MIYOKO: Usually, the first thing I tell people is that my name is Japanese. My father is full Japanese-American, born in Hawaii. He went to the same school as Secretary of Veterans Affairs (and retired General) Eric Shinseki. My mother is Czech-American, born in Iowa, where I was also born and raised. From that combination, I learned in early childhood to eat with chopsticks and squeeze out a beer barrel polka on the accordion.
MBA&M: “All I Can Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq” we understand is your story, how hard was it to write this compelling tribute to women who serve their country?
MIYOKO: At times, writing my story was very difficult. In order to describe some of the events in Iraq, I had to put myself back there emotionally and envision the people, the smells, the fear, the heat and the sweat. The gift of re-visiting those sands of time was being able to critically examine details I did not have time to reflect upon at the time and form, ultimately, my own truth about them. It was an opportunity for me to take all the pieces of an incoherent and chaotic experience and say, hey, this is what it was for me. Of course, I recognize that years from now my reflection may be different but that’s all a part of the healing process. I don’t believe a soldier ever completely returns home. It’s a lifelong process of steps that occur while the rest of post-deployment life moves forward.
MBA&M: What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
MIYOKO: The most difficult scene to write was the convoy I was on when another of my company’s convoys (on the same road) was ambushed and through the radio transmissions I could envision the scene of chaos, destruction and death of my friend, Specialist Aaron Sissel. I felt completely helpless as my vehicle was too far away to reach him in time. Aaron was a great guy and an admirable soldier–kind, hard working, patriotic–and only 22 when he was killed. I was 26 at the time, hardly much older, but I still felt like he was just a kid and never got the chance to get married, have a family and do many of the other things in life that we not only take for granted but sometimes complain about. I try to remember him and his complete sacrifice because I think it pushes me to live my life to the fullest and that is one of the ways that I can honor him.
MBA&M: We understand the sacrifices you made for your fellow countryman,and your extraordinary service, but if you could change anything about your sojourn into a combat zone, what would it be?
MIYOKO: Since I was in college while I was in the National Guard, I focused on my schoolwork first and my military career second. While other soldiers went to summer training schools to advance in rank, I took summer classes. The result was that I earned 2 bachelor’s degrees and had a fantastic college experience. I didn’t just “make the grade” or get my necessary credits, I got a superb education. Simultaneously, my military career was stagnant. I don’t know if I could have balanced a rigorous school schedule with additional military training, but if I could change anything I would have tried it so that I could have been a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant when I deployed. Being in a leadership role would have driven me to be a better soldier, lead by example, and influence others in a way that might have improved their deployment experience.
MBA&M: How hard was basic training?
MIYOKO: Basic training wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t overwhelming for me. Everyone was miserable and time passed pretty quickly. We were busy all the time, so there wasn’t any chance or anyone to complain to. I knew when I enlisted that I wasn’t going to give up. So I think I took it one moment at a time.
MBA&M: What do your regret most about your time served, what was some of the things you missed most while you where in the military?
MIYOKO: There is very little I regret about my military service, or my life in general. I do think that one aspect of young adulthood I missed because of my service was being sort of carefree, fun, exploratory and optimistic. I started working at age 14, so had some level of responsibility and commitment at a young age. Then in the Army, life was rather serious and paying attention to the details was critical. I couldn’t let my mind wander on a firing range or while driving a 5-ton vehicle. I didn’t stroll across the grass on a college campus in bare feet, playing frisbee between classes, or soaking up sun rays. I didn’t spend hours getting ready for formals or wear fun lipstick colors. I do all that now though. It’s never too late to have fun, even if I’m not “young” anymore.
MBA&M: What do you most want people to understand about life in the military?
MIYOKO: The military, at least the active duty, is not a job it’s a lifestyle. When a woman or man signs an enlistment contract she or he signs away the choice to decide where to live, what to wear, the length of the work day, the extent of the job duties and all the creature comforts of civilian life. She or he agrees to give up everything including life, by the order of a squad leader up to the President, in order to defend the Constitution and the American way of life. And she or he does that voluntarily. No enlistment bonus or college loan repayment benefit can “buy” that. It’s a loyalty and sense of duty that lives in the heart. That’s how I define a soldier–by the condition of the heart to put the mission first.
MBA&M: What is your advice to anyone who is thinking about joining the military?
MIYOKO: 1) Do your homework. Learn about the branches of service, the jobs, the qualifications and the fitness standards. Research an initial enlistment contract and ask a recruiter (and someone that is currently serving in the military if possible) to explain it so you understand exactly what your commitment to the military is and what its responsibility is to you.
MBA&M: Please tell our readers where they may connect with you and where they may purchase “All I Could Be”?
MIYOKO: You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@MHikiji), Pinterest, Goodreads, Google + and Tumblr (mhikiji). My website and blog are at www.allicouldbe.com.
Miyoko Hikiji, an Iowa native, served in the active duty Army from 1995-98 as a supply clerk and armorer in Air Defense Artillery, stationed at Fort Polk, LA and Fort Bliss, TX. She returned home after completing her initial enlistment, joined a transportation unit in the Iowa Army National Guard (became a qualified truck driver) and began her studies in journalism and psychology at Iowa State University.
After September 11th, 2001 Miyoko was mobilized for the Force Protection Security team at Camp Dodge for six months. She resumed her studies afterward but was mobilized again in 2003 and deployed with the 2133rd Transportation Co. for over a year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Miyoko completed over 70 supply convoy, security and raid missions throughout the northwest quadrant of Iraq. Simultaneously, she worked as the unit correspondent and administrative sergeant.
Miyoko earned two B.S. degrees from Iowa State University in 2004—journalism and mass communication (with a public relations emphasis) and psychology.
Miyoko is a passionate veteran’s advocate and takes special interest in supporting and mentoring veterans through the transition period after deployment. She is outspoken on the present issues of MST (military sexual trauma), PTSD and suicide. Miyoko believes that veterans should educate the non-uniformed public by sharing their experiences in any number of art forms and that all military-connected persons have a story to tell.
Website and Blog: www.allicouldbe.com
- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: Chronology Books; First edition (May 25, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1933909587
- ISBN-13: 978-193390958
This inaugural account, during the onset of the Global War on Terrorism, by a female National Guard soldier provides evidence of the vitality of female fighters.
It pays tribute to the two soldiers in her unit that lost their lives, and shows how love can be more vital in the desert than in water. This story exposes the comradeship, intimacy, cowardice and humor of soldiers…more
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