Someone looked through my writing the other day and commented that, if you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t know I was in the military. (So if this is the first time you are hearing about it — surprise, I guess?) And yes, I am an officer in the United States Air Force.
I never intended to keep this a “secret.” If you look back at some of my letters and original blog posts, you will see references; even photos of me in uniform. But I did make a conscious decision not to emphasize this part of my identity. In my experience, once I mention what I do for a living, it often becomes a focal point, instead of being ancillary. And in the baby loss community, I never wanted anything to take focus away from my core identity as Adrian’s mother.
Oh silly Miranda, always trying to keep things inside boxes…
The thing is, I don’t know if anyone has a single “core identity.” Because yes, I am a bereaved parent. I am also the parent of a living child. I am also a writer, and a vegetarian. I also like to hike and sing. These are all parts of me.
And yes, one of the biggest pieces is being in the military. And one of the most powerful things I’ve written is for that audience.
A little over 3 months after Adrian died, I was an established member of a local support group. And one of the couples I met in that group was also a military family. And while I experienced an almost exclusively supportive work environment after Adrian’s loss, I was surprised and a bit angered to find out that not all military members’ experiences ended up that way. And I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot outside of our meeting space one evening, and the words just poured out of me. And they became this piece: A Letter to my Commander Upon the Occasion of the Death of my Child.
Originally, I wanted to have this formally published. I submitted it to the Military Times…and I heard crickets. I tried again with Air Force magazine, with the same result.
And with much trepidation, I decided to simply share a link to the blog post in several military groups during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month this past October.
To date, that blog post has been visited more than 5,000 times. (I’m going to take a brief moment here and say: suck it, Military Times)
Out of that post began a conversation. And this past week, I was invited to speak at the inaugural Women’s Air and Space Power Symposium. And one of the things that makes me most proud is being able to share the video I had envisioned when I first shared the post.
This video was put together in one week’s time using input from 12 fellow bereaved parents in the military: men and women, active and retired, all volunteers. These 12 individuals submitted recordings within days of my initial call, and their voices brought this dream to life.
We shared the video at the symposium, and one of the most common comments was, Yes, this was my experience too. Yes, I’m not alone.
I promise you: You are never alone.
I wrote the bulk of this post almost a week ago, intending to publish the day prior to me speaking. Procrastinator-Miranda then forgot to do that, which was great because I was able to add the previous 2 paragraphs about the video’s reception. Because while I was hoping the reception would be positive, I wasn’t sure until that day.
And then I woke up this morning to a request by one of our partner nations to share the video with their people. And it all feels incredibly surreal, and also validating. We crossed international borders.
We did this. We made this happen.
And it also drives home to me how much I can’t shield my writing or myself from the multiple facets of my identity.
I am a mother;
a sometimes crazy dreamer;
and a military officer.
I am all of these things, and more.
Miranda Hernandez is a writer, mother, and military officer. Miranda writes about stillbirth, life after loss, and normalization of grief at https://adrianjameshernandez.com.