Women and Children First

Allison Yii

I recently had lunch with a group of old friends at a great seafood place on the beach. We noticed an injured seagull being tossed in the surf. Though it was a sad ending to a great gathering, it felt good to help scoop him up out of the surf and into a cardboard box. Though she lives in the opposite direction, one of my friends volunteered to escort our new friend to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Rescue in Fort Walton Beach. If our hope  alone could heal him, our fallen feathered buddy would be sure to survive.

Survival sounds like such a heavy, somber topic better left to those coming back from the Iraq War, but I have been thinking about it since meeting a few amazing women recently who define themselves as survivors or are in the business of survival. It was serendipitous, but the more I thought about it, the more it struck me that we are all likely surviving something — the economy, a health issue, a family ordeal. Let’s face it; even everyday life has its challenges. There is certainly a spectrum. And I am not pretending to be on the high end by any means. I firmly believe things could always be worse.

Still, meeting these women and hearing their stories gave me comfort in the fact that none of us are alone.

Award-winning author Martha LaGuardia-Kotite, who is featured in Well Worded, had to do what it took to survive through college to a brighter future, and again survive by being creative and flexible as a single mother raising her son in New York. But she’d rather tell you the stories of dozens of men and women in uniform she calls the real heroes of life — those who risk their lives so others may live. And of the first courageous women who graduated from military academies who endured harassment, ridicule and sadly even more unspoken things, only to emerge as leaders undeterred on their end goal — to proudly wear a uniform and serve a country they love in hope of defending the ultimate privilege, freedom.

Due to her mental strength and healing heart Laurie Beck, whom we profile in Chat, lives in peace. She has defied unlikely odds against cancer and “wins” every day she operates her Pilates studio, designs a piece of jewelry or shares a healing lesson from her recent memoir.

Dorothy Kaufmann and Amanda Wilkerson, the leaders of Northwest Florida’s premier wildlife refuge organizations, definitely know a little about survival. Seven days a week their respective teams come to the rescue of injured wild animals in hopes of releasing them back to the comfort of their dens, nests and lairs. And like the other women I mention, their organization’s education programs teach others how to nurture and care for our precious Florida wildlife. These critical life lessons of survival are passed on.

As we celebrate Armed Forces Day, Military Child Month and Mother’s Day, we salute the women — military and civilian — who have paved the way for the rest of us not only to survive in today’s world, but thrive.

Like our rescued seagull, I hope your “broken wings” heal soon to carry you far. And I share the hope of writer and motivational speaker Maryann Makekau, who recently cautioned her blog followers, “Don’t let your comfort zone become your comfort cage.”  

Zandra Wolfgrameditor@emeraldcoastmagazine.com