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  • Bob Arnold

Getting lost & coming back home

By Bob Arnold

Getting lost & coming back home
Misty Floyd (right) at her camper with Charles R. Fortson, who employs at Uncle Ray’s store at Lake Lincoln.

When the National Guard deployed her to Brookhaven between 2013 and 2018 to manage human resources and work in equipment maintenance, Misty Floyd says “I found the place where I should have been born, and I now call ‘home.’”  She easily made friends there, married and  “I even found shopping at Walmart a pleasant experience.”  The area became “my secret happy place,” she says


Today, Floyd is back home after an unwanted and unexpected medical discharge from the military in 2019 and “getting lost in the unregulated, unregimented real world” in which she struggled to operate a business, succumbed to a nervous breakdown, fought drug addiction and served a brief jail term.  Floyd is not only back home, now living in the Lake Lincoln State Park area, but back home in a new post-military life and seeking to help other people find new homes after getting lost in the world.


Her story starts in northern Mississippi, where Floyd once called the Tupelo area, her birth place on June 6, 1987, “home.”  She doesn’t know what it means, but her grandmother, grandmother’s sister, aunt and husband all share June 6 as their birth date.  Her family includes two half sisters -- one her mother’s and one her father’s -- and one step sister and two step brothers from her mother’s remarriage.


Floyd spent the first five years of her life on her grandmother’s “poor man’s farm” at Guntown, Mississippi, “a small municipality with a mayor, one police officer, a post office and a gasoline station.”  She recalls “running around barefoot covered with mud,” getting up at 4:30 a.m. to help her grandmother in the garden and then collecting the eggs laid by the chickens and tending the pigs and cows with her Uncle Virgil.


When she was seven years old, Floyd moved from the farm into a house with her mother Daisy and step father, where she had her own bedroom for the first time and there was a television to watch.  Her step father, a contractor, introduced her to a hammer and nails, and by age 15, Floyd could frame and paint houses, and do almost anything in home construction except electrical work.


Describing her mom as a “Gypsy spirit who couldn’t live in the same place for more than three years,” Floyd recalls bouncing around the Tupelo area with her family from town to town -- Blue Mountain, Blue Springs, Ripley, New Albany -- where she had brief experiences in their varied schools before finally graduating from Tupelo High School in 2005.  She also worked for her step father in construction, her mother’s restaurant, Daisy’s Diner at Blue Mountain; and Walmart in its express tire and lubing service center before signing up for the National Guard when she was 18 years old after seeing a “Join the Army Now” sign at the Ripley National Guard Armory.


“The National Guard recruiter laughed when I told him I wanted to be a tanker, a job for men that my cousins talked about,” she recalls, but the Guard enlisted her and sent her to tank maintenance and repair training at Aberdeen, Maryland, Proving Grounds after she lost some weight, passed qualifying tests and completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.


Floyd officially started her National Guard service on May 31, 2007, and gradually “proved I was a good mechanic and soldier, more than a female,” she says.  Over 12 years, she rose in the ranks to become a Staff Sergeant.   


Becoming accepted in a man’s world sometimes required extreme measures:  “One time, I joined the guys in a dominoes game and told them all the dirtiest joke I knew to become one of them,” she recalls.  When she was deployed in Iraq in 2008 and 2009, becoming one of the guys was a little easier when personnel shortages required women to fill positions that they had to learn to do on the job.  “I was one of 11 women assigned to armed vehicles as drivers and gunners,” she says.  “I had no training as a gunner, and loaded the ammunition backwards on my first mission in that role.  I quickly learned, and became responsible for certifying that trucks were mission-capable.”


After returning to Mississippi in 2010, Brookhaven was her next stop with the National Guard, and the discovery of a home life that she had never previously experienced.  Among other things at the site of her new deployment, she met and married James Crosby from Bogue Chito, who remains her best friend “even though we have been separated for more years that we lived together.


In 2018, she participated in 74-days of mock warfare training at Light Sands Desert before a short deployment in Kuwait, where she sustained an injury that landed her, first, in a German military hospital and, then, stateside at Fort Benning, Georgia, where doctors decided cumulative injuries to her knees, shoulder, neck and spine due to physical strains over her years of National Guard service warranted her medical discharge in 2019.


“I was lost,” Floyd says.  “Other soldiers were my family.  I thought I could beat the injuries and didn’t think I would be discharged as disabled.  I didn’t know how to be human in the real world with no regimentation nor regulation.”


She started a storage business, and managed it the military way -- the only way she knew.  It didn’t work, and the pressures of the new world in which now lived led to a nervous breakdown, for which she self-medicated and became addicted to methamphetamines and other drugs.  “By 2022, I had lost my house, truck and business because of my dependence on drugs,” Floyd relates.  Homeless then, she was also jailed briefly for grand larceny after thinking she had borrowed a truck to travel to West Virginia from a friend, who reported the vehicle stolen.


After overdosing on some drug (“I can’t recall what it was”), she managed to call a friend who dumped her at a hospital in Amory, Mississippi, where a nurse, who didn’t want to lose a patient, cared for her until she started to recover.  “Thanks to that nurse, who didn’t give up on me, and God’s presence and help, I cleaned up and have been sober since then,” Floyd says.


Outside a grocery store, Floyd believes God was giving her on-going direction for her life in a sign she noticed:  “Save More.”  “To me, it was a direction from God to ‘save more people’ like myself who had lost their way,” she says.


In response to this direction in recent months, Floyd started going into the dangerous world of crack houses as a non-law enforcement liaison, who knows their language, culture and protocols, and can bring addicts into an environment, such as her home, where they can clean up, start living a sober life and go on to other venues for extended support in their recovery.  Her work, she says, has helped save two men, but she regrets being unable to help two others.  It also exposed her to people who profited from the drug trade, one who pointed a gun at her forehead and warned her to stop what she was doing. 


Floyd also dreams about operating a shelter for homeless persons that not only provides a bed and food for people in need, but helps them begin on a path out of homelessness, such as a thrift store, where they can work and assume greater responsibility for themselves in a journey out of homelessness.


Currently, Floyd is living safely in a camper across from Lake Lincoln State Park and working at Uncle Ray’s Lake Lincoln store.  She knows she has a long way to go, but she is home now and, at age 36, thinks she is at a good starting point in her non-military mission to “save more.”


What are your hobbies? 

I enjoy fishing, hiking and hunting for artifacts, like old Indian arrowheads.


Do you have a special interest in music. 

I am a karaoke singer, played the fiddle in high school and still beat on drums.  I like all musical genres.


How about movies or theater?

I was in theater in school, love visiting New York City to see Broadway shows, particularly musicals.  I still remember seeing Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway.  Bradley Cooper is my favorite actor because of his versatility. 


What would you do with the winnings if you won the lottery?

I would start my homeless shelter.


How would you change the world? 

Encouraging people to “fear not.”  Fear is what holds the world back!


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