Military reflections: Finding lifelong friends

Monica Walsh Blankenship

Monica Walsh Blankenship joined the U.S. Air Force in 1974 as a nurse. She spent two years at the David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. Over the subsequent five years, she was an active reserve flight nurse, primarily with the 65th Air Evacuation Squadron at Travis, and flew all across the Pacific theater. She left the Air Force in 1981 as a captain.

 What drew you to enlist? 

Blankenship: While working in Chicago, ironically, I had turned down a lucrative offer to work on the Alaskan pipeline; there was no way I was going to commit to something for two years! Three months later, I was commissioned in the Air Force. Go figure!

Having a brother who served in Vietnam with the Navy certainly nudged me toward the military. I had been peripherally involved with the AFROTC group from college, so I was getting encouragement there, too. But I primarily wanted to contribute in a different way, be a part of something bigger. The flying aspect was a lure, but there was more to it. I believe I was looking for more direction, adventure, newness — and thought, “Why not?!”

How has your military service influenced who you are today? 

Caring for patients in the military let me comprehend some of their unique pain and circumstances and definitely contributed to being a better nurse. It also inspired me to go further in nursing, eventually earning my master’s degree while in the active reserves. I met my husband, a physician in the Air Force, while at Travis. So that time drastically impacted who I am today. After the Air Force years, we then lived overseas for 17 years, a much easier transition because of our military experience. My Air Force years broadened my horizons geographically and intellectually, brought me lifelong friends and the love of my life.

When it comes to discussing service with a veteran, what advice would you offer citizens who have not served? 

For people who have not served, I would advise an awareness that, just as many veterans love to tell their story, there are those that find it painful and choose not to talk in any depth about their experiences. That needs to be respected. Keep in mind, too, that some veterans feel “unworthy” of interest because they were not deployed or in combat. Recognize whatever their role was and convey that it was important. Keep questions general and listen. Being genuinely interested beyond “thank you for your service” is appreciated and rewarding.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.