This is the third in a series written by current National University’s MFA Creative Writing Program student Fabricio Correa focusing on NU’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program which has created a welcoming learning environment and an accessible program for active and former military. Three current/alumni students offer their perspectives on being writers with military experience and the value of MFA programs that support their education.
Rachel Napolitano was born in Dallas, TX. She has been the wife of an F-16 pilot since 2011. In her memoir In the Passenger Seat of the Viper: Stories from the Wife of an F-16 Pilot, she talks about her experience in the military community from an insider’s point of view. Her lifestyle requires constant relocation to disparate countries. She lived in places such as LA, Italy, South Korea, and South Carolina, and traveled to exotic locales.
In her memoir, Rachel shares the challenges of being a military wife. Among them were securing a steady job due to the constant moving, the poor means of communication during her husband’s TDY (temporary duty), episodes of sexual harassment, loneliness, and loss of faith. About considering herself as a courageous writer, Rachel says, “I don’t feel brave, but I want to. I’m horrified at the idea of offending someone I care about, but I feel empowered when I read other writers who are truthful, like Stephen King. We’re not perfect, and I think people connect with each other in the blemishes.”
Furthermore, her writing possesses a radiant quality that sheds light even on her saddest moments. When she lost an F-16 pilot friend, she realized she was writing not about being a military wife but about her loss of faith. On this transformation, Rachel reflects, “It was cathartic. It forced me to step back and realize I was writing about something bigger than myself through this experience of loss. I am still uncomfortable admitting my loss of faith because of my upbringing, but once I wrote and rewrote that story, I had to recognize my own truth. By shedding my old faith, I was able to open up to new beliefs of gratitude and kindness, free from doctrine. I chose light instead of dark, something we have to do every day.”
Rachel attended an online MFA program in creative writing at National University “while living in South Korea, visiting family in Texas, and moving my household across the country to South Carolina. If I had been required to be in a physical classroom, I couldn’t have done it.”