Belinda Bishop is about to begin her military career. As she recalls her great grandmother's telling of the legend of her mythical ancestor-Larentina, known as the She Wolf of ancient Sparta, who was the presumed daughter of Zeus- Belinda draws inspiration from a woman who both lived and most likely died by the sword, proved she was equal to men, and represented courage and opportunity for all women.
As the daughter of a royal family, Larentina's epic journey begins in fifth century BC, in the land of Sparta. Throughout Larentina's life's journey, she uncovers the mysteries of her heritage, her surroundings, and her abilities to affect the future and the world around her. As she grows from a strong and mysterious child into a sensual and independent woman, Larentina inspires the women around her to see no limits on their abilities and on their power to influence others. As Belinda learns the ways that Larentina exposes the hypocrisy of a tyrannical political and religious system, she must decide how to make positive changes in her own flawed world.
Larentina is an unforgettable mythical tale of bravery, strength, and the willingness to sacrifice everything for ideals, honor, and family.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.98(d)|
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LarentinaMyth, Legend, Legacy
By Linda D. Coker
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Linda D. Coker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt is the middle of October; it is cold and raining as I board the train at the Snobville, Virginia terminal. I am leaving my home and all that is familiar to me as I'm heading toward the unknown—Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
I had just settled into my seat and I am staring out the train window when I hear the train conductor yell, "All aboard!"
I thought to myself, Belinda, what have you gotten yourself into? Then I let my mind wander back three months to the decision that had sealed my fate.
I had been out drinking and getting stoned with several of my girlfriends. We were all either college students or nurses. I was the latter, a nurse. I had graduated high school when I was sixteen years old. I had lived with my grandmother until the day after my eighteenth birthday, when I moved into my own apartment.
I was used to being the youngest in my group of friends. It had been that way most of my teenage years. I never told my friends how old I actually was, and they just assumed I was the same age as they were. My family and friends of my parents had always told me I was very mature for my age, and I felt more comfortable around people who were older than I was.
As we were partying, I told my friends that I had recently heard the Women's Army Corps (WAC), Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP), and other female military branches were being disassembled and integrated into what we call the "Men's Military Forces." It took some talking, but I was finally able to convince them all to join the Air Force with me.
The next morning, after staying up all night planning, we all went to the Air Force recruiter's office. In our town, each branch of the military had their recruiters on the same block, downtown. We told him what we wanted, and he simply said, "Well, the first thing you have to do is fill out these forms." He handed each one of us a file folder filled with forms. He then pointed to a table where we could sit and fill them out. We all finished about the same time and handed them in. He reviewed them and continued, "Everything looks like it's in order now. The next thing you guys have to do is take a test. Do you guys have the time to go ahead and take this test today?"
We all shrugged our shoulders and told him we could take the test; little did we know it was going to take us the rest of the day.
He instructed us to follow him to another building located on the corner of what was commonly called Military Row. We were greeted by a sailor in Navy whites. After the first recruiter left, the Navy recruiter told us to follow him into a large classroom filled with desks in six uniform rows of ten. He motioned for us to sit in the front row.
Once we were settled in our chairs, he stated professionally, "The test you will be taking today is called Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, known as the ASVAB test. This test will be the first step in determining if you are even eligible to be accepted into any military branch. We have four types of these tests. The one you will be taking today is basically an overall, general one."
After several grueling hours, we finally finished the test. I had a headache from hell. From the looks on each of my friends' faces, they were experiencing one also. To me, the test basically consisted of commonsense questions. I thought it was very easy, especially the math section. It seemed to me that a child could have easily passed it, but little did I know that was not the case at all.
After we had finished taking the test, the sailor instructed us, "Okay, ladies, I need you to wait here for a few minutes so we can get your results. Your recruiter will be here to take you back to his office, so he can go over the results with each of you individually."
The Air Force recruiter was smiling from ear to ear when he greeted us again, and we followed him back to his building.
After we were back in the front office of the building, he took each of my friends separately back into a smaller office and closed the door. My first friend came out crying and sobbing, "I wasn't accepted! Apparently, my test score didn't meet the minimum requirements. He told me I could come back later and retake it. I'm going home to bed. This was a stupid idea anyway, Belinda."
That was the last time I ever saw her.
My remaining friends and I looked at each other in shock. I had always considered my friends smarter and wiser than I was, so I thought for sure we must have all failed the ASVAB.
Then my second friend was called into the recruiter's office, and he closed the door again. She came out crying also; because of this experience, I guess, she never spoke to me again either. The same thing happened with my third friend.
Then it was just two of us left, Patty and me. I was surprised when Patty came out smiling from ear to ear; she proclaimed excitedly, "I made it with an average score."
I replied, "It's about damn time one of us passed this stupid test."
Next, I heard the recruiter call, "Miss Bishop." I got up from my chair and walked into the open doorway as he watched me. He closed the door behind us and said, "Please have a seat." He motioned to a chair in front of his desk. I sat down and eagerly waited for my results. I had no idea what to expect.
He looked through the file that was sitting on the desk in front of him, looked up at me, and commented, "Well, I always save the best for last. This is very rare, even with the men I've tested. You have an almost perfect score. We definitely want you, and I believe you will go far in the Air Force. I would like you and your friend, Patty, to join up as commissioned officers. Uum, you shouldn't have any problems since you already have a degree in medical science. We have a great educational program if you decide to go for your masters."
I responded, "But I do not want to be in the same field that I'm in now, and besides how can I be a leader if I don't earn it first?"
The recruiter looked at me with a puzzled expression and vocalized his observations. "You are definitely a unique individual, and you are absolutely right. I never looked at it quite like that before. Well, let's get your friend in here, and we will all discuss what the two of you want to do."
It turned out that the Air Force recruiter wanted us to sign up immediately and leave in a couple of days. We argued that because we had apartments, leases, utilities, pets, and personal belongings, there was no way we could leave in less than a week. We both needed at least three months to prepare. Since we were unable to work out a deal with the Air Force, we walked next door to the Navy recruiter. He looked at our test scores and also tried to get us to sign up and leave the next week. Since we could not work within those confines, we went to the Army recruiter's office next. There, the recruiter gave us the three months that we needed, so Patty and I took the oath and filled out more paperwork. We didn't sign a contract at this time because we still had to pass the physical.
The Army recruiter also wanted us to enlist as commissioned officers because I had a two-year college degree and Patty had a degree in pre-law. The Army would pay for the rest of Patty's education. In return, she would have to stay in the Army for six or more years.
Patty wanted to enlist as an officer, but I did not want the responsibility, nor did I want to be a nurse for the rest of my life. The recruiter told me that if I signed on as an officer, my Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) would be in nursing. I protested, "No, I want a different profession."
The main reason that I wanted to join the military was to have the opportunity to reinvent myself and become something more than a nurse. There is nothing wrong with being a nurse, but I already knew my life was destined for battle. I have been prepared and taught this since birth from my father's bloodline. I also wanted to be part of women's history, to make a difference. The recruiter told me that because I was already in the medical field, I would need to choose a different vocation.
With irritability showing in my voice, I said, "Fine; how about Military Intelligence (MI) or Special Operations (Special Ops) something like that?"
He simply answered, "MI will be no problem, ma'am, but women are not allowed in Special Ops. We have one slot left, but the highest rank I can give you is E-4, which includes an additional rank for coming in under the buddy program. You'll have to take more college in the field to become an officer."
I replied, "Well, we will see, but I'll take it."
* * *
A few days later I got the courage up and I told my mother I had enlisted, she flipped out! She smacked my face and yelled, "Belinda Bishop! You will not join the Army! People will think you're a freak or something. If you're thinking about your ancestors, well, forget about it. Your great grandmother and the rest of your father's family are crazy about why you were born; simply because you have special gifts that God gave you. I have never believed your gifts were to be used for some future battle between socialism and freedom. We already live in a free country. We don't need to be barbarians. You are a lady, and I'm ashamed of you for even thinking of living some kind of silly fantasy of yours and your father's family."
I angrily retorted, "Too bad, I've already joined! I would think you would be proud of me, because I will be one of the first women in our bloodline who has been allowed to join the men's Army in this country openly. Let us not forget about many, of both yours and Daddy's, women ancestors who disguised themselves as men just to serve. I thought you believed in equality for women. Isn't that how you raised me, Mommy?" Calling my parents Mommy and Daddy always works; they melt like butter; most of the time anyway.
"I'm tired of you always trying to run my life," I continued, "when it's always me bailing you out of trouble. It's always 'do my daughter's duty' with you and the rest of the family. Well, this time my daughter's duty will be for my country. You didn't really think I'd be around forever, did you, Mommy?"
My mother answered irritably, but she wasn't as angry, "Belinda Bishop! Of course, I expected you to be around forever. I raised you to be independent and free, but the Army? I never thought in my wildest dreams you would do this. I expected you to become a lawyer, politician, scholar, professor, but a soldier? Never! If you join the Army, I will constantly be worrying about your safety. You could be killed or, even worse, scarred for life. How do you think your father is going to react and the Mennonite community that you are part of, young lady? Let us not forget, Belinda, your blood will give away our secret."
I answered, with annoyance, "I didn't have to tell you anything that I am planning to do because it's none of your business. I have no intention of telling Daddy because he doesn't need to know. In fact, you are the only person I am telling because I need to store my stuff somewhere."
My mother continued fussing, as she asked, "Oh, for Pete's sake, Belinda Denise Bishop! So, now I'm just a storage unit for you and nothing more? I've done a lot for you over the years besides giving birth to you.
"I have a friend who works at JAG here in town. I went to high school with him and he owes me a favor. I'm sure he can get you out of this."
I replied angrily, "Mommy, if you even think about it—I swear I'll never speak to you again, and I mean it this time. This is my business, not yours, and if you interfere with me enlisting, I promise you will regret it."
It finally worked as my mother's anger completely melted as she responded, "You are my baby, not your father's. You came from me, not him."
She pulled me toward her as we stood in her living room. She hugged me tightly and my face was being crushed between her bosoms. My mother is a skinny lady and shorter than me, but when she does the mother thing, I always seem to find myself between her bosoms no matter my age, but I hugged her back and listened to her heart as she sobbed, "Baby, I did not want this day to come. Why can't you ask your father to have mercenaries or someone like that to teach you to be a soldier? We can't save you if they figure out who you are. You have been pampered and spoiled your entire life, Baby. What if something bad would happen and you revealed yourself? Someone would then know, who is not part of your family's pack. Remember your great-grandmother's warnings?"
I looked up into my mother's beautiful blue tear filled eyes with remorse and kissed her on the cheek as I answered her, "Momma, I think I can keep the family secret. I will blend in fine. I should have talked with you and Daddy, but this is something I have to do. To prove to myself I can do it."
She held my face in her two hands and softly smiled as she kissed me on both cheeks, "Well then, we need to go shopping and get the things you will need." I simply giggled at my mother.
* * *
The recruiter called me a couple of days later and asked me to stop by his office because he had a few more papers for me to fill out. He also wanted to give me orders to report for my physical.
I never understood why, but even Patty stopped calling me to go out. By my final day as a civilian, the day when I went to Tateville, Virginia, to take my physical and sign my contract, I did not have any contact with my closest friends. I reported for my physical alone, but even though I had been given the rank of E-4 because of the buddy program, no one realized that Patty had not reported, and I kept my E-4 status (specialist, soft stripes, also known as corporal, hard stripes). I would be a specialist.
I had embarrassed my friends, but I had no idea they would do so poorly on the test. I hadn't prepared and I had done well. They must have felt that I forced them into taking the test unprepared. I should have known better. I guess I deserved the silence because I was being selfish. I was scared to do it alone and wanted my friends with me. But in the end, I ended up alone anyway for the first time in my life. I had to admit, I was scared shitless.
At this moment, I guess, I didn't really care about losing my friends because I wanted to create my own life's history, but someday I would make it right with them. I considered this one of the final frontiers for women in this country—a way to prove that we are just as tough and brave as any man, a way to be part of something more than ourselves. It was a way to give my life meaning and become part of something greater than just myself—to die an honorable death, if need be.
If this was being selfish, so be it. I wanted to see the next generation of my gender go a step further toward true equality because of my generation's bravery and willingness to bleed, sweat, and even die to prove it. To me, that would be worth more than a thousand friends' feelings. If I'm destined to do this alone and fail, at least I can say I gave it my very best, alone or not.
Just as my ancestor Larentina persevered, so will I. I will be one of the first women openly serving in this country's military forces beside the men. It is the promise of my blood to fight for freedom, equality, and justice.
Chapter TwoThe physical actually turned out to be a two-day process; there were hundreds of women and men who were being evaluated. The physical exam was agonizing and extremely long. I stood in line at the first station for several hours so they could check my vitals (blood pressure and temperature). Several of the women in front of me were very short, and each one of them tried to stand on their tiptoes to pass the height requirement. But it did them no good; they were rejected because of their lack of height. I felt very sad for them. The disappointment was written on their faces.
Next, I went to a different station, where I had to stand in line again for hours for an eye exam. After that was the line for the hearing exam, and two more young women in front of me didn't pass this exam and were rejected.
I had to stand in line again to have a pap smear, pregnancy test, and tests for sexual transmitted diseases. After all those tests were completed, I had to wait for the results. These tests eliminated another forty-five women, several of whom looked very embarrassed. This was the end of the first day. Thank God, I passed everything on the first day without any issues.
Excerpted from Larentina by Linda D. Coker Copyright © 2011 by Linda D. Coker. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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