Courageous Cora
Faith Fables

She sat on the park bench under a tree by the front gate guard post. This place at her first military base was her comfort zone. She was surprised when she saw it was still there. It was 20 years ago when she found it, and she sat to watch the guards at work while she ate an ice cream cone. They were still there in their combat issue with heavy loaded long guns at their sides. They stopped every car and leaned in to question the occupants. They stopped everyone on foot as well and questioned them. Cora usually didn’t allow herself to go back in her memory, but today was special. She would be mustering out tomorrow and she’d allow it.

Escaping a pimp isn’t easy. It takes a whole lot of courage. She was only 17, and weak. He told her, “If I can’t have you, no one can.” He said he would find her anywhere she went, and first she would suffer from his torture, and then he would brutally kill her. She had seen his temper tantrums. He took her high heel shoe in his hand, and raising it asked her, “What will break first when I take this and beat your head in with it? The heel, or your skull? Don’t ever say to me you will leave me again, not ever!”

She was his money bag, his personal bank, counting out hundred-dollar bills in his greedy palms at will. When walking, his fists were always balled into his pockets.

The day she had the courage to escape her pimp and prostitution was terrifying. She waited for her train to pull in at the station. It was the last time in her life she remembered having uncontrollable body trembling. Where did her courage come from? That courage to escape? Can someone be born with courage? Can someone make it?

She had an address of an older brother a few states away. But after only a few days in his studio apartment, he told her he couldn’t afford to feed her, and he had a life of his own to live, and she didn’t fit there, and she’d have to leave.

She’d met a U.S. military recruiter that first week in town. Was it luck or destiny? She thought no one will ever have to know about her past. No one will ever know, not him or anyone in Cora’s 20 years in the military would ever know about the violent pimp and the prostitution.

It was her secret, always and forever.

So she tried the military. She made it through boot camp and then on another week, then another month, then a year, then 20 years.

Sure, there were guys in the early days who flirted and pursued her and asked for dates. When she showed no interest and didn’t respond, there would sometimes be insults, and jokes from some of the guys. But, unaffected, she walked away smiling to herself and thinking, “You know nothing. You know so little. You just don’t know anything.”

After active duty for about 10 years, she tried civilian life for a while. She got an apartment, a car, and enjoyed not reporting her whereabouts all the time. She went shopping, to shows and museums and to lunch with friends. But soon she realized civilian life wasn’t for her. She missed the military and her military family. She reenlisted and was deployed to another part of the world where she soon realized what her destiny here on earth was to be.

You see my fellow warriors, as my friend Cora would tell you, if you haven’t been there yet, there is a part of the world where females are nothing more than chattel. They can be stoned to death by the men in a barren field for nothing more than having an opinion. Cora had driven by this happening to a woman one day, and the woman’s cries and screams would remain forever in Cora’s memory.

Women in one of the countries could be burned to death out on the street by their husbands if they got tired of them.

One practice was that girls nine years old were commonly sold into sexual and/or domestic slavery. Others of nine sometimes had to experience painful female circumcision without anesthesia and done with unsterilized tools.

In most of these places women were not allowed to drive any vehicles or read anything other than their holy books. And, a normal practice was to feed all the males present at a meal first. When the males were finished, the leftover food was the meal for the females in the household.

I could go on and on with more common practices of abuse and violent abuse in that part of the world, where females were nothing more than chattel, but you get the picture here, I’m sure.

So in 2020 why does this continue to go on? Well, because no one even knows where to begin to stop it all. Cultural and religious practices of others are not something we are prepared to challenge and attempt to change. That is what I think, and Cora agreed. So the violent abuse continues every day, every year.

Now, for Cora. Well, she wanted to go back, even though she would have been basically powerless. She’d had many restrictions put on her behavior over there. It was in her training. But she knew there was sometimes eye contact with the women. Certainly she could pray.

Once she was close enough to a woman that their hands touched, and they squeezed each other’s hands. Women communication. Hugging was discouraged. However, they could see her standing tall in her uniform, see her interaction with brother warriors. She felt she could set an example. Leave them? Desert them? Cora could not and would not leave them.

So Cora volunteered to be redeployed back over there. She rolled up her unis, got on the next flight over, and returned to base. Not long after that she was called to battle. Readiness for combat was in her training. Her ammunition was in order. She followed commands.

That was the day Cora died in battle. That day she had taken out many male enemy combatants who were known to her as abusers. She was very happy when she died. Her remains were flown home. Her ashes rest in the Hero’s Wall at a local cemetery.

The bench on base is still there. I walked past it not long ago, and it was surrounded by yellow detailed daisies, the color of Cora’s hair. There was a young woman sitting there watching the guard post. She was sipping her coffee in the comfort zone. The gate where pimps cannot enter. The gate where abusive males cannot enter. She watched. A guy with a trumpet marched by practicing the songs of the five branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard.

I was glad to be an American woman warrior. And proud to have known Courageous Cora.