Written by Crystal Blackwell Tyson on November 1, 2012.
The Yellow Blanket
As I sat folding my family’s clothes, I came across this yellow handmade blanket my son received at birth. I quickly ran upstairs to ask him from where he had pulled this blanket. He had gone through a box of stuff to get rid of and wanted to keep the blanket because it was his favorite. I found this so funny and asked him if he knew where it had come from. Of course he didn’t. I start to think of the importance of the blanket and decided to tell him the story of a woman that had a remarkable effect on my life as well as others. A story he should never forget.
I went into the military thinking I knew it all. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. I was away from my family and missing my mom. My first duty station would prove to be the most important experience in my career − that is where I met CSM Brock. It felt as though she took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know about the military, motivating myself and serving others. Her idea of the “open-door policy” literally consisted of her door being open at all times. I will never forget the day I went into her office crying my eyes out about becoming a mother. She listened, gave advice, and made me laugh. From that day she was like my military mentor/mom.
I realized as I was telling my son my story, I didn’t know much about her; I decided to email her and ask her to be a part of this article. I was so excited and amazed when she sent back HER story.
I joined the Army in 1979 in Los Angeles, California. I was supposed to go to college in 1977 but I had a devastating event happen in my life—my mother suddenly passed away from a massive heart at the age of 40. I was the oldest of eight children and didn’t know what to do. So I stayed home with Dad and family to help out. Life went on and Dad didn’t really need me after remarrying. So, after working full time, partying full time and working another part time job, I decided to seek out the military service and ended up in an Army recruiting office. Why did I join? I guess to get away from LA – a fast pace, party life-style, and I was getting nowhere fast.
Joining the Army was exhilarating to me! A new experience, new life and meeting new people. Basic training was excruciating but eye-opening! I realized that I could enjoy this type of life at least for the next four years. I think what kept me in the Army was my squad leader in my second duty assignment. Sgt. Dennis was everything to me! My leader, adviser, counselor and even friend. He was the sharpest Soldier I had ever seen in his starched fatigues and he encouraged our squad to be our absolute best. He made us go to the education center and take classes on our off-time. He was my first Army Mentor. He helped me realize that the Army wasn’t bad. He cared; he set us up for success.
My MOS is 68W, the Combat Medic, and presently I am the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Army Surgeon General and the Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of the U.S. Army Medical Command. My role is to serve as the senior enlisted medic and Regimental CSM for the Army Medical Department.
I had the opportunity to serve one tour at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. That deployment was eye-opening. Out of all the things that I learned from this deployment, the one that sticks with me is the realization that people are fragile when put in difficult and stressful situations – no matter what rank. It takes strong leadership to help Soldiers work through and deal with the environment. I made sure I had an active physical training program and engaged leadership throughout to help boost morale and keep Soldiers focused.
I love the military! For the last 33 years, the Army has been my life and I wouldn’t change any experience I’ve had! The thing that I enjoy the most is the people. It’s ALL about people! I’ve met and know the most diverse, wonderful, knowledgeable and personable people in the world! I especially love working in the medical field. It warms my heart to see patients who are wounded get healed and to see the sick get cured. I feel good when patients who come for their health check-ups to keep themselves healthy are satisfied with their care! Nothing makes me happier than to see my Soldiers get promoted, graduate from schools and be successful.
Although I love my career, I am most proud of my children. My son and daughter were born into the military life and have moved with me from post to post throughout their lives. I also need to mention I have been a single mother for the majority of my military career. At times, I worried about them and the constant moves but I tried really hard to be closely engaged in their childhood and teen years. Talk about tough?! It was– but it was doable. Now they are grown and either graduated from college or attending, and they are so grounded and balanced! They are the joys of my life!
I have had a satisfying and wonderful career and I still have lots to do before I retire. Although mission comes first, I truly believe that taking care of family and Soldiers comes first and foremost. Sometimes mission and the latter are simultaneous. I’ve always believed that if you take care of Families and Soldiers first, mission will come automatically and you will be successful because you have less to worry about. You can have all the technology and the best systems in the world. But it’s PEOPLE who really make us successful in all we do. I have to be sure to always recognize and give a shout out to my father, Ike Horn. He is the one person in my life who has believed in me, motivated me and continued to encourage me to be all that I could be! His love and support is unsurpassed!
I am a mother, Soldier, leader, sister, daughter and friend. What more can I ask for? Truly? I have it all.
Army Medicine: Serving to Heal – Honored to Serve!
I truly hope every single one of you have had the opportunity to have someone like this in your life. And to CSM Brock, the blanket—as well as your story—will be passed on in my family for as long as I’m around. We love you and thank you for all you do and have done!