Jenny Sugai, NU 2005, Oral History Interview
February 9, 2015
Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University
Interviewed by Sarah Yahm
SARAH YAHM: I'm here with Jenny Sugai, and we're doing an interview at Norwichin the Norwich studio, and the day is February 9th, 2015. I had to count back, because my birthday's on Wednesday.
JENNY SUGAI: Oh, happy birthday.
SY: And it's, like, two days before my birthday.
JS: What are you going to be, 25?
SY: How could you tell? (laughter) How could you tell? Not a day over 21. OK,and we're doing an oral history interview, and we're going to be so serious. (laughter) So where were you born?
JS: Berlin, Vermont.
SY: Yeah, and where'd you grow up?
JS: Berlin, Vermont. (laughter) All over the USA, obviously.
SY: So you're a big Norwich family, right? So tell me about all of the differentNorwich connections that you have.
JS: Well, my grandfather worked at Norwich in, I think, the '60s and '70s as ageology professor --
SY: What was his name?
JS: -- Pop Bryan -- William Bryan, but they called him Pop. And he actuallystarted the rugby club at Norwich. And my grandmother volunteered and worked at the library for many, many, many, many years, and my father was class of 1970 and also class of 2003 with the MBA program, and my mother worked here for 15 years in the nursing department and then later up in Jackman in Cadet Records and Housing. And my sister went here, she graduated in 1999, and my husband was originally class of 2006, although he graduated in 2008. And, let's see, is that it? I think that's it. My -- you know --
SY: Oh, well, what about you?
JS: Well, me, I'm class of 2005, and I was just accepted into the MPA graduateschool, so I will be starting that in June 2015. And my grandmother's second marriage, actually, she was married to Jack Taylor, who was a -- he -- I'm not 100% positive on his connection with the university, but he was a significant donor. He had a trust, and when she passed away, the money came to Norwich, so.
SY: So you obviously -- I'm sure you've been to campus a lot.
JS: Yes. (laughter) A lot, a lot, a lot.
SY: So what was your impression of Norwich as a kid?
JS: Well, I remember -- I'm trying to think of when the first time I came tocampus was. It must have been, like, '95. So I was only, like, 11 years old. So being 11 and seeing all of these men in uniform, it was -- I don't know, it's intimidating, but at the same time, you know, they all look like adults to me then. Now they all look like a bunch of kids. But back then it was like, oh, wow, look at all these guys in uniform, they're heroes. That's what it was like when I was just a kid, you know, it was like a bunch of heroes. And now I'm just like, "Oh, they're a bunch of babies. (laughter) Just a bunch of babies." And thinking of what they're going to do now, it's different. Back then it was like, wow -- it was awe-inspiring, and now it's like, "Oh, you poor, poor kids." (laughter)
SY: Right. And, like, do you know -- I sort of think, "Do you know what you'regetting into?"
JS: Right, right, exactly. Not just with the school, but, I mean, so many ofthem go on to be full-time -- you know, full-time Army, full-time Marines. I know so many people that have deployed and, you know, through Richard and also classmates, so many people that have, you know, been wounded or killed, and it's just like, that's not the time, I would think, to really want to pursue that career, but people still do, because people are selfless.
SY: Yeah. So did your dad go into the service after (overlapping dialogue;inaudible) [00:04:06]
JS: My dad was full-time -- well, he was National Guard. He did work, I thinkfor the National Guard semi-full-time. He was the AG for a while, so -- the AG? No. God. IG? I don't remember.
SY: Not gonna...
JS: Yeah, no, I don't remember. But my dad and my mom are both in the NationalGuard, and my dad retired after I think 25 years, so.
SY: Your mom too?
JS: My mom was also in the Guard, yup.
SY: And had they met in the Guard, or --?
JS: Um, yes they did. They did meet when they were both in the Guard. Littlerisqué, because he was -- I think he was a superior at that point. (laughter)
JS: I know.
SY: So did you -- when you were a kid did you want to go to Norwich? Did youwant to go to another school? How did you end up at Norwich?
JS: Well, my mom worked here. I was -- how old was I? I think I was 16 when Idecided to graduate high school early. And it was in the spring, it was very late in the year when I decided to graduate early, so I graduated my junior year of high school. And it didn't leave a lot of options, and thankfully Norwich was an option, because my mom working here, it meant I didn't have to worry about, you know, the tuition costs and doing all the FAFSA stuff, and I was able to just get enrolled and come and not have to worry about all the applying to colleges. I never applied to colleges. This is the only one I applied to and this is where I came.
SY: I'm giving you a look of hostility. (laughter) You just sort of bypassed,like, the major stressor.
JS: I know. So many people -- you know, my sister did that. She went to, like,five, six, seven schools, and for me it was like, "Oh, I'm going to graduate school early, and just -- I guess I'll go to Norwich, because that's what's available." But my sister had already come here, my older sister -- my oldest sister. And having her come kind of made it more of a logical option, being like, "Well, Rachel went to Norwich for free, so that's what I should do." (laughter)
SY: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And did you consider going into theCorps, or were you like, "That's not for me"?
JS: No -- at 16, no. I was a 16-year-old young girl; there is no way I was goingto go into the Corps. I don't think there was any way my mom would let me go into the Corps. Having worked here, she knows how things work with those 18-year-old to 22-year-old boys.
SY: Yeah, tell me more about that.
JS: Well, I mean, I know that when I was a student here, there was a list --supposedly. I have heard of this list from multiple people. There was a list of girls that were, like, you know, one to ten, the top girls to try to hook up with because of who their parents were or whatever. Like, I know General Kelly's daughter came here and I'm pretty sure she was number one on the list to try to hook up with. So it was like, a goal of a lot of people to -- you know, to do that.
SY: That's so gross.
JS: Yeah. Guys are gross.
SY: Really gross.
JS: Well, that, and I think my mom being cadet records, too, she saw all of thediscipline -- all of the things that you don't hear about, necessarily, as a student or staff. You know, she got all of the, you know, sexual assault things, everything. You know, she knew everybody's dirty business, so it was easier for her to make that call and say, "Yeah, I don't think you're going to be staying on campus at 16 years old." (laughter)
SY: Yeah. So you commuted.
JS: Yup, I did. For four years, I have -- I never lived on campus, so definitely-- it was different, because I was commuting, so I also was working part-time. I didn't just do school, I was working, so.
SY: And what was it like to be a sibling on campus, and how do you feel like therelationships were between the civilian and Corps and...?
JS: I -- honestly, I think because I was a commuter, I never got the fullNorwich experience as being a civilian. I mean, I never had the opportunity to build as many relationships as a lot of people did. The relationships that I did build, I think in some ways were -- I don't know, some were more -- what's the word I'm looking for? Some were very fleeting, like, they weren't real friendships. I mean, and you could tell that, because I wasn't here, you know? So, like, I have friends that I'm still friends with, but I never really had close friendships with a lot of people. But then there were a couple that, you know, I was really, really close with. One of my best friends I still talk to, she lives in Texas now, and she and I were freshmen together. So I think I didn't have the opportunity to spread my friendship net as wide, but the ones that I do still talk to, I feel like at least I had that opportunity to make some good friendships.
SY: Yeah, but you didn't feel marginalized on campus because you weren't part ofthe clique?
JS: Not really. I mean, it's hard for me having been, you know, a staff kid.It's different anyway, because I did stick out more, and, you know, I stuck out more because of that, people knew who I was, and I think -- I was always -- I was always kind of the asshole kid that had to be different, so because I knew I stuck out, I -- I think when I was, like, in my junior year, or maybe my sophomore year, I started wearing, like, all black, I dyed my hair black. I was like, "You know what, people want to talk about me? OK, I'll give them something to talk about." So I totally -- I played that up. I was the Goth girl at Norwich for a couple of years before I got my shit together. And, you know, and part of that is what led me to Richard, because Richard -- and that's what's so funny about Norwich. You know, everybody's wearing their uniforms, so you don't know who these people are. You really don't. Like, I know so many people now that I never would have guessed that they are who they are. You know, the emo boys or the Goth boys or the jock boys or the guys with all the tattoos, or the total sissy boys -- it's just, everybody looks the same at Norwich. It's really, really hard to get to know people in the Corps when they all look the same. And, you know, so many people at other schools have the opportunity of looking at somebody and being like, "OK, I could hang with that person based on how they look." It's easy to make a snap judgment. But I wasn't here 24/7. I didn't live on campus; I didn't have the opportunity to get to know people besides class. I didn't know what kind of music they listened to; I didn't know, you know, what they liked to do in their spare time, if they played video games or if they liked to polish their weapons silently in their room while watching, like, you know, (laughter) whatever. So for me it was like -- ah, it's hard for me anyway, because I was really shy. I couldn't just go up to some kid and be like, "Hey, what kind of music do you like," you know? And it's hard, not having that ability to look at somebody and say, "OK, cool, I like that T-shirt, I like that band." Instead it's like, "OK, high and tight, blue uniform, no idea. No idea who these people are half the time."
SY: That makes sense, and it's easy to just sort of assume that they're all the same.
JS: That they're all really -- yeah. It's so easy to assume that they're all abunch of, you know, meatheads, "I wanna prove to my daddy," that kind of thing. And they're not. Like, they're really not. I mean, Richard -- I would never have guessed that he was a total black trench coat, bleached hair when he was in high school, just total weirdo, because he looks just like everybody else.
SY: Right, he looks the part. Right, right, right.
JS: But he came to me, and that's how I figured it out. And --
SY: He sought you out because you --
JS: He sought me out because I was weird and different, and that's really one ofthe only reasons that I do still, like, know some of the people that I know and keep in touch with some of the people I know, because they were the weirdos. (laughter) But you wouldn't know that just by looking at them. I mean, half of them are still in the Army, and they wear their uniforms, but you see them and they're just as wild and crazy.
SY: Yeah, that's interesting. Is it a hard campus to kind of be a nonconformist?
JS: Not if you're really trying to be nonconformist. (laughter) I mean, you haveto really try hard to be nonconformist here, to be nonconformist, which is not nonconformist. So I don't know. I -- it's hard -- it's hard for me to say yes or no to that, just because having been the nonconformist. But I also had the benefit of not living here, so I didn't really give a shit what other people thought, because I could go home. They don't have people tormenting in a -- me in a dorm. And I wasn't in a uniform, so, you know, it's not like -- it's not like I was putting a uniform on and pretending to be somebody I wasn't -- not pretending, but, you know, it's a lot easier for somebody that's a civilian to be different. I mean, if you're wearing a uniform and then you go back to your room and you're, like, singing Pavarotti while wearing your top hat and your monocle, people are going to be like, "Dude, seriously? What's wrong with you?" But I don't know. For me, it wasn't difficult, but again, I had the benefit of not being here all the time.
JS: I think Norwich surprised me in some ways, at how different people were. Imean, there was a -- there really was a big variety of the types of people that come in, and I think I was also really surprised at how accepting a lot of the people were. Like, I mean, Chris Thayer -- God, what class was -- he was, like, 2002 or 2003, and I remember watching Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Chris Thayer was Frankenfurter, in his little, you know, thong and fishnet and his corset, and it was one of the best productions I've seen the Pegasus Players put on. And they had Corps guys up there, and, you know, I've seen plenty of Corps guys in Pegasus Players and doing Shakespeare and musicals, and people are OK with that here. And that's what surprises me, because sometimes you think military and you think, you know, more narrow-minded, a little less willing to accept different -- you know, difference. And instead I found that some of the Corps guys were the weirdest fucking people I'd met. (laughter)
SY: (inaudible) [00:15:31] But it took you a couple of years to get to know them?
JS: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I mean, and I still -- like I said, I still don't feellike I -- I don't know, I -- some of the people I do know now I still don't really know, because I didn't have that camaraderie here. We didn't get to.
SY: Because you weren't on campus.
SY: Yeah. If you could do it again, would you live on campus?
JS: You know, I've been asked that, and I've been asked if I would do Corps,too. I don't know. I mean, I feel like probably not Corps, just because I have no desire to be in the military, and I know some people come here and they do the Corps and then they never -- you know, they don't enlist, they don't go into the military -- that's fine, but for me it's like, what's the fucking point? What's the point of coming and doing all that training if you're not going to use it? But would I come back and live on campus? Maybe. I think I would have gotten into a lot more trouble (laughter) had I -- being young and being a little wild child and being the nonconformist, I probably would have gotten myself into trouble, so it's probably the best that I didn't (laughter) live on campus.
SY: I think it probably is. (laughter)
SY: So, OK. So you didn't grow up, even though your dad -- even though both ofyour parents have been in the Guard, you didn't grow up thinking that you were going to be in the military or marry someone who was in the military -- that wasn't necessarily part of your --
JS: Never. Never. When I was at Norwich I dated the same guy for four and a halfyears, since high school. And I did -- I never thought I was going to date a Norwich boy. I didn't date a Norwich boy when I went to Norwich, and then I started working here. (laughter) And actually, I dated my first Norwich boy before I even worked here. But yeah, I never, never thought I would even have any interest in a Norwich boy or a military boy. I mean, y'all are cute. Everybody looks cute in a uniform. That was the nice thing, you know, lots of eye candy. But I never had -- I don't know. For me it was just a different -- a different life, because all I saw were these young boys in their uniform that wanted to do all these big things and go in the Army, and, you know, after 2001 -- yeah, after 2001, it was like, "I want to do this and I want to avenge our country!" And to me that was just, like, it was not me. It wasn't -- it wasn't -- I wouldn't want to date somebody while they were at war that -- it's too complicated. I felt like the military lifestyle was too complicated for me. The moving and all that, it was -- it just didn't appeal to me, so.
SY: And yet --
JS: And yet, I married a Norwich boy. (laughter) And, yeah, so --
SY: So what happened?
JS: Well, I'd known Richard for several years. It's funny, I swear -- he doesn'tremember this, but I'm pretty sure he talked to me in a stairwell once to try to spark up a conversation, and I completely blew him off and ignored him. But I used to work at the music store in the mall, and he used to come in all the time. It's probably before you were around -- the FYE that used to be in the Berlin mall? Yeah, anyway (laughter) -- so he used to come into the store, because it was the only place to get music and DVDs, really. I mean, there was Wal-Mart, but -- and he used to come in, and I would get -- I used to get it all the time from guys though. "Aren't you Major Bryan's daughter?" I mean, that's who I was. I didn't have an identity. I was Major Bryan's daughter. For a long, long time that's who I was. And it was kind of -- it's -- it's hard to be -- I mean, that's, that was my identity. It wasn't, "Hey, Jen," it was "Major Bryan's daughter." So for some people it was like, "Ho, ho, I'm gonna -- or her, her." And then other people it was like, "Oh, stay away from that one, because her mom could get me in trouble." But Richard was just, "Hey, I know who you are, your mom's Major Bryan." I'm like, "Uh, yup, yup, yup." So we started chatting a little bit. We knew each other for a while, but it wasn't until, like -- what was it, 2007 -- my best friend, Jamie Arnold, she was -- she started with me in 2005, and in 2006 she took off. I think it -- well, no, 2006 she actually went into the Corps, that's what happened. She decided to switch to Corps. And --
SY: Can you do that?
SY: You become a rook again?
JS: Mm-hmm. She had to become a rook. So she went through her rook year withRichard. So they were good friends. Then she left, she took a year off, or maybe more than a year, I don't remember, and then when she came back, her and Richard happened to be in the same year again, because he had to take a year off when he was deployed. So they ended up graduating in the same year, even though they both took time off. And they were really pretty good friends, they were rook buddies, and she was my best friend from when I was a freshman with her, so in 2007 -- he and I had been chatting quite a bit when I was single, and it just never really worked out, but then when I did become single again I was hanging out with Jamie, and she -- we drove by the Rustic, and she saw that his car was there. So we stopped the parking lot and she called him up and she said, "Hey, Rich, you want to come out and have a drink?" And he was like, "Ah, no, it's really, really busy in here, I'm lucky I'm in here," because I think it was like alumni weekend or something. He's like, "I don't really want to leave, because I won't be able to get back in." She was like, "well, OK, but Jenny's here," and he was like, "All right, I'll be right out." (laughter) So we went out to the bars and we hung out and that was our first kiss that night, which was pretty sexy. And then after that I ended up dating the shitbag that I had been dating. So I got back together with my old boyfriend for a few months, and Richard waited around for me with no expectation at all. Just, he and I were friends and he apparently, at some point in our friendship, he decided that he was going to have me and he was going to get me. And that's how he put it (laughter). He said, "Nope, I made you my mission and I had to get you." So he waited, and when I broke up with my boyfriend again he was there. So we started hanging out again, and it just -- boom, he tricked me into a date and the rest is history. (laughter)
SY: He actually told me the story of tricking you into a date. It's so funny,he's like --
JS: Yes, he did. He --
SY: Husband/wife version of events.
JS: He did, he tricked me. I had no idea we were going on a date. I get thecall, or maybe it was even a text or instant messenger, who knows. It was, "So I'm headed out to dinner, I need to know somewhere good, what do you think is good?" And I said, "well, Positive Pie is really good." He was like, "Oh, OK. You want to tag along?" I was like, "Sure," because I just figured he was going out with a bunch of his buddies. And he gets there and it's just him. And I'm like, "Where are your friends?" He's like, "It's just you and me." I'm like, "Are you fricking kidding me? You tricked me." And then I ate off of his plate and he looked like he was going to kill me, but then I bought dessert so it was OK. (laughter)
SY: And there you go. Successful first date.
JS: Success. (laughter)
SY: And I'm sure you still pick off his plate, so --
JS: Oh, absolutely. That poor man, if he makes a sandwich, it's not his, it'sSebastian's. Sebastian won't eat his own food, but if he's --
SY: I was like, that is good.
JS: -- if he sees Richard eating it, he's like, "OK, that's mine."
SY: "I want it."
JS: Well, it's the feature of his life, apparently. He's never going to have hisown food again.
SY: (laughter) OK, so how long were you together before he deployed, and did youknow that he potentially was going to deploy again?
JS: No. Actually, when we started dating, we started dating in the beginning of2008, so we've been together for seven years. And when we started dating he was enlisted in the National Guard, he had already had one deployment. My mom warned me about him when we started dating, because he was one of the ones that had deployed, so she said, you know, "Be careful. He's been deployed. He might not be stable." You know, not in a bad way, but just, he'd seen a lot. I mean, in Iraq, he had a -- you know, that was a really rough deployment for him.
SY: And he got wounded.
JS: Yes, he was wounded in Iraq. Yup. So we started dating, and then I think itwas that -- (laughter) so what happened: we started dating before graduation, it was sometime in the spring, and he was graduating, but he found out that he had to retake a class. So he said he was going to stick around for the summer and he was going to live above the Rustic. And I said, "Are you fucking crazy, you alcoholic? If you live above the Rustic, you are going to have some serious issues. You're not living above the Rustic, you can live with me." And that was it. End of discussion. He moved in with me and that was it. And that kind of sealed our fate, so in the fall he proposed, and early next year, we were married in May -- well, not early, I guess, that's halfway through the year. So we got married in May of 2009. When we got -- I think it was maybe, like -- what, February? It was early 2009 before we got married that we found out he was -- well, God, what was it? It's so hard to remember. He decided -- I think right around when we got engaged, to go to OCS. Because like I said, he was enlisted. So he decided he wanted to be an officer.
SY: But doesn't graduating --
JS: No, not if you don't take a commission. You have to take a commission if youwant to be an officer.
SY: And he didn't want to take a commission?
JS: Nope, because he had already -- I don't know why. I don't think he everintended to be an officer. But then when we got engaged, I think he started thinking more forward about what he wanted, so he decided to become an officer. So he went to OCS while we were engaged, and I think that was in the spring -- yes, that was in the spring, right before our wedding. (laughter) So he went to OCS before our wedding, I planned everything. He gets back, we get married, and then he has to go to Oklahoma for BOLC II. So he went to BOLC II, and while he was there, he got his clash -- his class for BOLC III pushed up for immediately after BOLC II, because there was a deployment coming. So when we got married, the idea was that BOLC II would be a ways out and then BOLC III would be a ways out; that way --
SY: Hold on, I'm sorry.
SY: That's my phone. [dial tone noises in background]
SY: I know, I should have turned it off. It sounds like a dying Wookiee(overlapping dialogue; inaudible) [00:27:40], like a Wookiee in, like, the last throes. Toll-free California? Hello? It's this way that she could get into Raiser's Edge, like, the development database --
SY: It calls me. It's annoying. OK.
JS: So -- so the plan was, originally when he had all of his schools lined up,they were supposed to take him into 2010. So he was supposedly going to miss the deployment -- that's what he kept getting told, or at least that's what he told me. (laughter) I don't know how much of that's true. Or, at least, not be there the whole time. But when we -- when he was in Oklahoma his bullet got pushed up -- his BOLC III got pushed up, so we went straight to Arizona after Oklahoma. So I drove out with my mom to Oklahoma with all our shit, and I picked him up, and my mom flew back to Vermont and he and I drove to Arizona, and we stayed in Arizona for four months, where I got pregnant, and, uh, subsequently had a child in 2010. But while we were in Arizona, you know, again, we were still being told -- like, that's the problem with the Army and the National Guard, is they string you along. They do, they really string you along. They don't give you the full story; they say, "Oh, yeah, we're working on that, oh, yeah, OK, uh-huh," but they never get you any solid information until, what? A couple weeks to a month before something's actually supposed to happen. So this whole time we're in Arizona, we're not even sure if he's deploying. No idea. But we decided to get pregnant anyway, just in case, and, I mean, we wanted to have kids anyway, but we were like, you know, let's get it done, if you're deploying. And when we got back, I think he had like two weeks before he had to just leave. Because they had been doing training, they were doing -- oh, God, what's it called? All of the pre-training for deployment, they had already been doing it while we were in Arizona. So he gets back and he has to just pretty much go straight there, because they were all done with their training.
SY: So when you guys decided to get pregnant, did you know that you were goingto be alone throughout the pregnancy?
JS: Yes. I mean, there was always kind of this hope that he wasn't going to go,that school would be far enough out that they wouldn't make him go, but no, they were like, "Oh, no, you're going, you're definitely going." So I knew that I'd be pregnant and then I'd be alone and it would suck. But my family's here, so I had my mom around, and my sister, who lives in Barre, but I never see her. But my mom was here, so that made it easier, and I was working at Norwich -- I was busy. But then when I had the baby -- so Richard was able to come home. He lined his leave up from Afghanistan right around my due date. So he got home a week before I was due, maybe a little bit more than a week, and, like, the day after he got home I went into labor.
SY: Well done.
JS: So it was perfect, perfect timing. It sucked though because it meant thatall of his leave was used up for that. Like, instead -- like, if I'd had the baby towards the end of leave, he probably would have been able to stay a little bit longer. But because it was at the beginning it was like, "Well, OK, time to go back."
SY: And so how long did he get to be with you and the baby?
JS: Like two weeks.
SY: OK, so then how do you feel when he's about to leave (overlapping dialogue;inaudible)? [00:31:31]
JS: Oh, it was awful. It was awful. It was so bad. He left -- so his family --this is what was so hard about it. He gets home, we have, like, one day alone together, I go into labor, have the baby, his parents fly out, because they want to see him, they want to see the baby, it's a big deal, I know, I get it. But at the same time, I didn't really have a lot of time alone with him. His parents were here when he flew back. So, you know, we had a few days before they came, but it was so much condensed into a two-week period that it was just like, oh my God. But when he was gone we Skyped every day. We were really lucky that we got to do that, because he worked night shifts, so it just -- the timing worked out well, to be able to talk every day. But four weeks after I had Scarlett, I ended up at the doctor and I passed out on the doctor's floor. Like, I got there feeling really sick, and I just, pbbt, out. So after that my mom was like, you know, you just need to come live with us until Richard's home. So I ended up going and living with my folks for the last, like, six months while he was gone. So it was nice; I wasn't alone. I had a lot of help, I really did. I cannot -- I can't say that I was one of those moms doing it alone, because I wasn't. I had my mom, my dad, which was really, really helpful.
JS: But, you know, Rich came home and Scarlett was already five and a half, sixmonths old. So he had missed that whole first part of her life that they do so much growing, and, you know, like, the first smiles and the first rolling over and the first sitting up and the first, like, laughing and all those things -- he missed all of that with Scarlett, so it was hard.
SY: So I've been talking to -- I interviewed a couple women recently; yay, somewomen actually part of this oral history project. And I interviewed this woman, Phyllis Greenway --
JS: I know that name.
SY: General Greenway's wife.
SY: She's in town. She's awesome. And she talks about how, like, you know, thiswas the '50s, the '60s, you know, so it's just sort of like, OK, I'm deployed and he's in Texas, and we have a baby, and --
JS: Right, and you have no idea what they're doing.
SY: -- and she, it didn't sort of occur to her that, like, this was maybe, like,messed up. Or, like, you know, it was just sort of like -- it was the way it went. Like --
JS: Well, right.
SY: -- I'm just going to fly to Hawaii with my two babies with no help. Like,she just was sort of, like, dedicated to his life and his career, because that was, like, she was -- that was who she was, that was who she was born to be. And I kept being like, "Were you pissed off?" And she was like, "It wasn't the way we thought then." But I bet you were pissed off. (laughter)
JS: I wasn't pissed off about him being gone. I was -- I mean, I knew what I wasgetting into, you know? That's the thing, you can't be mad at somebody -- I was never pissed off about Richard not being there. I mean, it sucked that he missed so much of those first six months, but I know for a fact that he never would have chosen that over being with his family. I was definitely -- I don't know. It was hard because even though we were talking every day, there's so much that you don't get through, you know, talking on the phone or talking even through Skype, because, you know, you're focused on, "hey, it's the baby! Look, look, it's the baby!" Or, you know, the trivialities of "How was your day?" and not, like, Richard lying about the fact that he, like, went out and did some little convoy or whatever mission -- you don't know those things. You don't know what's happening half the time, and half of it's because they can't tell you what's going on. So, I mean, I shouldn't complain, because I talked to my husband every day. I mean, I can't even imagine what Phyllis had to go through, because for her it's just -- you're a mom, he's gone, you don't get to talk to him, you just have to have faith that he's coming home. And there's still that sense, but at least you can still be in contact with them. And, you know, I -- it's a luxury to be able to talk to your husband, because I know some other wives whose husbands were in, you know, much worse places where they couldn't talk every day. Richard was just really lucky about where he was stationed.
SY: Yeah. So you were also probably worried about him, because --
JS: Oh, my God, all the time. All the time. Especially, there was one pointwhere -- what was it? I think there was an attack right outside of the base, or -- I can't remember what happened, if it was some of the Afghani army that was shot at or what. But, I mean, there were a couple of things that, you know, you just wonder -- where was Richard when it happened? I mean, you know, even if you know he's OK, there's that part of you that's like, "well, how close was he? I mean, how in danger is he, really?" And you never know -- you never know what kind of danger they're in. You know, and getting deceased notices from the university about classmates that are in Afghanistan while your husband's over there, so you know that other people are over there dying, and wondering if you're going to get some awful, you know, person at your door telling you that your husband was out on something, you know, some kind of mission, and got blown up or whatever. I mean, you know, that's what happened to his parents when he was in Iraq. They got the call that he was wounded, but they don't tell you -- they don't tell you what's happened. I mean, did he lose a leg? Did he get shot? I mean, is he OK? It's just, "He was wounded." And you don't know. And for me, not knowing how much he was telling me, because there is that aspect of it. I mean, yeah, he can't tell me everything because of, you know, security clearance, but there's also just some stuff he just doesn't want to tell me because he doesn't want me to worry. And not knowing what kind of danger they're actually in and how much they just let you think they're OK. (laughter)
SY: And in, like, the Vietnam letters in the archives here, you can see, like,some of the men really protected their wives, and some of them were like --
JS: Completely honest.
SY: -- "I have to tell someone what's going on and you're it," you know? And itwas like -- or you see their letters to their, like, siblings that are totally honest --
JS: Yeah, right.
SY: -- in their letters, or (inaudible) [00:38:26] their moms, where you're like --
JS: "Oh, everything's great."
SY: -- were you in the same war? Right, right, right, right, yeah. So he wasprotecting you.
SY: Yeah. And then at that -- and then, I guess, when he came back -- I mean, isit something that -- it gets talked about in your lives now?
JS: Well, you know, it's hard. I mean, even with -- even though we weren'tdating when he was in Iraq, there are still times where we've talked about it, but it's rare. Like, he doesn't like talking about that. And I don't know, I don't know if he doesn't talk about Afghanistan as much because he just doesn't find it as interesting -- I mean, he doesn't talk about Iraq either, but I've asked him before -- I'm like, you know, he was, he was awarded the Bronze Star when he was in Afghanistan. And to me that's a big deal. I'm like, "well, you know, you could have gotten an Army commendation medal or something like that; most people did. Or whatever -- meritorious service --" I don't remember which one it is. "But you got a Bronze Star." So I'm like, "well, you obviously did something pretty awesome." He's like, "Oh, yeah, you know, well, I just -- I did a job that was meant for a captain as a new lieutenant, so." I was like, "OK. I mean, that doesn't say much, you know?" I don't know if he's being humble or if it's just to him, he's like, "It's not a big deal, I just did my job, and I did my job as I was told to do my job." Because that's kind of how he feels sometimes, I think. He was like, "I just did what they told me." So I don't know. But -- and, I mean, I asked him recently, and that's all he told me. He said, "I did my job as -- I did a captain's job as a first lieutenant, and I just -- you know, I did a good job." I was like, "Well, that -- OK. Could you expand on that a little?" But no, he doesn't. He doesn't. It's hard to, like, pull all those things out of him. When he has talked about deploying before, he has said that some ways he misses it. And I've heard that from a lot of people that have been deployed. You know, you don't -- it's the last place you want to be, but you kind of miss it, in a way. Like, it's not home, but it's so much easier, because you have a specific mission, you have meaning and purpose and there's something you're supposed to do and you don't have to worry about taking care of yourself because you're so focused on taking care of other things. And they feed you, they clothe you, you go to sleep, you eat, you wake up, you repeat, it's easy. Everything's done for you.
SY: Right, you don't have to be like, "What career choice should I make?"
JS: Right, right.
SY: Like, "How should I -- yeah, what should I make for dinner?" No, it makestotal sense that it would be easy --
JS: And you don't have to worry about people's feelings. (laughter)
JS: I mean, really, that's -- I mean, you don't -- Richard always says to me,he's like, "Ugh, I w-- you know, if -- I wish that I could speak to people in the civilian world the way I can speak to people in the military, because, you know, I'm used to being listened to when I'm supposed to be listened to, and I'm used to being able to tell people when they fuck up and not having them get their feelings hurt, because it's a job, and it's -- you know, in the civilian world it's so different. You have to be touchy-feely with everybody, you know? Because there's, I don't know -- (laughter) And it would just be so much easier if everybody could be like, 'It's not personal.'" Because in the Army, that's how it is -- in the military in general. It's not personal, it's business, and you have to -- and when it comes to that kind of thing, it's life or death, or it's -- you know, you have to do things a certain way, because if things get out of order you're going to fuck something else up.
JS: And that's the way business should be run, but for some reason, we don't do it.
SY: Yeah, I don't know. (laughter) Yeah, no, it's true.
JS: Because we worry too much about feelings, and lawsuits. (laughter) I mean,we worry about somebody getting upset about, you know, being told they fucked up.
JS: And being, you know, polite, and, "Well, we really appreciate the work youhave put in, and you're doing a really great job, but..." Like, we can't just say, "well, look, you fucking suck, you've really got to get your shit together, or else we're going to fail as a company."
SY: Right, so you're out.
SY: No, it's true.
JS: I mean, you're allowed to tell people in the Guard, you know, "Are youstupid? Are you stupid? What you did is stupid." Like, we're too sensitive. You can't tell somebody that they did something stupid when you're working, like, at Norwich.
SY: Yeah, that's true.
JS: "What you did was stupid." (laughter)
SY: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And so nobody actually knows what's going on or whatpeople think of them, too.
SY: Which is, like, anxiety-producing, to, like, not know.
JS: Right. Well, because you can't -- well, you have to tell -- you know, "Well,if you have a problem with them, you need to talk to them yourselves." It's like, OK, OK, well, what does that mean? Am I allowed to tell somebody that, you know, I think they're unprofessional? Because if I tell somebody that I think they're unprofessional, then it creates a hostile work environment, because then they're going to get hurt. But that doesn't fly in the military, you know? There's no room for hurt feelings.
SY: Yeah. No, that's true, that's true. OK. So he comes back --
SY: -- and then you guys have to make a choice as a family, right?
SY: Is he going to stay in, or is he going to get out? Like, his --
JS: Well, no, that was never a choice. I mean, it was never really a choice forhim. He wants to retire, so for him it's the 20. He's -- I mean, I'm just along for the ride. (laughter) But, you know, we were living with my folks when he came back. So we had to move back into my grandmother's house in Northfield, where we are right now, because we stayed there for, like, I think a month when he came back, just because we weren't 100% positive what we wanted to do, and he was like, "Oh my God, I cannot live with your parents, we need to move." (laughter) And I said,
"I get it. I understand. Look --" But it was hard for me. I had to transition tohim being back. I was used to not having a husband around, not having a father around. And he wasn't used to [00:45:00] being a dad. So he comes back and he's trying to be a dad and I'm like, "Dude, what are you doing to the baby? (laughter) Like, you suck as a dad. What are you doing?"
SY: Right, right, right, he has to learn how to do it.
SY: That makes sense. He wasn't, like, learning as he went along, right?
JS: Right. I'm like, "Why are you not -- why are you changing her diaper likeshe's, like, a rotten watermelon? I mean, she's not going to explode." (laughter)
JS: So there were definitely some learning -- there was a learning curve. Forme, I was like -- I definitely tried to be patient, you know, because you have to be. He's been in a completely different frame of mind, and I'm in mommy mode, so he gets back and I'm like, "You're kind of stepping on my toes." (laughter) "I need -- I have things down the way I like them, I have a routine that I like, and it's an adjustment to having somebody back."
SY: And were you working at that point, or --?
JS: No, I actually left Norwich, I think a couple months before I had Scarlett,because there was just too much stress. I was having tachycardia, heart palpitations, lots of stress.
SY: That's stressful.
SY: OK, so -- yeah.
JS: Mm-hmm. (laughter)
SY: So you left.
JS: I did.
SY: And then you had Scarlett.
SY: And then -- and then what about you? So what did you want to be when yougrew up when you were a kid, and what do you want to be when you grow up now?
JS: Oh, my God. (laughter) I'm never growing up. (laughter) Well, I used tothink that I wanted to write. I'd still love to write. I love writing, but that's not really -- that doesn't lend itself to being an adult very well and paying bills, and not that I'm paying bills right now, I stay at home -- I never thought I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, that's for sure. There was a lot that I -- I have big dreams, but I'm not good at follow-through. (laughter) Like, I would love -- I think I even applied to, like, you know, FBI, and I'd love to do, like, research analysis type stuff -- anything. Anything that gets me away from Vermont, and then I married somebody that's so stuck in Vermont, because he's in the Guard and he loves it. And even recently, I was like, "Well, let's just move to Texas!" and he's like, "But I like the Vermont Guard, burbity burbity bur." And I'm like, "Oh, fine, I understand. I know, I know." It's just, I've been here my whole life. And I thought when I graduated I was going to get out, and then I worked at Norwich for a while, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and then I got stuck with that man, and now I'm here, in Northfield. Goddammit. Yay!
JS: So it's a little hard, but I don't know. I never -- I'm such a -- I'm afloater. I'm like one of those things, you know, you can't flush me. I just kind of -- I've always been very go with the flow. I'm a creative person. I don't like -- I don't -- I'm not good with strict and rigid boundaries, like an office job. It's just not me. I'm more touchy-feely, and --
SY: It's good you didn't do the Corps.
JS: I know, I know, exactly. (laughter) So there's a lot of stuff that appealsto me, but I don't know, I just -- it's hard for me. And that's why I'm going to go to grad school and hopefully figure out what I want to do there. I mean, right now I'm working with the Green Mountain Pug Rescue, doing nonprofit work there. So I figured the MPA would be a good segue into learning more about nonprofit and maybe eventually have my experience doing that kind of thing into a career, or I could just have my Master's and sit on my butt (laughter) and figure something else out, I don't know. I have no idea. I don't know what I want to do. I'm like my dad. My dad's switched jobs so many times, but at least with him he had a progression of moving forward in his career.
SY: Well, he also didn't have babies to, like, slow him down.
JS: Well --
SY: Which is, like, the nature of babies.
JS: Yeah, I mean, he didn't -- he was 30-something when he had us, so he'dalready started his career path when we came along, but I don't know. He's always been much more motivated than me. And my sister, too. My sister's just like my dad. She's a lawyer. They're very -- they're very facts, very, you know, linear-thinking people. Very Type A, and I am so --
JS: -- fluffy. (laughter) I'm so fluffy.
JS: I'm like, "Maybe I'll write a poem today."
SY: No, no, no, me too.
JS: "Maybe I'll start a blog." (laughter)
JS: That's me. Like, I'm like, "Maybe I should blog." "There, somebody'll readthat. Or maybe I should start a YouTube channel." Like, I'm so fluffy.
SY: Oh, been there, done that.
JS: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) [00:50:05]
SY: I've done all of those, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, "What about a short story?"
SY: "Maybe I should get an MFA. Maybe I should get a --"
JS: Oh my God, I would love to get an MFA, and I totally would, but I'm not, youknow, free, because I got -- I got a full scholarship to Norwich because my grades were so good. I had, you know, one of the better GPAs at Norwich when I graduated. So I got the full scholarship, and financial aid, I spoke to them recently, and my neighbor Neil is actually the one that I spoke to. He's like, "You know, you should feel really lucky, because Norwich gives out an average of zero dollars to the grad school scholarships." So the fact that I got full tuition is crazy. So I would be stupid to not use it.
SY: Absolutely. Also, it doesn't mean that you can't get another graduate degreedown the line --
JS: Right. Well, and that's --
SY: -- because you're not paying for this one, so it's free.
SY: So do this --
JS: And then --
SY: -- it's something you can do also while you're parenting, right, so youdon't have to pay for childcare.
JS: Yeah. Right.
SY: And then it'll open up avenues, and then you can --
JS: That's exactly what I said to my husband. I said, "Getting my MPA will helpbetter my career so that I can fund my MFA." (laughter) Because I want -- I would love to get my MFA.
SY: Right. Yeah.
JS: That's what I would want to do. I mean, the -- oh, God, Vermont.
JS: Yeah, VCFA.
SY: Which used to be part of Norwich.
JS: But it's like, you know, it's like $10,000, I think, for the MFA, and --
SY: It's actually like 40.
JS: Is it? It's probably 10,000 a semester then, or something like that.
SY: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) [00:51:32] a semester.
JS: So it's -- I mean, that's expensive.
SY: It is a lot of money.
SY: Which you could do when you had a full-time job --
SY: -- and were -- yeah.
JS: But I have to get there, and I feel like at least the MPA is pushing me inthe right direction, you know? And I think doing the Citizens' Police Academy is going to be a lot of fun, because it's going to teach me a lot about the, you know, law and crisis management and all sorts of cool stuff.
SY: Yeah. It's super interesting.
JS: You know, and hot cops.
SY: (laughter) But of course. More men in uniform.
JS: (laughter) Exactly.
SY: All right, let me see, what other -- because we clearly could just chatforever, so I'm like, "What other questions do I need to make sure to ask?" So, your kids.
SY: Your kids. Would you want them to go to Norwich? Would you want them to bein the Corps? Would you want them to be in the military? How do you feel about that?
JS: Oh, God. I don't know, I guess it depends on where we are in, you know, 20years. I mean, if we're still in conflict, I would hate for my kids to be in the military. I would hate it. I don't know how my, my in-laws do it. Bec-- oh, my sister-in-law, I forgot. She's also in Norwich, just 2008, I think. Yeah, 2008. I would hate that, though. I mean, my mother-in-law -- Richard, and Amanda are both in the military. They've both deployed. You know, how do you --
JS: But y-- but I mean, that's true, though. His mom has two kids that havedeployed, you're -- in, you know, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq. (laughter) I can't imagine dealing with that. I mean, it's hard enough when it's your husband that's deployed. Thinking about your children -- I mean, because when you have kids, it's just a different -- it's a different kind of love and fear for them in what their future is, you know? Because you're responsible for them. I'm not responsible for Richard -- he's his own person. But your children, you feel like you want what is best for them. And I don't know, I -- he had so -- hmm. I don't know, I could see them going to Norwich -- I don't know if I want them to be military, but I understand if that's the path they choose, I'm going to support them. I mean, Scarlett's told me before she wants to be in the Army. I'm like, "Really? You're four. Can we wait to make that decision?"
SY: Her dad's in it.
JS: She's also told me that she wants, like, 100 robot babies with snowball Olaffeet. So you can be in the Army with your robot babies. Whatever, four-year-old weirdo. (laughter) So four might not be the best age to make those kinds of career decisions. But -- I don't know. I would support them. I would support them if they chose to be in the military; it would just be heartbreaking if something happens where they have to go overseas. Richard, I think he would be a lot easier with it, because he grew up with his dad gone all the time, because his dad's -- his dad retired 40 years from the Army, active Army. So he's used to that, and he's used to not seeing, you know, his grandparents when he was growing up, because they grew up in Germany and they grew up all over. So that to him is -- that's normal to him. Like right now, the fact that his family lives in Illinois and we never see them, that's normal to him. To me, it's not normal. I see my folks all the time, I want my kids to see their grandparents, and it's really hard for me to not feel a little hurt that we don't see his family as often. But it's distance. I mean, you know, it's expensive to come here, it's expensive to go there, it's a commitment, it's -- you know, but at the same time, I just -- I want my kids to see their family, you know?
JS: But I think -- I think having -- Richard having the experience he did as achild, with, you know, everybody in the Army or in the military, I think it would lend itself easier to being like, "Look, they're OK, Jen, really. If they're -- if they want to be in the Army, they'll be fine." You know, he's used to that kind of stuff, so huuh, I don't know.
SY: Yeah, but not you.
SY: Yeah, it's just a different understanding of what life should look like.
JS: Right, exactly. It's totally different from what I'm used to. I'm used to,you know, two parents, family around, easy access to everybody, and he's like, "Oh, yeah, yeah, I didn't see my grandfather for like five years when I lived in Germany." It's like, "Oh, wow, OK."
SY: OK, so there are these cheesy questions that I'm supposed to ask that Ialways hate asking. [sounds of clapping] How does the -- how do you relate to the motto "I will try"?
JS: I'ma try to sell my un-- no, OK. (laughter) I'm not going to go there, I'mnot going to get a -- I'm not going to have that on a microphone.
JS: Hah, how do I write -- relate to "I will try"?
SY: You don't have to relate to it. You might not relate to it at all.
JS: I don't know, I mean, I understand the motto. I get what it's trying to say.But isn't it different now? Isn't it, like, "Expect challenge, achieve distinction"? Is "I will try" even --?
SY: Oh, no, I think it's still "I will try."
JS: It is? OK. Um, I mean, it always brings me back to Star Wars. You know, "Door do not, there is no try." And, which --
SY: Right, right, right, it's sort of the opposite of (inaudible) [00:58:13], actually.
JS: So, I don't know. I mean, I, I understand that if you have a goal -- it'slike fitness, you know? That's the best way I can relate it to. If you have something that you want to accomplish, every single day you have to work towards that goal. You have to try to get towards that goal. And you can't look at every day as a win or a lose, it's just another day in the process. And you have to love the process of getting there, and if you have something in mind for yourself, like "I want to --" I mean, it has to be realistic, not, like, "I'm going to be the President of the United States." But, you know, I'm going to have a career where I am happy, and I'm happy where I am in my family, and that's a goal that you want to set for yourself? Every single day, you have to try for it, and not consider it a failure if you have a bad day. You know, and if you can move forward, you're making progress, so.
SY: And so last question -- do you feel like Norwich taught you values that youcarry through or think about in some way?
JS: Norwich taught me a lot about a lot of different things. (laughter)
SY: All right, so what did it teach you?
JS: Oh, God. How to sneak alcohol in a backpack into a dorm? (laughter)
JS: The best place to hide things? How to escape a building without gettingcaught? No, I don't know.
SY: It's sort of like going to school in, like, the '50s in some ways.
SY: Like, the skill sets that you learn, right?
JS: Yeah, yeah, mm. Panty raid.
JS: So the skills [01:00:00] that Norwich taught me, is that what it was?
SY: [background response, inaudible] [01:00:05]
JS: Oh, God, should I say something that you want to hear?
SY: No, say something honest.
JS: I'm trying to think.
SY: It could also be, like, that it didn't -- that, like, you came here, you gotan education, and you left. But that, like, (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) [01:00:17] teach you --
JS: Well, and that's true. I mean, for me, Norwich was about -- when I came toNorwich, the only reason I came to Norwich was it was an easy education. It was free. I needed to do something with my life. And, you know, that was -- the real reason I came here was it was the easiest option for me. But while I was here, I definitely learned about putting in effort. You know, if you put in effort, you get great results. You know, if you -- (laughter) I was a really good bullshitter. I mean, some of my best papers were done the night before, under pressure, and I think in some ways Norwich teaches you how to work under pressure. I mean, especially if you're in the military. If you're in the Corps, Norwich definitely teaches people how to work under pressure, because that's what it is. That's what we -- that's what we do here. I -- I don't know. I'm trying to think of what else.
SY: I think that's clear.
SY: Yeah. What about if you could change Norwich? If you wanted to push Norwichto change, how would you change it?
JS: Oh, I don't know. I mean, having worked here, there's that aspect too, youknow? So -- I wish there was more cohesion. I wish that -- I mean, in all aspects, between the Corps and the civvies, between staff, between faculty, I feel like there is definitely a lack in cohesion and understanding and acceptance of other people and their views, and not appreciating other people's knowledge and views that they could bring to the table. I mean, there's a lot that we could get from each other that we choose not to because of, you know, whatever, because I'm -- I don't want to work with that department, because they're not our department so it's not my problem. I feel like if there was more teamwork -- and there's not. I mean, Norwich says so much about teamwork, and it does, it tries to teach teamwork, but it tries to teach teamwork, like, in the Corps, work with the Corps. You know, civvies work with the civvies. All of the cohesion that it does try, it tries too hard to push it on people in an unnatural way, to me. Like, it's not natural to have to sit down with everybody in the university and say, "We need to hold hands and sing Kumbaya," not obviously real, that didn't happen. But, you know, even with the Corps and the civvies, you know, they -- I don't know, I just always feel like there's this disconnect. And there always will be -- I mean, you see that with alums. The alums are, like, arguing and bitching online about, you know, the new dorms that are being built for the civvies -- I guess they're just going to try to get rid of the Corps completely -- it's so hard, because it's not just the alums, it's not just the students, it's not just the staff and the faculty, it's change. And people are so resistant to change and looking at things in a new way that we get stuck and we cannot make progress if we don't change.
SY: And it's seen as treasonous to in any way have a critique --
JS: Yes, because we are so stuck here in our little ideals and how things usedto be, and it takes so long for people to get over their hurt feelings about things. You know, you see people from the '50s, you know, like, 1959, they're not bitching about how much the Corps and the university has changed. They don't care, because they understand the value of progress. But you look at somebody class of 2006, they're so upset about certain changes within the university, because they're -- it's such a "satisfy me now" era. You know, "I want satisfaction and I want it now and I want things my way," and we're so used to having things our way that seeing something change and it's not how you remember it, [01:05:00] it makes people lose their minds. They lose their minds. And they say, "I'm not going to support the university anymore, because, you know, you got rid of, you know, one of the cannons, or because this company's now under this person's control, or because you had a gay parade." Like, I mean, seriously. The whole country is changing. It's slow, it's a process, we're learning from it, but people that are so stuck -- and that's what it is. People are so stuck in what they think something should be like that they don't open their minds to, you know, progress and what it could be. And, you know, your idea would work, but here is another idea that would work just as good. Like --
SY: Is it the -- I guess is it the military culture that creates --
JS: It really is. I mean, because look at it. The military hasn't changed. And-- well, no, that's not true. It has. I mean, and maybe that's what Norwich needs to do more, is to focus on the changes that are being made in the military. What, do they just have five women that passed ranger school or something like that? I mean, that's huge. And Norwich needs to try to be more progressive. And I know they are -- I know Norwich tries to be progressive. But it's -- there's always so much backlash, and they're so quick to tuck their tail between their legs and say, "Oh, sorry, we're just trying to do it this way because blah blah blah." I would be like, "No. This is what's happening, and you guys are going to have to deal with it. Stop apologizing for trying to make a movement forward, you know?" Like, really. I mean, if you are going to run the school, and if this is what the school is going to be, own it. And don't listen to some little, you know, 26-year-old complaining about God knows what because it's not how it was done when they were here. And guess what? In 50 years it's not going to be the same.
JS: God, I should not be the one preaching about this, because I was a commuterand a civvie. People are going to be like, "She doesn't know what she's talking about, she wasn't in the Corps."
SY: I don't know, you're like seventh generation or something, though, right?
JS: Yeah, I don't know.
SY: I'm just going to -- I'm going to -- I mean --
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