Haze Grey and Underway

The first night on the ship no one got any sleep; the berthing was lit and voices were echoing as everyone scrambled to unpack and claim their spaces for their belongings the next six plus months. Space on the ship is tight and competition for the best spots are ruthless. My command was placed in a berthing with ships company women which automatically caused the stench of rival and disdain to overcome the nerves and anxiety of a deployment. I was still in first lieutenant and assigned to work with the ships company first lieutenant to keep our space clean. This actually worked to my advantage in many ways.

I got to know the females I worked with and in return gained their respect. They left my space alone when I returned to my regular shop as an aviation electric technician and helped me when I was in need at port calls. They taught me the secrets of the ship and served as a support system while we were so far away from the ones we loved. Many of the females assigned to first lieutenant in the berthing from ships company were there because they were being separated for things like being a lesbian, reporting sexual assaults or harassments, and mental health diagnoses. I learned that unfairness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” as I watched my shipmates get discharged for commiting the same acts as heterosexual couples. 

It discouraged me to know that my friends were losing their career and their benefits for being themselves. These women were pretty fenemenal in every way, yet the Navy saw them as nusances and troublemakers; shitbags. The injustices I whitnessed during my time in the military highly influenced my decision to not re-enlist. At this point in my life I had many friends of varying sexual orientations and had even pretended to be the girlfriend of a gay man that was not allowed to come out in our hometown. It infuriated me to be a part of an establishment that treated anyone different from the majority as if they didn’t exist. We were just bodies that couldn’t provide enough to meet expectations so we we were cast aside as nusances. 

It was hard to go from an honor student that had my hard work recognized and appreciated to working harder than I ever had in my life and still failing to satisfy my superiors for the most part. The discouragement led to depression that continued to spiral down throughout the deployment. I had very little contact with people although I received packages from my family and letters from my friends but I was very lonely and felt that the feeling it may never go away. There were good times and memories which will come later but overall the deployment caused me to have a major shift in how I viewed the military and its unethical treatment of those that worked as hard as others but we’re never acknowledged unless in a negative light.

A Week Away

As soon as the second leave period began I jumped in my red Saturn and headed out to Arkansas. I drove all night only stopping for gas and bathroom breaks, popped yellow jackets to stay awake, and chugged mountain dew followed by a ciggeratte every half hour or so. The trip took about twenty four hours but I wanted to leave my car in Arkansas for my cruise, so I knew the flight home would be no big deal.

I finally got to my driveway and hurried to my room to drop my gear. My dog greeted me and I made my way to the back den to snuggle with him on the couch, it was our favorite pastime. My mom joined me and we visited for awhile. I knew my friends were in town and decided to seek them out. We left that night for Monroe to eat and catch a movie. It was nice catching up but I immediately fell asleep upon arrival at the movie theater and I snoozed the rest of the evening. I realized how disconnected I felt from the women I had known since the first grade, but I couldn’t explain why I felt this way.

Their conversation topics were so different from the ones we had in the military. Their wild nights would have been rated G if they had been a movie compared to what I had whitnessed and experienced. I felt so uncomfortable with my thoughts I did not really speak much unless asked a direct question and felt so alien listening to their small talk. Our lives were so different; law school, grad school, marriage, babies, while mine consisted of work, drinking, and smoking cigarettes while attempting to not get raped and preparing for an upcoming war none of them were allowed to be told about due to security. It made me avoid them the rest of my leave period; I needed people I could relate to.

I hadn’t spoken to my first boyfriend in over a year or more at this point but he knew I was in town because of our mutual best friend, Zach. We arranged a meeting of sorts and I made my way to visit him. We discussed how things had been since we last spoke and he confessed he missed me. He was getting ready to graduate college and wanted to join the Navy as an officer so we could get married. I knew it was too good to be true the moment the words left his lips.

We did not reunite and that was the last time we spoke. I left the next day to return to Virginia in preparation of our next detachment. My parents drove me to the airport and I had forgotten about a sex toy a friend bought me as a joke for my upcoming deployment that was in my bag. Embarrassed, I had to tell the poor old lady working security what was in my bag. She looked horrified and processed me through as quickly as possible. I finally landed in Virginia and caught a taxie home. I was the last stop and was very comfortable until I became the only female in the vehicle.

He  started asking me questions and I tried my best to calmly answer without him hearing the panic rasing in my voice or my pounding heart and gnarling stomach. Upon arrival to my home, he asked to help me with my bags. I tipped him generously and quickly replied that I could get them as politely as possible. I ran as soon as I saw his car pull away from the curb and felt like exploding once I entered the entryway of my building. I had never experienced that before with a man I was alone with for no reason and it made feel stranger than the night I spent out with my friends. I threw my belongings in my apartment and called a friend to get a ride to base to check back in off leave. When I got home I finally passed out on the couch with the sounds of the city lulling me to sleep.

The last few days in town and at the command were hectic but flew by. I was miserable being alone at the apartment, especially with no car, but I ordered take out and spent time with my neighbors each evening until time to load up the ship. My last night home I ordered Chinese, drank, and laid in the nude until I knew I had to get my neighbor to take me to the ship. During the process I accidentally knocked the cherry of my ciggeratte down my throat and singed my espoughous.

My throat was throbbing by the time I made it to the ship, but I grabbed my sea bag and linnen bag and manuvered the catwalks to get checked in. After my bags were cleared through security I climbed the ladderwell to my berthing to unpack and get my rack ready for the next month plus. I had a bottom rack this time and it made falling asleep easier, but I found I constantly hit my head on the light provided and I was right in the lounge area where the tv and very loud women spent their off time. I hated the ship, but I was determined to make the best of it.

A Christmas Alone

Two or three weeks after returning from Fallon, our command detached on the USS Roosevelt to begin our shipboard training for cruise. During this time we were told that in the two weeks we had off after the training excercise we would be given a short leave and opportunity to go home within reason before we would possibly deploy early in support of Opporation Iraqi Freedom. My roommates had already left for their deployment and I drove myself to the shipyard after cramming myself full of my favorite local Chinese food.

Our three weeks out flew by for the most part, and I signed up to take the last leave period since I had no children I wanted to see wake up on Christmas morning. I knew it would be lonely being my first Christmas away from my family, but looked forward to my week I would have with them shortly thereafter. It was strange with half of the command gone at one time and the nights at home were even lonlier. As Christmas Eve approached I had no plans and was assigned duty but no watch for Christmas Day. I drank myself to sleep on the couch in front of the tv and woke up to “A Christmas Story” playing for the annual twenty four hour marathon I always demanded we keep on until​ someone else finally fought back. This year there was no one to fight with though, just me. 

I knew my family was together, waiting on me to get home to celebrate, but also enjoying my mother’s home cooked meals I treasured because nothing in our small town was open on Christmas Day. A light snow began to fall, and I watched it out of our third floor window as it covered the walkway with a glittering mist. Although I had duty, I decided to start drinking anyhow as I figured it would be my only hope at getting any sleep that night as well. About four or so that afternoon a friend called and asked me what my plans for the evening where. I responded I was staying in. He did not give me that option.

He was at my house within thirty minutes and taking me to eat with two other mutual friends in Richmond. When I arrived I was nervous but I enjoyed our evening together and was thankful that I was not completely alone for Christmas. We cooked lamb and other side dishes and drank and played with pet rats. I learned that Christmas that family is who you make your family. From that date on, every holiday I did not return home for leave, which was often, I would prepare a meal for anyone that wanted to join us for the evening.

It became a tradition we all loved and looked forward to. I would prepare the traditional dishes my family taught me to make and others would bring their favorites. Usually someone bought a turkey for me to prepare, and always a keg of beer. I would cook for three days getting our masterpiece ready and then we would enjoy our weekend eating as much as possible. We always took the watch plates of food at the command, and tried to include as many as we could feed or fit into the house. 

While we had our ups and downs at the command during our time, we really did bond as a family. The connection I still have with many of the former shipmates I was stationed with will never be broken, we will always have each other’s backs and help or be there for them in any way possible. For so long I was afraid to be me around my former service member friends, but the more I am myself the more support I get from them.  They​ encourage me to be a better person and friend and I will be forever grateful for the time I had with them and the relationships we still have today.

The Making of a Clown

Working in first lieutenant was easy but taunting and tedious work at best. Our work space was a broom closet off the second floor of our command. It was breezy as the bottom hall was frequented by maintenance personnel coming and going to the flight line. It was shoddily staffed with five gallon Turco buckets we used as seats and a small space heater for warmth amongst the commands cleaning supplies.

Every morning we mustered with our supervisor and awaited our cleaning orders from the command master chief. We routinely cleaned the heads, stripped and waxed the decks, painted anything that could be painted, stocked the geedunk, and anything else CMC could come up with. After our assignments we set out to accomplish our tasks throughout the rest of the day. We usually took a small break between each one to ensure we kept a busy appearance until we secured for the day.

About mid morning I made my way back to report to my supervisor and let him know my plan. He was not in the closet so I started rifiling through the scribbled notes to see if he left one for us as to his whereabouts as he usually did. I picked up a piece of paper and in CMCs handwriting were the words “Just keep those fucking clowns busy.” My hands started shaking and my body began to quickly fill with rage. We worked our butts off doing tedious little things for the command and him everyday. I knew then what I meant to my command and it actually caused me to have a major shift in attitude.

My supervisor happened to arrive as I was about to clear the closet door and knock on the CMCs. He said, “Korky, where are you going?” nervously as he could see the look in my eye. I thrust the paper toward him and as he read it he started shaking his head and smirking a bit. He sucessfully talked me out of barging in suggesting that my actions would only let him win. I attempted to calm myself and left the closet to go out to the smoke pit. 

It knew it was silly to be so offended by the word clown. I had been and would later be called much worse in my life, but that scene and the emotions it aroused that day stayed with me and I immediately lost all respect for CMC. It was hard to look him in the eye after that incident and when he shook my hand or thanked me for doing something I always believed it was insinsier or forced. I knew this man would never consider me a person.

Later as we were securing from a detachment and supplies were limited he stated, “I don’t care what you use, get those fucking pads and tampons out of that bin.” Disgusted I went to the head to wrapped my hands in plastic trash bags as we had no more gloves. Someone had failed to place a liner in the sanitary napkin disposal and me being the female left to secure, I did as he commanded. I had never felt so degraded in all my life.

I asked if I could secure to go cleanse myself in my barracks room and my supervisor obliged. I stood in the scalding arsenic ladden dessert the base in Fallon had and scrubbed myself from head to toe. Thankfully my roommate left that day during the fly off and I had the room alone for the evening. I headed off base with my friend to eat some Chinese food and we somehow found ourselves in a tattoo shop with men from another command.

After their tattoos were finished we headed back to base and waited on the supervisors to go to bed. Once they did I loaded all the beer bottles I had locked in my closet into my room mates comforter and we hauled it loudly down the stairs. We filled one trash can and moved down several rooms to the next to get rid of all of the bottles. I am not certain how many Sierra Nevadas I had on that detachment, but my drinking had increased tremendously between the first and second detachments. I was not yet twenty one and kept them locked away because CMC could not unlock it during inspection unless I was present.

We laughed off the enormous comforter stuffed with bottles along with the shipmates that passed during our excursion but I failed to see the red flags and attempted to deny my failing mental health. My superiors and peers were begining to break me down but I did what I could to keep my head afloat. My self esteem was declining rapidly as well as my sense of worth. I had no idea this was only the beginning of the negative experiences I would face in my life. What happens in Fallon, stays in Fallon may have been the catch phrase for those detchaments, but for me what happened in Fallon never left my body when I was raped, the degrading acts from my superiors only made my sense of self and symptoms worse in the long run.

Halloween Nights; Morning Nightmares

Our command returned to Fallon sometime in mid September or early October. After my stint in my squadron mates room the first detachment, I was sent to complete my temporary assigned duty and placed in first lieutenant, a glorified name for a janitor. The only people in first lieutenant were those that were considered shit bags by the command or those who had no choice. I was partially both, but  respected more than the men that were sent there because of their mental health and other issues.

People were so mean to these men, even lower ranked airman we were working alongside. One day I sent a male out to the Roach Coach to get us breakfast pigs since I had social anxiety and he was always broke. As we were eating he was telling me his grand plan to one day return to our command hanger bay and blow the entire thing up. I had never heard anyone speak like this and the shock read plainly across my face. He gently placed his hand on my arm and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’re not anywhere around when I do.” 

I could feel the pain ooze from his words and the agony his eyes carried, how could people be so cruel to make another human to feel so worthless. He remains in my thoughts to this day as I had no clue then I too would understand the pain he felt. He stayed behind when we went back to Fallon and was processed out by the time we returned. Sometime in mid September we said our goodbyes, and I never saw him again. 

When we returned to Fallon as the first lieutenant component of the command we were assigned hanger bay cleaning and out door grilling assignments twelve to fourteen hours a day. I mostly stayed to myself and occasionally left base with trusted individuals on rare occasions. I wore my SpongeBob costume and passed out candy for Halloween to my shipmates and cooked on the grill and spent most of my time with friends that were off. As the detachment was winding down the last week of October and into November and more brass and supervisors left, I was more inclined to venture out.

One night a FLIR tech promised my friend he would let me in a bar he was working the door at that night. I agreed to come along and used another females ID to show at the door. This was the first time I had ever used a fake ID and I was terrified of getting in trouble again. We made it to the bar and began taking shots and drinks with our remaining crew members. A new officer had just checked into our command and people wanted me to dance with him, but I declined fearing fraternization. I continued to drink, but hid in the shadows until closing time.
We prepared to leave for the evening and loaded up in a white duty van. I know this because the man driving was a third class Petty Officer with utilities on. We were supposed to head back to base, but the occupants talked the watch driver into pulling over at an all night bar, Headquarters. I decided I had enough to drink for the evening and would remain in the van. Another squadron mate also remained behind in the front passenger seat.

I began to feel my eyes get heavy as I was overly intoxicated and I laid in the floor on the van between the two back bench seats to try to feel better. The cool floor of the van and the heat from the vents lulled me to sleep. The next thing I remember is that I woke up feeling nauseated. I tried to sit up but I realized then that my squadron mate from the front seat had penetrated me and was on top of me. I’m not sure what happened next but I got sick. I threw up all over him and the van. 

I got out of the van and was still vomiting when the other occupants rushed out to check on me. Someone asked me if he did anything to me but I was so confused; and I knew I would be in serious trouble this time. The watch started freaking out about the entire situation and I just responded, “No.” I sheepishly tried to clean myself off and returned to the van and headed back to base.

That night was not spoken of again for many years. I denied it for a long time. Was I sure he was inside me, why was his tounge in my mouth, my pants were down, it must have been my fault because I thought he was cute before that night, he must have somehow picked up on it and tried to see where it would go. I went into shutdown basically and became numb to many parts of my life. We left Fallon and returned to Virginia for two short weeks before leaving out on the ship and starting the begining of the biggest atrocity I have ever participated in; Operation​ Iraqi Freedom. I had been raped before, in Fallon on the first detachment, but I had denied that one as well, up until 2016 in fact when asked to tell the truth, fourteen years after the incident by a whitness from that night

Denial was the easiest way to deal with it. I knew from Stephanie that I would be separated or relocated with a huge target in my record and no chance at promotion. I had given up my scholarship, I wanted my MGIB. I shoved it all inside and continued to act as normally as possible, to just blend in, unrecognized until I got out. That morning, and the mornings before when my squadron mates decided that my sleeping body meant consent was granted changed my view on my entire life. My self esteem and worth were shattered, I believed I deserved the bad things to happen to me for multiple reasons and stories yet to come, and I became more depressed than I had ever been in my life.

Showtime!

The end of August, 2002 my command began to prepare for our upcoming deployment. We were starting a series of detachments to train for our upcoming mission and would be spending a couple of six week stints in Fallon, NV. I had no idea what to expect aside from the wild stories I was told by my squadron mates. The basic rule of Fallon, from my understanding, was that what happens in Fallon, stays in Fallon. I had began staying off base after Andy left with two males from another command on a different work up cycle and keeping their apartment for them while they were away. Each night we would talk about the wild shenanigans that took place at the barracks and the obvious places to visit.

I was not particularly looking forward to going but I had no choice in the matter. As we prepared for the detachment things around the command began to get hectic and we started working longer hours to prepare. We packed up the equipment we would need in the dessert and loaded it into the back of an eighteen wheeler; tools, test equipment, pubs, cranials, computers, it all came with us. We finally loaded a large commercial size airplane and set off for Fallon. We made a small fuel stop in Kansas and finally landed at the air base several hours later.

I hadn’t spoken to Andy much since breaking up with him and my arrival to Fallon was no different, I had no phone. We waited to get our luggage and check into the barracks with our assigned roomate; I was assigned with a woman I barely knew, great. We made our way to our room and began unpacking our seabags in our home for the next six weeks and made small talk. I quickly changed clothes and sat out to find my friends, and to find someone to get me alcohol.

I walked around base until I found a squadron mate I knew that would get me set up, as I was still only 20. We made our purchases and went back to his room. Females could be in males rooms as long as the door was open, so we sat up a makeshift table by the entry and started playing spades. This was the usual routine most evenings in the Navy when there was nothing better to do. At the close of the evening I made my way back to my room to get sleep before reporting to work the next day.

I was shocked to find a male from another command in bed with my roommate upon my entry of the room. I made my way to the bathroom we shared with two other females to hide out. I was sitting on the toilet reading a book when I noticed a very large pair of what I called whitey tighties hanging from the towel rod. I was fairly disgusted by this and finally got the nerve to go back into my room and hit my rack. It disturbed me that I was sleeping in a room with a male I did not know, but the sun rose and we all made our way to our prospective work assignments the next day.

I attempted to stay out of my room as much as possible during the rest of that deployment. One night I was watching a movie in a friend’s room and happened to fall asleep. Instead of waking me when the movie was over, they let me remain on the floor. I woke up at about three or so in the morning and panicked; I had to get back to my room! I asked my friend to look out to see if a watch Rover was nearby so I could make my escape. He told me all was clear, but I walked right into the rover upon exiting the room.

He grabbed my arm and asked me where I was going. I stammered and replied that I was returning to my room. He asked me what command I was in and my name, but he let me go. I thought I was in the clear but when I arrived at work that afternoon, my lead petty officer and chiefs were waiting to speak with me. I had made them look bad, and I was messing up my image. They transferred me to a different shift from my friend and I was warned not to let anything else happen or they would send me to Captains Mast. 

I was humiliated and mortified, I did not even like my friend in a sexual way, and I had fallen asleep on the floor attempting to stay out of the sex fest that was taking place in my room. I laid low the rest of the detachment and tried my best to keep myself out of trouble. I traveled with friends to Lake Tahoe and Reno, but mostly just sat outside of my friends rooms for the rest of the detachment.

We left Fallon after six weeks and returned to Virginia for about three weeks before we would return to the dessert. I could not wait to get out of there and back to the safety of my friends apartment. They were gone on the ship when I arrived and had a week or so to myself before they returned. We had change of command while we were back and that night I bought a SpongeBob costume. I had no clue then how important that silly costume would become later in my life, but it sadly reminds me of a girl that I will never be again. 

The girl that bought that costume did not care what others thought of her and acted as silly or goofy as she pleased. She was a dreamer and a thinker, full of passion and love to give and share with anyone willing to accept it. She loved laughing and joking and social situations. That girl was naieve, but fearless and that purchase was the last glimmer of that girl that my memory holds.

If Only I Had Been A Male…

Today I had the conversation about females versus male in the military with a friend. I do not really remember how the conversation came up but the thoughts it left me with are really the important part. I left high school an honor graduate and received a state funded scholarship to the only school in the state with a criminology program, which I was determined to study. My first choice had been at a school in Maryland, but my mother persuaded me to use the state scholarship first.

I hated my first school, the only good that came from it was meeting Andy through my roommate. My grades suffered and my Mom and step-dad ultimately decided if I did not want to return to Arkansas State that I could go with my mother to her school each week; a tiny community college in Wesson, MS. Unable to protest too loudly, and after being shut down at transferring to University of Arkansas in Little Rock, I begrudgingly decided for the later option.

Although I was making good grades and taking enough hours to make up for my first semester, I was still unhappy. Mid semester I decided to join the Navy upon completion of my current semester. I began reading all I could about my selected service branch and trying to get in physical shape for boot camp. I was excited to start my new life and to move on from what I perceived as my future in demise by staying in Crossett. I finished the semester with all A’s and a C; my parents were proud.

I headed to boot camp in June of 2001 and upon arrival I was asked an assortment of questions about my past. I answered yes to having been in band and thus was placed in a performing units division; 939. Although I had not played my saxophone for a year I managed to squeak through a badly performed site reading tryout and was then sent to tryout for the drill unit. I had done flag in band in junior high and this was a natural fit for me; I was twirling the riffle.

We practiced daily on our routines and I proved to be a great team member, our instructor was impressed with my marching and sharpness. I made it through boot camp with very few problems and because half our unit was male and other female, and we were pretty much all treated as equals. Once we graduated and moved on to our A-school for technical training of our jobs, I became the only female in my class. There was one berthing on base for all of the females compared to eight or more all male barracks.

Although my physical abilities differed from the male sailors and Marines in my class, my intellectual abilities remained consistent. I was still treated fairly, my questions were answered to the best of others ability, I was able to get to participate in after class tutoring sessions when needed and life on base was almost the same as living on a college campus with far more rules. I had my car and I often vacated the base as often as possible to escape to my beautiful Santa Rosa Island. 

After graduating from school and getting my orders to my first command I still felt fairly confident in my abilities to compete fairly with my male counterparts but that was quickly short lived. I was able to obtain many qualifications and a high security clearance because I had little negatives in my past history and doing what was expected of me was something I had always been taught. The further I went along though, the more obvious it became that my title as female greatly affected my abilities for advancement.

In my command girls were considered to be troublesome and we had a maintenance master chief that believed that females did not belong in his Navy; and god did he love to remind us! If a female became pregnant they were a deployment dodger, if a female claimed rape they were a whore, slut, good for nothing cum dumpsters, and completely shunned by the other members of the command; even most of the people they considered to be their family.

This was one of the main reasons I never reported my rapes, I just held them in and blamed myself for drinking and putting myself in the situations in the first place. As we progressed and began to get ready for deployment I continued to get my qualifications and to work hard to prove my worth to my superiors. When evaluations came around I was usually one of the lower ranked among my peers in my shop. It always confused me how those that did so much less work and had so many less qualifications could out perform me on our evaluations but I can not remember a single time where it did not happen.

The longer I stayed in my command and whitnessed injustices to myself and others I began to become disillusioned by the Navy. After deployment I put on third class petty officer and began to train to become a final checker and troubleshooter. I spent many long hours on the flight line preparing for this but upon time for my final approval with our maintenance master chief, I was instead given an impromptu board with him and the officers that were in maintenance control. I was humiliated when he clearly began asking me questions that had nothing to do with troubleshooting or my specialty at all. 

Shortly thereafter my command and shop supervisor decided to send me to corrosion control; but they wanted me to work the flight schedule as my rate, an aviation electronic technician, and then work a completely different workload after flight schedule in corrosion control. I was deeply hurt and felt completely disposable at that point. I tried to crossrate and was denied so I ultimately decided I was as unwanted in the Navy and began obsessively counting down my dates until my end of service obligation date.

Flight schedules, spare papers, scraps; none were safe from the countless numbers scribbled on them and dots that repetitively tapped each number as I counted the days down. I still find them in remnants of Navy paraphernalia that litter my house. I tried so hard to be a good sailor but I was never awarded anything more than what most in the Navy referred to as a toilet paper award, good enough to wipe your ass on the paper it’s printed on but not much else. My self esteem and self worth were at an all time low and I felt that no matter what I did in life I was never good enough.

Not good enough for many of my peers to respect me, my superiors to advance me, and most importantly not important enough to be respected and loved. All I had ever wanted in my life was for someone to love me for the person I was. I had found it once but at this point in my life, had pushed him into the arms of another woman because of my own insecurity. My depression was more than obvious and sometime after my rapist was kicked out of the Navy I just stopped caring.

I stopped getting anything other that required qualifications, I refused to work on earning my warfare pins, I stopped pushing myself to stay in good physical shape, and I gave up. I just attempted to exist until my separation. I worked, drank, and slept. I had a relationship with a man in my command, but I now know I loved him as a friend. He simply kept me safe and alive throughout the remainder of my time in my command. I never would have made it out alive if it had not been for him and a few other very close squadron mates.

I believed this was the darkest time of my life, but I would soon find out I was sorely mistaken. I believed life would be wonderful as soon as I was able to get out of the Navy. My first job hunting experience failed miserably and I ended up getting a front desk job at a seedy hotel down by the oceanfront making minimum wage. My ego was bruised but I took the job and I did my very best at it. Towards the end of the summer I abruptly stopped this job after a boss ran his hand up my legs and shorts while his wife and children were in the next room. It took a month or so to find employment in my new town and I began donating plasma for survival.

My live in roommate became extremely emotionally abusive towards me during this time and after blaming me for getting raped by a co-worker at my newest job, I fled the state for good. I arrived in Arkansas in a state of shock and proceeded to score another minimum wage cooking gig at a steakhouse. After my first few weeks I quickly realized I still did not make enough to cover bills at my new place. In a panic, I began to look for a new roommate and thus began another relationship.

Again, this relationship sprung out of survival, and the hurt I caused this man was not at all acceptable. I became reunited with Andy during this time and eventually moved into his home in Massachusetts, thankfully ending my need to be in a relationship for survival or fitting the technical definition of a very blessed homeless veteran. I continued to battle my demons I had incurred during and out of the military by drinking them away and my relationship with Andy began to suffer; I recently found out he was very close to leaving me at this time of our lives. 

After I was diagnosed with PTSD and began therapy I started to feel less like hiding and more like reaching out to former Navy and military personnel I had avoided for years. I became reunited with a squadron mate that came to the command at the same time as I did, we were even the same rank! I was surprised and overjoyed to find out he had put on Chief and was still proudly serving in the Navy. We began taking and one day he decided to ask me about a night I had been trying to forget since 2002.

One night while we were in Fallon, NV on a det I was incredibly intoxicated and out with friends from the command. Upon arrival to base I did not want to return to my room because my roommate often had men in there as well as other disturbing items I did not like to see. I opted to go to the room of my squadron mate, and realized that his roommate was still awake when we arrived. My chief friend was the roomate. After the lights went out our comrade began rubbing me and trying to penetrate my vagina. I said no in a hushed voice as to not wake up our sleeping co-worker, but he didn’t.

The next morning, it was joked about as if everything had been consensual. I brushed it off, embarrassed and horribly ashamed that my peer believed I was sleeping with people and acting irresponsibly, and more so that he believed it was consensual. This night though, through Facebook messenger, he was asking me to tell him the truth. He asked me if the events that took place in that room that night had been consensual.

For the first time since it happened I admitted that it was not, in 2016 fourteen years after the initial incident even took place. I’ve never even put it in my disability claim because I was fearful that he had believed it was consensual. He promised he was sorry and that we would talk about it, but he never called and we never did. The one thing he did say that night that has remained with me though was that he said he was sick of loosing good sailors for bullshit that happens in the military beyond their control, as no one can rape but a rapist.

It was profound to me that since I left the command a broken frail shadow of the person that entered it and he was a thriving successful career military chief. It made me wonder if I had stayed in, what I may be today. This man had been convicted of arson when we were at our first duty station and my largest sin was failing my physical readiness test after I decided giving up was easier than pretending to be strong. The differences our lives had taken struck me deeply.

He had prospered and been allowed to move above his transgressions while I was stagnated in every possible way, give or take a few supervisors that refused not to have my back. I got out and was only able to find minimum wage jobs in each state I lived in after the Navy. I was technically homeless for the two or three years before I relocated to Massachusetts to be with Andy. I was slapped with a government overpayment through the MGIB and had to sit out of school for two years while my credit was ruined. I self medicated to the point of getting a DWI and finally waking up enough to try to get my life straight. 

At 34 I have obtained my master’s degree, and I have a family that keeps me going, a nice home, a husband that cares for and loves me deeply, and yet I still feel like a failure at providing while my friend is living the life he always dreamed. It does make me wonder had I been a male in the military, would my experience have been much different? I would assume it would, not better or worse per say, but absolutely different. I do not regret my decision to join or leave the military, but I will probably always dream about what I could have been had I not been a female in a male dominated world.