Basic Training simulated scenario 2010:
I stood in the open leading a squad of 8 or so. I held a M249 Machine Gun with an M16 slung on my back. We walked in complete silence. Something didn’t feel right. I held up my hand to pause the squad. I looked to my drill sergeant several feet in front of me. She looked back at me. “What, Wellman?! What’s your problem?”….something was wrong. But I didn’t have proof of anything being wrong. Nothing to point out. Nothing to say that would make sense. “Nothing, drill sergeant.” I signaled my squad to continue. Less than 10 seconds passed before we walked into an ambush. My entire squad died. I remember that every week.
I’m sitting on the roof out the back window of my photography studio. The sun has mostly set. I’m mid world wide pandemic photographing secret weddings like a successful alcoholic during the prohibition. One month I was making five figures on the regular and the next I had to push for four. The Studio is on the mend, financially. However, we have allot of work to do spiritually. Talk about an ego blow. We’re getting there. I shoot every week. Multiple times a week. I love my job. I’m living my dream even when it doesn’t look how I thought it would.
“Pancake?” “Yes, Cupcake?” “Thanks for helping me through the sand.” “You’re welcome, Cupcake.” We sat back to back in the pitch black dark. 60 or so pounds of Ruck Sack between us. It’s the only way we could sit and rest. 100 or so soldiers sat the same way, in pairs, all around us. We waited like this for what felt like hours. The stars. It was the kind of night you never forget. The day was hard. But the nights were finally warm compared to the -14 degrees we had endured sitting the same way just a few weeks before. I froze time in that moment. I knew I would come back to it many times. We were all mostly silent. Exhausted but finding bliss in not being told to do anything. No matter what life would bring, I decided to be there for it. I found so much freedom in my own mind that night. Unconditional love for people I barely knew. Unconditional admiration for life itself.
“I want to dance with my wife”. He couldn’t stand. He was hooked up to Oxygen. His wife could barely stand. I realized in this moment I was not just photographing a first dance at a wedding. I was photographing a last dance, too. Family members helped hold him up and spotted his wife as they danced in the small venue. I hadn’t begun using flash yet. I bumped my ISO and photographed a moment I’d never forget. I cried. Everyone did. What if I had known how to use flash? What if I had thought to stand somewhere else? It wasn’t good enough. I was good enough for firsts. I wasn’t good enough for lasts, I thought…The photo hangs in my studio today. Sometimes, I buy classes thinking only of them.
I didn’t have sex until after I was married and I regret that. I wish I would have loved fully when it felt right for me. Rather than when others told me it would feel right. It never did feel right. Because it wasn’t mine anymore. I had done it for them. To prove I wasn’t who they said I was. My virginity belonged to a church and all my family shamed me for everything I did do without applauding me for the things I didn’t anyway…That hurt. It still hurts. They would believe I didn’t belong no matter what I did. They were right. I didn’t belong with them. I am different. I’ll never get the moment I should have had back. It took me five years to heal from that experience. Now, I do what my heart says to do when it feels right. I’ve never been happier or more free. That’s how I will raise my children. You can trust yourself, love.
“There aren’t enough secrets in this world.” She told me when deciding not to discover the gender of her baby until after they were born. She was so right. I remember that every week.
“If you aren’t taking care of you, you have no business taking care of someone else.” She said on a school bench in 2009. I remember that every week.
War Simulation 2010:
“We’ll open the doors. You’ll be standing in front with the biggest gun. The second the doors open, SPRAY AND PRAY WELLMAN. Spray and Pray.” The mission appeared to be a success. We were celebrating rescuing a small town from the drug lord who had taken it over. That’s when I found out. I had shot a friend through the back window who was keeping watch. I think about that often.
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