Pyrah currently serves in the DC Air National Guard. Originally from Deer River, Minnesota, she joined the U.S. Navy after high school and worked as one of the first women aviation warfare systems operators. After five years in the Navy, Pyrah settled in Maryland with her husband and had three children. Although she had been working as a civilian in the defense industry, in 2017, she started missing military life, so she joined the Air National Guard.
Over the years, Pyrah has written four children’s books, as well as a collection of short stories for grownups about her military memoires. On Nov. 12, she releases her second nonfiction book, “Guardians: Stories of the 2020 Civil Unrest In Washington, D.C.” published by Tactical 16.
‘Guardians’ shows Pyrah’s humor and humanity, as she relates her experiences guarding the nation’s capital from June 1 – 16, 2020. She jokes about her clumsiness and talks in depth about the troublesome moments, unafraid to show her fear or admit her lack of preparedness to deal with the civil unrest she responded to.
Regarding the awkwardness of being an airman deployed for civil unrest, she writes, “We could keep the fighter jets maintained, launched, and flying in the air, protecting the city, but keeping crowds from burning down the White House? This was not exactly our specialty.”
When confronting belligerent protesters, she had been instructed to remain stoic. But in her mind, she wanted to answer them, “… um, sir, honestly when I signed up for the Guard, I thought I’d be working on the airfield and helping out with the occasional natural disaster, handing out water and food rations.”
As she passed more and more protestors, some of the signs struck her emotionally pretty hard. She writes, “[N]o message stood out more to me that day than the one that I saw a little boy carrying. He could not have been any more than 5 years old with a sign that read, ‘When do I go from cute to dangerous?’
“That one hit me. I looked up at his mother who was walking next to him. She, like myself and every other mother, all have no greater purpose in life than to ensure that our children are safe and grow up protected from the dangers of the world. They do not deserve to feel bad because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or background. It is what every parent wants for their own child. It is what we, as a country, owe to the children of our nation. No child in America should ever have to go to bed afraid or feeling bad about the way they were made.”
“Guardians: Stories of the 2020 Civil Unrest In Washington, D.C.” will be available for presale Nov. 5 from Tactical 16 Publishing. To stay up to date with Julia A. Maki Pyrah visit www.juliamaki.com.
Cover photo: Washington Monument by Julia A. Maki Pyrah. Headshot by Barry Morgenstein