By Air Force Vet Dannelle Coatney-Reichert – 5th Grade Math teacher, Pasadena, TX
A leap of faith, nervous and anxious I stepped on the plane headed to Colorado. I thought to myself, can I do this, will it hurt? When I arrived I was met with open arms and encouraging words from strangers I had just met. I couldn’t help to wonder what was next.
I sat around the table with warriors from all over the United States. The look of nervousness and insecurity was present and precise. The next morning we packed our gear and loaded up to the trailhead. Why was I going to hike this mountain? Four days without technology or hearing from my family would be torture enough, or so I thought.
Standing there with so much fear we took the steps up the mountain. Many times I wanted to turn around and go back down but in those moments my mind cleared and I was reminded of Robert Frost, and his poem “The Road Less Traveled.” What did that mean to me? I thought.
I went from being a child to being an Airman, a wife, a mother, divorced, controlled, single parent, and then remarried. I suffered quietly and sometimes loudly. I have wanted to give up many times, I was hurt and often lonely. I thought no one understood and I was truly alone. I believed that the “road less traveled by” meant the road I was had been living. Boy, was I wrong, there are many women like me. It appeared to me that I had not been walking alone in my trauma. I have sisters who are also children, Airmen, wives, and mothers. We are all searching for meaning in our lives.
I kept walking up the mountain with my sisters, we had sisters waiting for us at the top. We hiked for them as well, we were in it together. We had each other’s backs and helped each other up.
The road diverged again, what should I do? I could barely breathe and my body hurt. I had to decide to continue or to go back down. Going back to where I started was not an option. Met with encouraging affirmations that I could do it. I continued to walk up the mountain, it was long, hard and strenuous. Suddenly a mile before our destination our sister met us, encouraging us to keep going. She met us with such a joyous smile on her face it wiped away our pain and helped us push on.
We made it, we hiked 10 miles to the hut. It has been over 15 years since I had that much pride in myself. I walked away from the group and cried, not from pain (that went away) but from joy, a sense of accomplishment, in myself and the others.
We summited Mt. Yeckel and read literature that gave us insight on healing in the wilderness. We spent time in our thoughts and focused on just us for once. The power of that mountain had entered my soul, it was beginning to change me. I was excited and scared. I didn’t want to descend from that mountain or the magical place it took me. Instead, I wanted to share it with my family and loved ones.
Rocky, slippery, dirty, steep and beautiful describes the hike down the hill. I find that the hike down reminded me of life. Life can throw all kinds of situations at you and it can get ugly but in the end, it is a beautiful thing. My sisters, I will hold your hand and help you up when you fall, you are not alone.
Remember ladies we have the power of choice. It is our life and our future.