June 6, 1944
Utah Beach, Normandy, France, on the first day of Operation Overlord
“Keep your fucking head down and crawl, Edison,” a voice shouted further up the beach. The tragic benefit, if it could be called that, was that bodies strewn all over acted as a macabre escort to the soldiers still alive. The Captain turned to his right and saw a kid prostrate in the sand; his arms extended to reveal a Rosary in his hands. He couldn’t hear the boy, but the movement of the kid’s fingers on the beads gave proof that he was still alive.
“Make it quick, Private. You heard the man….only dead and about to die are staying here.” The boy turned to him and nodded. He shoved the Rosary into his pocket and grabbed his rifle. A moment later he was sprinting in a zigzag up the beach. He fell about 100 yards further up but rose quickly, giving the Captain a moment of relief in the midst of the hell around him. He went to stand but felt a sharp pain in his neck before everything went black…
“Okay, Phillipa? Marie? Everyone?” Pointing to the top of the camera, the Captain smiled at the group of eager children.
“This is a viewfinder.”
“Veee-oooo-fine-dare…” A little girl at the Captain’s feet giggled while repeating the word.
“That’s right… that’s right,’ the Captain said enthusiastically. A woman walked up slowly. She was dressed in a WAC uniform. She snapped off a salute and spoke.
“Begging your pardon, Captain? You’re wanted at Command.”
“Is this urgent, Sergeant?”
“Not on the double; as soon as you can.”
“Thank you,” the Captain said. “Please explain I’ll be there shortly"
“More about the camera, S'il vous plaît?” Marie asked.
“Perhaps tomorrow?” The Captain sighed. Turning around, the Captain noticed another WAC and waved. She walked quickly to the group.
“Lieutenant? Would you escort these girls to the Mess for something to eat?”
“Certainly, Captain,” the woman said.
“Come along girls; let’s go find some lunch….” The woman practically skipped down the path; a brood of little girls trailing happily behind her….
The Captain stood at the back of the large meeting hall. The afternoon had been relaxed; perhaps unfairly so in the middle of a war. Thoughts of the previous days seemed to be blurred, but the indistinct sights and sounds felt like a harbinger of good things, oddly enough. About ten or so personnel sat in the hall.
A WAC officer stepped to a table at the front of the room. Everyone rose to their feet. Picking up a microphone, she spoke.
“As you were,” she said; motioning them to sit down.
“Welcome. I know this assignment may feel odd to all of you but a great deal of planning and time has been put forth to see this operation is a success.” The Captain nodded reflexively.
“When you depart, each of you will be given instructions. Don’t worry about logistics at this time. The campaign is going to be long and hard. Some of you will see quick results. Others may not realize success for a long time. Your job will be to strengthen the reserves of those who are fighting the battle.
A hand was raised nervously. The woman in front waved and smiled.
“Is this…. I mean….Did I….did we do….?”
“Something wrong? Quite the contrary. Each of you is here because of the sacrifices you’ve made throughout your service. To say nothing of the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Captain felt an odd sensation. In that moment, the blurry visions seemed to come into focus. Dead soldiers lying on the beach; a place called Utah in a place called Normandy. The waves almost foamed red, but the utter sense of sadness seemed to be swept away like the ebb tide replacing despair with hope. As the blur dissipated, the Captain felt the presence of an older woman. She wore a simple knee-length lilac dress so much unlike the sea of green and khaki in the room.
"Uh...excuse me? Major?"
“Yes, Captain. But here we use names, even with officers. My name is Rita,” she said with a playful smile.”
“Consider this a transfer. You were never in the wrong unit, though. Your assignment was made to make you more capable of understanding and encouraging your charges. Some will wait nearly a lifetime and may never see victory.” She smiled and looked around the room.
The Captain beheld a bright light that began to fill the hallway, and realized that every single soul in the room was a woman. The Captain’s eyes widened in dread; not over what may have occurred, but what might not have in spite of countless years of longing.
“Fear not. This is but a new beginning,” the woman said with a broad sweep of the arm. Every single woman no longer wore khaki or olive drab, but dresses with pastel hues. Almost a new uniform. The Captain hoped at that moment for a mirror but seeing soft hands held in front led to tears of joy.
“You were named Eric, but it is Erica who continues,” the woman said. Years of crying out prayers as a little boy and sleepless shame-filled tearful nights as a teen and young adult in Ohio gave over to hope now finally realized, if only in an ethereal manner.
“Like all of these precious souls, you have been given a second first chance. Godspeed, dear heart. And welcome, thou good and faithful servant.”
Erica Turner of Akron, Ohio, stood in a line to the side of a large transport plane. Women of every age and race and creed queued up for the assignment of every lifetime. She looked down at the card.
“Jimmy Parsons, York, Pennsylvania, 1966”
She sighed, already knowing what Jimmy faced. She raised her face, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Give me wisdom,” she sighed through a faint smile; know that it would be very hard but not impossible for a child to eventually become Dr. Jamie Parsons; a therapist and transgender specialist in Harrisburg. She felt the light touch of a well-manicured hand. Turning, she found herself looking at a mostly familiar face.
“Captain…. Turner?” The girl was about nineteen, and wore a pastel green dress and a big smile.
“It’s me, Captain. Private…uh….Anthony….uh….. Antonia Bevaqua.”
“Yes….I’m….so happy….happy that you made it,” Erica said, pulling the girl into a hug.
“Isn’t it great? Look who they gave to me!”
“Albert Collavito, Elmyra, New York, 2003,”
the card read, but the date caused Erica to sigh in grateful relief.
“Isn’t this great, Captain?
“Yes it is, Antonia, but one thing?”
“Yes, Captain?” They paused as they reached the top of the stairs to the plane. The Captain smiled said,
“Please? Call me Erica?”
On the beaches of Normandy, the deaths in the thousands and the likelihood of transgender soldiers what they were; the number in my tale, ten or so, is likely a generous estimate. And 1944 was years before Roberta Cowell and Christine Jorgensen found the help that many of their sisters would never know. Having them become angelic women was my way to acknowledge them.
It is to the brave sacrifice of those who fought and died; to those who fought and died while never having the chance to be themselves; and especially to the readers herein, both military and non-military alike, who continue to fight this battle; to them I dedicate this story….I hope my story does this day justice
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