Selling A Dream – Where Are They Now?

Elizabeth Harper 1979

Elizabeth Harper – Woolco Department Store -1979

In 1979, I worked briefly in Woolco department store which was owned by a name you may more easily recognize as Woolworth’s. While my job title was ‘Camera Department Manager’ the only thing I had to manage beyond inventory and sales was the boredom I felt on the job everyday. (See goofing off image above)

Woolco was well into its decline when I landed there as most of its potential customers had moved on to the new malls that offered more excitement than our discounted merchandise and a long-term lay-away plans.

While I did my job well enough to receive an employment offer from a local station (religious broadcasting, as I remember it) for finding some dated equipment that they had not been able locate anywhere else, the biggest deal I closed was with two young men about my age who were passing by the camera counter during a slow day in March of 1979.

After realizing pretty quickly that they were not interested in camera gear, I remember talking about the future and what I wanted to do with my life. At that point, I was secretly considering joining the military. Having graduated early from high school and spent six months studying commercial photography by the time I’d turned 18, I was back at home with my parents while working and trying to decide what to do next.

I probably told them that I had three immediate goals which were,  to see more of the world, save money for school (University) and become independent. I can’t remember what they said or how I convinced them that three years in the army might give them opportunities they could not get by staying where they were, but by the end of our across the glass counter chat, I had talked two strangers into a life changing decision.

A few days later, they met me at the recruitment office and before anyone could say, ‘ I’ve changed my mind,’ we were all in the employ of  our Uncle Sam. I came in at a higher pay grade having earned one stripe for bringing two qualified candidates in with me which fit the requirements for the Buddy program in place at the time.

All this occurred 34 years ago this month and I can’t help but wonder how things turned out for the daring young men who joined the army after talking with me. I guess I was doing a bit of life coaching before it was trendy.

One of the things I like about Facebook and the internet is the ability to see what folks you haven’t heard from in years have done with themselves. I enjoy seeing who they’ve become, what dreams came true, and what new ones are in front of them. I wish I could remember the names of the two young men who enlisted with me so I could see if the leap they took on an afternoon in March was one that helped them live a bigger life than they had imagined possible in 1979.

I know it sounds crazy, but I thought with the internet being what is today and the way we can share information, if you could pass this along to your social network, then perhaps someone who has heard a similar story from a man, describing how a young woman with a dream talked him into a bold adventure at a camera counter on an afternoon in March … maybe I might find out how things turned out for them.

Thank you.

Veterans Day – Family Extensions

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Extending my tour of duty

In 1978, I stood with a group of strangers and holding up my right hand, I promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I went on to raise my hand two more times when I extended my military tour for six months and later when I joined the National Guard under a program called SMP.

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Being sworn in for SMP National Guard and ROTC

Soldiering is never easy, but it is particularly difficult now when so many face the possibility of life altering injury and death everyday. I enlisted during peace time and although I was trained and ever ready for the possibility of battle, my daily life was relatively peaceful with my biggest threat to my safety coming from the sexual harassment from others who wore the uniform. To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it was the best and worst of times for me in many ways and while there are many stories I could share on another day, today’s post has a different purpose. This is the day that Americans honor our living veterans.

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Basic Training - Ft Gordon, Georgia - 1979

Today, there are many wearing the various uniforms that make up the different branches of the American military family. Men and women who fight every day committed to the words they repeated on the day they volunteered to serve, ” I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”  I use the word family with great intention because once you have assembled, trained, and lived with people in anticipation of a life threatening mission, you begin to see them as an extension of your family of origin. For many who grow up in less than ideal situations it may be the only family they know.

There are three veterans in particular that I like to think of as part of my family and while we never served together, I have heard bits of their individual stories over the years and have an understanding of the collective cost of their time in service. While my path was easy, these three men who fought in Vietnam, Jamie, Joe, and Bill have a different story to tell. I know what it’s like to be ready, but they know what it means to go.

Today, as advertisers hawk big sales on various goods or you sit in frustration outside a public office closed for the day, please remember the real reason for Veterans Day and offer those currently serving or those who have served, a much needed and simple…thank you.

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