It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no it’s Superman!!! For a lot of kids and adults, Superman represents everything that they would like to see in themselves. The respect, the reputation, the good looks, the power. Superman was and still is the American dream. He represents power, strength, integrity, freedom. All of the things I felt I had as a member of the United States Army. Until I took my cape off…
I learned my first lesson in being a soldier as soon as I graduated from basic training (I talk about this in my book Cavalry by the way). After graduating from Ft. Knox, I traveled from Kentucky to Colorado (Ft. Carson) in my Class A uniform. People stopped me to shake my hand, thank me for my service, and someone even bought my meal for me at Chili’s at the airport.
In between Colorado Springs and Denver, there is a city called Castle Rock. This is where the outlet mall is. The outlet mall is a big strip mall composed of multiple high-end stores that sell name-brand items at a discounted price. Every time my friends and I visited that store, we were sure to go there in our ACUs (Army Combat Uniforms). Why do you ask? So we didn’t get followed while walking in the store, so they allowed more than one of us in at a time and so that they knew we could afford what was in the store.
When I was medically retired from the Army in 2010 Superman lost his powers. The bullet that hit me in the leg in 2007 was dipped in Green Kryptonite. In Rochester, there were no more ACUs, no more luxury malls, and no more respect. It was both a culture shock and a shock to my mental health. I went from Sergeant Kendrick, Purple Heart Veteran to David Kendrick…just another nigga from Rochester.
What does that mean for me and other minority veterans? Back in the same environment, we tried to leave when we joined the military. The same poverty, the same people we tried to avoid, and the same level of disrespect that we received before we joined the military. Suddenly…people aren’t holding the doors open for us…we are being challenged openly by people who think we are “less than”, and we start to second doubt ourselves.
Can you imagine if Superman had to walk around with normal human beings every day? Not being able to wear my ACUs is a representation of that. In my uniform I felt like I could fly, I felt invisible, shit…I got shot in my femoral artery and survived while wearing that uniform. Well, now Superman has lost his powers. The protection of the American flag has worn off. Instead of the Red, White, and Blue on my upper right shoulder…all people see is my black skin.
There was no more "super", there was just man. A man that was depressed because 1.) The Army was taken away from me, and 2.) I didn't know how to live in a world without my cape. I felt so much pride wearing that uniform. To be part of something that was much much bigger than me. However, when I took it off, I felt like there was nothing "super" about me. So I just drank myself to sleep over the entire summer.
Suddenly I WAS getting followed around in stores again. Even though I had the money to buy whatever I wanted inside. It was quite the culture shock and it made me feel less-than. Just the way the country intended for African-Americans to feel. I did an entire YouTube Series on black veterans and the challenges they faced to earn respect in the military. I had to fight very hard to earn that same respect as a civilian once my military career was over.
Taking my military cape off was a culture shock for me. I was shielded from some of the everyday shit that black men go through because I was in a uniform. I joined the Army directly out of high school - from 18 to 23 I had the respect that most young black didn't have in America. I spent the entire summer when I got out of the Army drinking while drowning in my own pity. With my mental and physical health declining, I relied on my family to help me out of the darkest time of my life.
I learned that it wasn't the powers that made the man "super". It was the man and his characteristics that make him what he is. My physical and mental health improved and I found other powers to help my family, and the people in my community.