Priscila Padilla

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THREE SOLDIERS – THREE STORIES –

During the mid-nineteen forties, in a coastal town bathed by the ocean’s waves, where all the houses were built with wood and palm tree branches, with floors of sand where few people owned shoes, lived a family of nine. They lived very humbly, their main food plates were the popular Puerto Rican harina con habichuelas and the typical cup of fresh and foamy leche de cabra of that era. The family was composed of a young couple who had three sons and four daughters. They were tight as a girdle and shared everything.

The years rolled by, like a bus on its daily route. The family managed to move to the United States in search of the American dream, a better future for them. Little did the family think at the time, three of them would end up sharing the same interest, to join the armed forces and serve their country. Their mother, Maria Luisa was not happy with the idea. She had seen her own brothers go to war and how her mother had suffered. She had also lost a nephew in combat. On the other hand, their father, Nonato, was very supportive of his sons’ and daughters’ interests. He respected their decisions because he believed he had raised strong young men and women who could survive anything.

 

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I. Eddie

Eddie was born in 1947 and enlisted in the army in 1966. He was only nineteen-years-old. He was smart, and very well disciplined, like a soldier should be. Like many teenagers, Eddie wanted a better future for himself and saw the army as a way to get ahead. Life was rough back in those days, especially coming from a large family. He was very ambitious and to him success was a navy blue, white striped Shelby Mustang 289 horse power muscle car.

Eddie never served in combat. He was stationed at different stateside military bases as well as in Italy. Unfortunately, he never did get to buy that car. While on military leave, he met his wife at a family get-together. He married and had three sons. He retired from the army to become a family man when he was still young. He divorced a couple of years back and she passed away of cancer. He now lives alone in Bayamon, PR. Though he has six grandchildren, he is estranged from his family. It seems his ambitions and materialistic values made him choose them over love. He lives a lonely, long descent into nothingness.

 

II. Ismael

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Ismael was born in 1950 and joined army forces in 1968 at age eighteen. It has to be made clear that he did not join the army to follow his brother, Eddie’s, footsteps. He had other interests. Ismael did not want a Mustang of any color. He did not want to go searching for material things his humble family couldn’t give him. Ismael wanted to progress and help the family get through all the economic adversities.

He was very brave and since day one, wanted to go to into battle. He served in Vietnam and was stationed in Cambodia for two years. Afterwards he was stationed in Egypt, Germany, and Honduras. While in Honduras, he met his wife and had one son named Michael. He moved to Georgia where he worked as an electrician on the Navy ships. He has occasional war nightmares about the people he killed. He hears screams, shots, helicopters on top of him and wakes up shaking and sweating like an Olympic track athlete after a race. Keeping his mind busy with hobbies and with the love of the family, he has overcome those nightmares for the most part. He is retired and now living in Savannah, Georgia under the oak trees feeling the breeze caress his face. He loves to feed the hungry fish in a homemade pond which is surrounded by the smell of fresh garden roses. He lives his life now like there is no tomorrow.

 III. Nereida

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The third of the family to join the army forces was not a brother, but a sister. Yes, a woman. Nereida was born in 1949 and enlisted in the army by the year 1980. She was always very independent and worked since a very young age. Her hobbies included traveling and shopping like any other hardworking woman. She joined the army because it was something she wanted to do since a very young age. Maybe it was just one of those things on her bucket-list.

She served in the army as a personnel administrator and medical clerk. Like her brother, Eddie, she did not serve in actual combat, but then again back in those years few women did. There were also no ongoing wars when she served.

She was in the army until 1988. She served her last years in Germany. She retired and returned to her job as a civilian at Blue Cross of New Jersey. Eventually, she had two children, José and Priscila and moved to her native Puerto Rico to raise them. Because of the sacrifice Nereida made by joining the army, her daughter Priscila and son José did not have to enroll in the army to receive veteran affairs benefits. They are currently receiving a great college education, José studies Business Administration and Priscila studies Political Sciences.

 

My brother, José, and I have come a long way, from a generation of constant struggles, poverty, and poor education to the opportunities of College and a better life. I look back and appreciate all that my family did that led us to be the successful people we are today. I am also thankful for the love and discipline we were taught by our veteran mother.  Every step of the way, when the road gets steeper, I keep going because in our family we have learned to value sacrifice and discipline and savor its rewards that rise way beyond the material.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s amazing how each story differs one’s another. One brother is very materialistic and only thinks of himself. Because of being like that his life did not turned out to be the way that he expected. Ismael life in the other way is a little bit different. He onrolled himself in the army because he wanted to help his family, he did went to combat like germany and honduras. And the sister in the other way did enrolled herself in the army becuase she wanted to, maybe because it was part of her bucket-list. Every decision can defined how your life is going to end up. Stand for what you like and what you want. In the end, if you gave all your effort it will all be alright.

  2. Great stories. I truly enjoyed reading them. I was very intrigued by the way you spoke of each person in a particular way. You even gave them a characteristic which described them the most. Eddie in particular i can relate to because I have an uncle who is exactly like him. He doesn’t care if he’s happy or not he just wants material stuff. Even worse he married a person who is exactly like him.

  3. Ismael is a very humble person. I admire him for being such a nice guy. Not wanting material things, only wanting to help his family, it really is amazing. I do not only admire him though, but his other brother and sister too. It’s sad to hear they had to join the army and had to go through all of that, but it’s something to be proud off to be able to defend and fight for your nation. Very interesting this was to read.

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