic training was not all bad, and we had good times too. DSG Blackdog had hilarious stories of when he was in Afghanistan. They were sneaking into a village because they were supposedly “bad guys,” but they found out there were still some civilians, so they all lay in the forest and waited. He said that they waited for four hours, and all this time, he was smelling this nasty odor. He had no idea where it came from, but he could not shake it off. After the civilians left, they got up to search the area, and that’s when he realized that he was lying over the body of a dead dog the entire time. He always said, “Shoot them in the face!” It was our platoon logo; he made that happen. One embarrassing moment was when DSG Francis told me to direct the company with a marching tune. I barely spoke English, and I did not know any of the songs, and with my dyslexia, I couldn’t memorize as easily and was under pressure. I was a disaster. I kept saying the same thing as a repeated radio. “Left! Right! You’re Left!”Drill Sergeant looked at me with this weird look. “You were not kidding. You can’t memorize for s——!”
And he sent someone else. I was so mortified, and I hated public speaking and singing! That was not the last time it happened, though, and after our ten-mile march, we went to a classroom to eat chow, and Drill Sergeant permitted us to close our eyes for a little. I took the offer; I closed my eyes and was out within seconds. Suddenly, I heard my female drill sergeant say, “Lopez! Come to the front!” I jumped. I was so scared that I did something wrong. Plus, when someone woke you up when you just deeply fell asleep, you tend to
tremble. I was shaking like a dog after a bath, and you could hear the rattles of my weapon. Suddenly, she said, “Turn around and sing something!” “What! What do you mean to sing? In front of everyone?” Apparently, someone heard me singing in the shower and told her I could sing, but they forgot to mention that I have bad stage fright. I had to do it. I had no choice. It’s basic training; they command, and you execute. But how do you push past the fear and conquer? I started singing an army cadence, and they stopped me. She said, “Sing a regular song.” I looked confused. “Sing something in Spanish.” I closed my eyes and started singing “Contigo en la Distancia” by Christina Aguilera. I couldn’t tell you if it sounded good or not. I was too shaky, even to notice, but suddenly, I could not hear a sound—the room was filled with the silence of the other soldiers listening to me sing. For the first time, my voice was not shaky, and I was able to hit every note with such grace; I could not believe I was singing in front of a group. I have always had stage fright but not that morning. I did not finish the whole song. I started to get shaky and asked if I could stop; they said yes. I felt like dying. Then other soldiers began to stand up and sing, so it became a mini-concert. Just like in everything else, I did not fit in. I was one of the old ones locked in a trailer with forty-three high-school-syndrome young girls. I would interact, but mostly I would be by myself. Basic training was a nightmare for me, but there was always one place I could be safe: the church. I did not miss a single Sunday. I could find peace, and more importantly, we could sleep and be away from the drill
sergeant. You see, it is not that it was on purpose! I swear when I first heard the rumor that soldiers would fall asleep and get in trouble, I had been in a boring class before, right? No! There is nothing to compare to how you feel when you are sitting on the floor listening to a few power points! I could
barely keep my eyes open. This is where the whole myth of sniffing hand sanitizer keeps you up, and it does but not for long, so don’t try it. Being in a place trapped with many girls was my absolute nightmare; I mean, they stole a jacket on the first night, and it was never found. They fight and complain
so much! But I must admit, sometimes, it was also a lot of fun. They had twerking lessons, massage lines like chimps, and fighting over hot water, or washing machines. The truth is that, just like in my entire life, I did not fit in. I know I am socially weird, but these girls really did not like me. You see,
I don’t really understand how people can be so mean and hurtful, and they expect you to follow their lead, but I have never followed anyone’s lead. So when I felt uncomfortable, I left and tried to be as much alone as I could be. I always had a deeper connection with males than females. After college, all
my best friends were male, gay, or lesbian, so I would try to hang out with the guys; and in basic training, it is a big no-no. This is when something amazing happens. While waiting in the sand for everyone to finish chow and get back in formation, I saw Franklin. He was talking to another soldier, and I smelled
his diva attitude from a mile away. I got closer and observed him a bit longer. “Wow, you are really out there!” I said. “Girl, oh yeah, that’s me, diva Franklin, and if you have an issue with that—” “Oh no no no! I loved it!” I said. “Oh, in that case, you are my new best friend!” After that, we did everything together, and even though he was a male, he was too much of a female for the drill sergeant to bother, but we made sure there was always another girl with us, divas! He was so much fun, and he
even joined me on a trip to the church where he found God and got baptized as a Mormon within three weeks. He was not the only one that followed us and got baptized; Bodley and Clinton got baptized as well. I found something to live for while in hell: I did my missionary work, and I witnessed a miracle. Clinton got hurt. No, that’s not the miracle. She was having the same issue with my hip, so she came up to me to ask me about it. I told her what Peterson told me. If it’s bad, go to the medics; it is tolerable, just push through.

         She took an extra day to decide, and on Saturday night, she came up and said she needed to see a doctor in the morning, but she had her baptism coming up that same Sunday morning. Just like on every occasion, I followed my
instincts. I told her I was going to help her out. I had the feeling everything was going to be okay. The next morning, we got up early with those who were going to breakfast and then church. After saluting the flag and formation, we walked toward the drill sergeant in charge, and for our luck, both drill
sergeants, female, and male, were the two that made my life the hardest. The phrase “just my luck” ran through my mind, but I did not let that stop me. We walked up to the drill sergeants and stood in parade rest and said, “Permission
to ask a question.” I explained to the drill sergeants the situation, and without hesitation, they both said that they would take her to the hospital after the baptism so she did not miss it. I was amazed; there was no logical reason why,
for the first time ever, I did not get yelled at, but I got listened to. I invited my favorite ginger to the ceremony because she claimed to be agnostic. I was curious if, after helping three people to find Jesus, I wondered if an agnosticbperson could feel the power of God. She accepted my invitation, and she
walked with us inside the church. When already in, she bumped her hand on the table and started bleeding a little. However, when she went to show me, there was no blood. She freaked out but stood ’till the end. During the baptism ceremony, I told her to close her eyes and feel. She felt the warm breeze on a cold day of thirty-seven degrees. She said she felt someone caress her hair, and that scared her because there was no one next to her. After the ceremony, I asked her, “So would you still say there is no God, or would you like to cross the line of ‘there might be something out there?’” We drew a line in the sand, and we held hands while we jumped over the possibility of maybe. She jumped with me. If it were not for God, I would not make it. After the baptism, Clinton got to go to the hospital to see if her hip was fractured or not. Four hours later, she came back with crutches. 

“Oh no! It’s a fracture?” I asked. 

“No,” she answered, “they don’t know.”
“Why not?” I asked.

“They can’t do an X-ray,” she said. “Why not?” I yelled. My mouth was wide open at what I heard next. They would not do an X-ray because she was pregnant! Yup, pregnant! She sadly got the chapter out, but while that process took place, I started bringing food to the bay for the first time, but I was not breaking such rule for me. I remember how hungry I was during my pregnancy, and I could not bear the idea that she
could not eat when she was hungry because chow was after every six hours, with no pregnant snacks or goodies; I could not bear the thought of her being as hungry as I was. I never got caught; maybe I got lucky. Basic training teaches you your primary job as a soldier. Learning how to shoot is a must.
I have to say I never shot anything before, but I really enjoyed myself at it. Learning whatsoever was not as fun. My drill sergeant was trying to teach me, but I could not do it his way. He told me that he would not be surprised if I fail. That’s when the hottest drill sergeant walked by and asked him if
he could teach me. You know how it is; there is always a hot teacher. Every girl wanted him to train them, and he picked me. He was a trained sniper shooter!—the best of the cream. He was patient and would explain in detail so I would understand what he was teaching me. “Hah! Not even you could teach this waste of money,” Drill Blackdog yelled.
The new drill sergeant modified everything from my grip, face position, breathing, and trigger pull. In less than thirty minutes, I was shooting with a sniper style with a perfect shot. When showing my new skill to DS Blackdog, I started by placing my finger on the trigger, slowly and only my tip. “Put
your damn finger all the way in!” DS Blackdog yelled. DS Hottie told him to let me do it the way he taught me to. I shot, took a deep breath, fixed my face, and… “Oh! She fucked it up!” “Shh! Let her do it!” I fixed my face, took a deep breath, and blew out, and bam! It was right in the middle, right next to the first one. His mouth was wide open, and he had nothing to say. I then replaced my face on the rifle and shot a third time. My group was so tight; it measured a one-inch triangle. Drill Sergeant Blackdog turned and looked at me and said, “Now that you know how to shoot, let’s see if you can do it fast enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re the first one who dies because you still can’t run for shit.” He was such an inspiration. You see, Drill Sergeant Blackdog would not only treat me like shit, but he would use every opportunity to make me burst out in tears. Right after I got off the crutches, we started having our lives around shooting. I did the best I could with no prior practice, but for some damn reason, my weapon would not
shoot. I got yelled at for not having a functional rifle. When I checked my rifle, it was missing a small pin. I got yelled at again. Although I explained why it was missing, I still got punished. The pin was broken, and Drill Sergeant Blackdog told me, “Deal with it,” but apparently, it fell in the sand when we went to clear and clean our weapons. I was on my knees on the sand, looking for a quarter of an inch pin while I was being told I was going to have to pay for the entire rifle for losing that pin; what really got me hysterically crying was he told everyone not to help me, or they would get in trouble as well. For thirty minutes, I was humiliated until Captain Rosado came to the rescue and picked me up from the floor. He said not to worry because they have never had anyone pay for a weapon for such a stupid reason. He said, “Your supply sergeant can give you another one. That happens all the time.”I still don’t understand why he would humiliate me for no reason, but that was just the kind of man he was. He hated women. No! For real! You see, he was a single father of two. After his third tour to Afghanistan, his wife left him with the kids and married someone else. I just felt that taking his anger out on us was too much. For example, one night, we were ready for lights out
when he sent the guys to get us. He wanted all of us, females, in his bunk in full ACU. After standing in line, he started pasting left to the right yelling at us because he read on the paper that females are now allowed in the infantry, and that was just an insult to mankind! I mean, who told this little guy with little man syndrome and who hated women that I wanted to be infantry? He was horrific; the way he looked at us was pure hatred, but there is one good memory of him (I know, surprising, right?). On the cold morning of the ten-mile march, Drill Sergeant Blackdog gave us a small Jolly Rancher candy.
He told us to put it in our pockets and only eat it when he said so. Now, you must understand how big this was. We were in basic training, and the closer we got to sugar, our cough dropped. On the last mile, we stopped to regroup as a company. Drill Sergeant Blackdog said, “There was this one time that I almost lost hope, and my sergeant gave me a jolly rancher. At that moment, my mouth watered, and I could savor every bit of flavor in that small piece of candy, and at that moment, just like a superhero, I finished the rest of the way
with the energy of a bull knowing that I am fighting for my country! Can I get an amen?” “Amen!” “I can’t hear you!”Amen!” We popped that candy in our mouths and finished our ten-mile march. He was my hero that morning. Life in basic training was so stressful for me; I started sleepwalking. I remember one night, I just somehow heard drill sergeants barging into our bay. I jumped out of bed, stood in attention, and after three minutes, I realized I was the only idiot standing next to the bed. Another night, I remember I felt like I really had to pee, but in my head, I was in the field and I was not allowed to move. I saw Cooper next to me, and I told her, “Hey, I need to go pee.” She looked at me weirdly and said, “So
go?” “I can’t! They said not to move,” I said. “Who said that?” Cooper reply. That’s when I realized I was really talking to Cooper, but I was not in the field. I was in my bed, three steps away from the bathroom, and for a second, I understood why Cooper gave me such a weird look. Right before graduation,
our bay leader was changed because Clark was going home. PV2 Phany was now in charge. She was the oldest of us, and the DR thought it was a good idea, but it was not. You see, she made the night scheduled only with the girls, not in her platoon, so we were pulling double shifts at night. I wanted to
help, and since I was a Burger King Manager, I used my knowledge to make a schedule where it would be good for everyone and avoid it being duplicated. She said, “Thank you, but no, thank you.” I did not try that again. Then on graduation day, she did not have the battle to go to the store with, so Bodley and I invited her with us, and that ended up being another bad idea. She took over, and we were following her around! Her attitude was horrible, and then she just “puffed.” We could not find her; she was not answering her phone.
We waited for forty-five minutes, and we left. If she was not considerate toward us, why would we wait for her? Bodley and I did what any soldier would do. We hit the candy store! Then we went to Olive Garden, and we ate like we haven’t in weeks. We bumped into SPC Cho and her family. They were so sweet. knowing that the hard part was over, we went back to the bay
and showered ourselves with hot water for the first time in weeks. We were ready for the next step, AIT. Remember how I said I was the biggest loser in basic training? AIT was a whole different story. I had this urge to volunteer to be the platoon guide, PG. I had a mental debate because I hate being the
center of attention, but then I still have this feeling that I was supposed to do this, just like I had a feeling before I left Javier before I join the army. Being a PG came with its perks of no night shift. I was the only one allowed to sleep a full seven hours for the first time in weeks. So if I was going to do this, I
was going to do it right. I did schedules, met with other PGs, and started on my duty. I got challenged by a sergeant that said, “Oh, you’re the new PG? I am going to make your life a living hell.” “Bring it on, Sergeant Boom!” I said. (Honestly, I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.) He would always
call me. I had to run downstairs from the third floor to solve an issue with something about my platoon. I barely had time to shower or do laundry, and I was pushed to my limits. The sergeant was impressed with my work ethic, and after a couple of days, he had full trust in me. One day, his PG
(each platoon had a different female and male PG) was late for formation. We were being yelled at the time because many females had their jackets tied up, and they were showing off body parts that soldiers were not supposed to be showing. As she got the information, right in front of me, I told her what was going on and that she should drop her jacket where it should be so she would not get in trouble. She slowly turned around, smiled, and said, “I have an ass. Do you know what an ass is? Because I have one.” She slowly turned around. Now see, this was a part of my job, and as a PG, I had to make
sure everyone, my platoon or not, was in the right uniform, and the attitude she gave me broke a chain of command: respect. After arriving at the chow hall and making sure my soldiers were in the cafeteria line, I walked over to Sergeant Boom. I stood in parade rest, and I asked permission to talk with
him. He permitted me, so I said: “Sergeant, earlier while you were chewing our butts for the jackets, I orientated your PG about the situation since she and a few of her soldiers were not following the uniform code. She turned around and asked me, ‘Do you know what an ass is?’ because she has one.”
“She told you that?” he asked.
“Yes, Sergeant, she did,” I replied.
“I got you, Lopez. I got you,” he said.
I was not there when he talked to her, but the next time I saw her, her jacket almost reached her knees. After that, I was never challenged. What I said was law, and everyone complied with it. Soon, they discovered that if they just do what they needed to do, I would have nothing to fight with them for,
and they would get all my dedication as the leader. For example, on our last weekend, the first weekend, we got to wear civilians for the second time in months! One of my soldiers got in trouble. She came up and told me it was a
misunderstanding, but the first sergeant was so upset he would not give her a chance to explain herself. This was going to be her first weekend where she could go out because she got in a lot of trouble. Even I told her, “What happened now, Tricks?” I walked with her into the first sergeant’s office. I
was the mediator. I explained to the first sergeant that my soldier felt very humiliated because of the kind of word he chose when the situation started. It was a big case of bad timing between battles. She was telling him about
a new song that came up from their favorite singer. He stepped forward to reach the headphones when the first sergeant walked into the rest area. Judging by the angle, he probably saw something way worse than what it
really was. After we explained the situation, the first sergeant asked, “So I appreciate you coming to explain and clear the situation. My question for you is, Where is this soldier that she is not here facing this as she should?” The word shit crossed my words a few times. And then I said, “Actually, I
asked her to stay behind until we would talk to you first.” Nailed it! He said, “I want to talk to her.”I pulled out my cell phone and texted her to come downstairs. I told her exactly what the drill sergeant wanted to hear, and
boom, they got their weekend back! I made my fair share of the mistake as a leader, but overall, the experience was amazing. For the first time, I was able to run something big with the full trust of my supervisor. I was proud of myself—proud of what I had accomplished with hard work. I was even recognized by a retired command sergeant major for taking care of my soldiers the way I did. That day was such a good day. We went to the
Quartermaster Museum, and we were waiting in a warm room with another platoon from a different company for a lecture about Quartermaster. The retired command sergeant major told us, PG, to keep an eye on the soldiers; if anyone would fall asleep, we should write their names, and he would take
care of them with some push-ups. I started looking around, and I noticed everyone was dosing out. I remember how hard it was for me to stay awake in these classes, and if it was not because I was standing, I would probably fall asleep with them. I would make small noises to get their attention and keep
them awake. I did the neck dance and the finger roll. During all this time, I was trying to wake my soldiers up without the retired command sergeant major noticing that I was not writing names down but instead making sure they stay awake. The other PG, whatsoever, was writing names on that paper
with no issue, and one by one, I saw how the retired command sergeant major would walk them outside and smoke them because they fell asleep. I got scared. I was going to get in so much trouble; she was writing names, and I was not. Then I noticed that all my soldiers that were standing in the back of
the room suddenly were not there anymore. Little by little, they went sliding until they were knocked out asleep on the floor. I started walking toward them in slow motion hoping the retired command sergeant major would not notice they were sleeping until before I could wake them up. I started fixing
little things along the way and making sure my soldiers would drink water and stay alert. Finally, I reached the back, and I had like fifteen soldiers all on top of each other, deep asleep. “Shit, now what?” I saw another soldier had his coat out of place, and anyone could trip. I used that trip to make it
all the way back to where my soldiers were snoring, and in weird shapes, they were spitting everywhere. I woke them up quietly. I told them to stand up and drink water, and they did. Then I turned around back to my spot hoping the retired command sergeant major did not see what I just did, but
he did. He tapped me on my shoulder and commanded me to step outside. I immediately walked outside, trembling, because I thought I was in so much trouble. Naturally, the other PG followed me. He looked at her and said, “I did not call you! Get your ass back in there!” I freaked out. If he was that
hard on her that she was doing what he told her, I couldn’t imagine what he was going to do to me. Either way, I was ready to take the punishment since I knew the risk of what I was doing. He stood right in front of me and said, “You have done something I haven’t seen in a long time. You took care of your soldiers. While following directions in the army is vital, taking
care of those you are responsible for spoke very highly of you.” I was not expecting that from him; saying it got me by surprise was an understatement. He gave me a coin and said to keep it as a token—a reminder of the kind of leader I was. I felt in the clouds. For the first time, someone came up to me and told me what I did for others was not going noticed, and it made me feel proud of myself as a person, as a woman. Not everything was cheesecake and candy. On some other days, we had rebels that forgot they were in the army, not high school. As a PG, I did not have to do overnight shifts, but as a leader,
I assume that the reason we had no night duty was that if a soldier could not perform his shift because of health issues, the PG had to take that spot so the shift would not be uncovered. One of that nights, I was walking with another
female, and the sergeant was in charge that night. It was already two hours after the lights off, and there were still soldiers that were not in bed. When we opened the door, the soldier was playing on her phone—a violation of the cell phone rule and lights out rule, but she was not done. The sergeant
took her phone as punishment for breaking the rule, but she was not okay with that, so she threw a fit. She started saying how the sergeant touched her while he took the phone, and I was not going to have a man’s life ruined because of her lies. So I signed as a witness of the situation where I clarified he never touched her and the whole story was real. I must admit I
was a hard boss to deal with but also so easy if you just did the right thing. Not everyone wanted to do the right thing. One of them, PT2 Phanny, decide that since I was now the leader, she was going to make my life harder. If only she knew she was making it harder on herself. We were not allowed to have our phones during shifts; she had hers. I asked her to put it away, and she denied it. She said that other PGs did not care if they used the phone. I answered, “I did not give three flying f—— to what the other PGs did,” and she needed to comply. She said no, so I took her weekend away. I had no issues taking weekends away because, just like children, if you threatened,
you better follow up. Some got the message fast, and some others like PV2 Phan didn’t. She lost three weekends before she decided that all she had to do was the right thing, and I would not mess with her, but pride was greater
than common sense. One morning, while we marched over chow, we were singing a cadence just like any other army company. We were singing my favorite cadence where I would hit high notes hidden under the crowd. I heard the choppers coming They’re hovering overhead They’ve come to get
the wounded They’ve come to get the dead Airborne (drawn out) Ranger My buddy’s in a foxhole A bullet in his head The medic says he’s wounded But I know that he’s dead Airborne (drawn out) While I was getting ready to hit that high note, I took a deep breath and hit the note with the right pitch and
perfection when PV2 Phan turned around and said, “This was not the Lopez’ show, so shut up!” I smiled, and the only thing I said was, “Oh, it bothers you?” Game on. I opened my mouth even wider to take a deeper breath and yelled out of the top of my lungs to irritate the living hell of PV2 Phan. After five minutes of intense yelling on purpose, I lost my voice. It was awful but so worth it. You see, after being the BCT loser, AIT was an awakening for my soul that I was strong, I was smart, and I could do whatever I put my mind to, and I never again let anyone walk over me. I knew who I was and what I was capable of. I had a love-hate relationship with all of my soldiers, just
like kids didn’t like getting yelled at by their parents, but I always worked for them. In the first week, a group of five soldiers decided to go smoke without a smoking pass. They were not happy that the minimum for a smoking pass was 70 percent, but for our sergeant, it was 80 percent, so not many got the pass. I got called downstairs, just like a parent that was in trouble with the teacher because of something the kids did. I could not help them; it was not me who took their pass. I started thinking about how I could turn around the situation since everyone, in the beginning, hated me with a passion. I
had a meeting with all five of the guys that got into trouble, and I proposed a deal. I needed volunteers to carry the company flag, and no one wanted to do it. I proposed that each of them would carry the flag for twenty-four hours
until our platoon was released from that duty, and I would try to get their weekend back; they agreed to it. I talked to my sergeant about the deal, and he agreed. After that, I had no issues with any of the guys since they realized I was there to help like a firm, loving parent. On a cold April night, we had
snow coming down in Fort Lee right before nighttime formation. We were standing in the cold, and our feet were covered with snow. We were standing outside for twenty minutes when someone from another platoon thought
it was fun to start throwing ice balls! One platoon shot first, and then the other responded. In less than twenty seconds, we were having people injured because they were not snowballs; they were ice balls. After trying to calm them down with no success, I ran inside the building as fast as I could, and I told the sergeant-in-charge of something he never heard before.“Soldiers are hurting each other with ice balls. We have blood and bruises, and you need to come outside now!” They got in so much trouble it was not funny. However, I had soldiers with an “open forehead”—I needed backup. Marching was my favorite thing in the army. When marching, I felt proud and strong. 

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  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:32 p.m.

    User avatarCovenant Morolayo Olusegun
    In It Together VIP
    Post 06 Dec 2022, 02:56

    Just from your review, I already like how she defines depression because not everyone understands what it feels like to be depressed, and not everyone has experienced depression. I also like that she understands the audience to whom she is writing and how she communicates from personal experience. As she states in the book, what most people going through depression want is to be noticed, and I agree with her. This will be a very helpful book for those going through depression.
    Latest Review: Doctoroo & the Case of the Picnic Pirates by Dr. Rachel B. Wellner

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:33 p.m.

    in the book, what most people going through depression want is to be noticed, and I agree with her. This will be a very helpful book for those going through depression.
    Latest Review: Doctoroo & the Case of the Picnic Pirates by Dr. Rachel B. Wellner

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:34 p.m.

    I like the useful lessons in this book for women, like back labor during deliveries, breastfeeding, and even lessons on dealing with bullies, it will really be useful. I also like Raquel; she sounds like a very good and readily available sister-in-law; her brother wasn't responsible, but she made sure she did the best for her nephew, and she took up the role of being his father. That's very nice and kind.
    Latest Review: The Fall of Faith by Jeff Berney

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:36 p.m.

    Post 06 Dec 2022, 03:22
    Truly not everyone knows what it feels like to be depressed. Noting is worth taking your own life, suicide is never an option. great review.

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:37 p.m.

    Covenant Morolayo Olusegun
    In It Together VIP
    Post 06 Dec 2022, 05:51

    One thing I like is that you were able to relate to this book on a personal level, For example, the part of the book that says the longer you go without having relationships with people, the more difficult it is to reestablish contact with new people I like books that connect to people on a personal level. This is a very great review

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:38 p.m.

    Post 06 Dec 2022, 08:00
    I love the art work of the book. It's very awe-inspiring. I like the path this book rolled in talking about depression and other things. Your review was very well written. Good job
    Latest Review: Final Act by Van Fleisher

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:38 p.m.

    Post 06 Dec 2022, 08:05

    The title and cover of this book is catchy. Depression is a social vice that ruins teenagers. The author used her experiences with depression to educate the readers, making this book more personal.

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:39 p.m.

    Famzi Ken
    In It Together VIP
    Post 06 Dec 2022, 08:58

    Zylkia sounds very inspiring. She must have gone through a lot in life. Depression is an illness that's underlooked but needs to be taken into consideration. Great review

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:39 p.m.

    Oyedeji Funmilayo
    Post 06 Dec 2022, 21:12

    This book is timely and will be a great help. Daily happenings in our environment can easily make one suppressed. I consider this book a morale booster of not giving up. Wonderful review welldone!!!
    Latest Review: Breathe by Mason Miles

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:40 p.m.

    Emeka Emordi
    Post 07 Dec 2022, 12:12

    This is a good that people should read as the world is filled with depression. I believe it contains nuggets that will help the readers to find help and overcome their struggle with depression.

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:41 p.m.

    Thompson Grace
    Post 08 Dec 2022, 10:27

    Just recently in our school, there was a high surge of depressed students. The truth is when I heard the reasons for one who committed suicide it was funny cause it felt common to me. But I came to understand that depression is not easy to understand. This book is like an eye-opener of what depression entails.
    Latest Review: Give insomnia the finger by Dr Feel Good

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:42 p.m.

    Hazel Mae Bagarinao
    Member of the Month
    Post 09 Dec 2022, 04:29

    Depressive moments are not easy to handle but I believe suicide is not the answer to end them. You just need a friend, family, or people who are willing to listen to you when you are depressed. I think this book gives a good definition of depression, and to get knowledge of how to deal with depressed people. Thanks for your detailed review! Well done!

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:42 p.m.

    Post 15 Dec 2022, 04:08

    Your reviews are always peculiar and this book is very inspiring as well. Zylkia has truly gone and been through a lot and I hope it really inspires readers not to commit suicide or go into depression. Thanks for a wonderful and well-written review

  • Zylkia Swensen
    on March 27, 2023, 9:43 p.m.

    Park Cherri
    Re: Review of The Voice of a Phoenix
    Post 04 Jan 2023, 04:06

    To me, I feel depression can also be wanting to be understood and appreciated. This is really an inspiring book that will help those feeling down to lift their soul. Nice review!
    Latest Review: Commercial Property Made Easy by Chris Lang