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American Creative Nonfiction

She served her country during a time when it was in turmoil over a war that many did not favor. During a time when women were not recognized as being service members by the masses. During a time when many men of the country were burning their draft cards, running to Mexico or Canada. Yet here she was serving in the United States Air Force as a nurse. Her duty was not to only help her fellow service members but to also help the people of Vietnam. Upon returning home, she met the man she would later marry, also a Vietnam veteran, and have children with. She had served her years as an Airman and was ready for the civilian world again.

They moved to a Canal Zone paradise in Panama. It is here where she served as a civilian nurse for a United States military hospital. However, war has an unpredictable way of sneaking up on her but she was ready. Even as a civilian nurse she could sense the turmoil that was about to occur. On one occasion, she tried to warn the G.I.s on an Air Force base about a man standing outside of the gate to the military base yelling, "Death to Americans" in Spanish. They brushed her off as a civilian who did not know any better. This same location where the man stood would be where a sniper shot and killed an American teacher days later. Within days, the military alphabet warning system went from PML Alpha to PML Bravo, to PML Charlie, to PML Delta. When the warning went to Delta, she knew she had seen the warning signs of turmoil brewing. She knew that something was going to happen. The country had a machete waiving dictator who was anti-American.

December 20, 1989, Southern Command Network radio station makes the following announcement: "Attention, PML Echo is now in effect. All US personal and military members are urged to get to the nearest military installation." Her mama bear and former war experience sprung her into action on protecting her family. She woke all of her kids up and her husband. They immediately gathered as much of their stuff as they could take. In a time of war, not everything can be taken. Outside they could hear the gunshots and mortars going off. They rush into their car.

There are two ways to get to the nearest military installation. They decide to drive one way but see a group of what appears to be Noriega's dignity battalion marching towards them. Within no time, her husband invokes a Dukes of Hazzard-like move and speeds towards Friendship Highway to get to the other side of the military installations. It is here where the family believes it is the end as they are confronted by an American soldier pointing an M-16 riffle at them shouting, "Get the fuck out of the car!" As they get out of the car the soldier shouts, "Get your fucking hands up." Her family ranging in age from 10 to 50 are now believing this is the end. She talks to the soldier telling him that she and her family are Americans. The soldier is relieved. The family is told that they have to walk the rest of the way to the military installation as the car may be seen as a threat. Before they go on their trek, she makes sure to tell them that Noriega's dignity battalion is on the other side of the highway.

Unlike the first war she was in, Operation Just Cause lasted over one month but sadly left casualties. During this war, she was required to work. In doing so, she had to find a safe way to get to work. This proved to be a difficult task as there were snipers shooting at cars identified to have belonged to Americans. The Army hospital where she worked was located off of the military installation in an area formerly known as the Canal Zone. Despite the obstacles, she still managed to serve in her civilian job to help others. She would continue to serve as a civilian nurse until she was able to retire.

Her uncle was killed in a bush plane accident in the 1960s in Barrow, Alaska. He left behind a wife and five children. She managed to stay in contact with her cousins in Alaska over the years that turned into decades. After she retired from the Department of Defense, she found her calling to serve amongst her relatives in the Alaskan Native community of Barrow in the late 1990's. This had been her dream. She met her aunt and cousins for the first time. She was in Alaska and again helping others. She came from a long line of helpers as her uncle left a renowned impact on the community. The unrelenting need to help others runs in her blood. She would continue to serve as a nurse until her retirement for Arctic Slope Native Corporation.

Over the years, she saved many lives and the lives of her own family. Her devotion to giving back to her community without expecting anything in return was not left unnoticed. Those who love her most took note of how she constantly put others' needs before those of her own. Even after serving in the United States Air Force, she continued to help out her community in times of peace and war. Selflessly putting herself in danger while remaining humble. 

The need to help and give back has always been her drive. At 73 years old, she continues to care for her husband, a diabetic. Despite her age and limp as she walks, she continues to care for others. She comes from a generation when giving back to your community was something that should be done without boasting about one’s self. Bernadette Modelo should be a name that everyone should know about. She is a mover and shaker in her own right. Throughout her time here on earth she has shown those she has helped what compassion and kindness looks like.

December 05, 2022 07:49

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Lindsay Flo
21:12 Dec 14, 2022

I found this to be an interesting biographical summation of Bernadette's life. I'd actually like to know more about her! For the sake of critique, here is what I can offer: 1. Watch the tense. Sometimes past, but there is a part where it was present tense. 2. I like that you introduced her at the end, but I would have liked knowing her name as well. I actually think you could go either way here, so maybe take that critique with a grain of salt :)


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