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.

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.

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. 

Never Cry Rape!

About two weeks of being on base most of the friends I met in Pensacola in A-school had gotten their orders and began to arrive in Virginia. I had been spending most of my time with my friend I rode to Virginia with and my friend, Ryan. Stephanie and Ryan were complete opposites but had been in class together and were mutual friends.

One day I met Stephanie for lunch and she was crying. She said that she and Ryan and some other guys had gotten drunk and Ryan raped her. I was shocked and did not know how to respond. She told me she was going to report it to their command and expected to be treated the way we believed we would be treated in boot camp.

She reported it that afternoon and in the midst of a few hours rumors were flying around base. Ryan was notified by legal and an investigation was held. Evidently, everyone seemed to believe Ryan’s story over Stephanie’s. She immediately became a trouble maker for reporting the incident. Our mutual friends refused to speak to her and most on base seemed to shun her wherever she went. Was it because Stephanie was a bit overweight and short and Ryan was slim, dark, and incredibly good looking? 

I did not understand why they would believe him over her. She was on shore duty orders, she had a fiance moving to the beach, she was living her dream. Because there was no physical evidence, Stephanie was removed from the base while Ryan was allowed to remain and was still walking around base the day I got out of the military, almost four years later, free of charge.

After Stephanie left, I cannot remember if she was transferred or separated, I began to whitness other women in and out of my command treated disrespectfully for reporting sexual harassment, assualt, or becoming pregnant before a deployment. They were shunned by their commands and all of the squadron mates they had worked alongside and considered family; ones they trusted.

They were called deployment dodgers, and it was not uncommon to hear females referred to as troublemakers, cum dumpsters, and not belonging in “their” Navy as well as the usual derogatory slang a female might hear. Slut, whore, boat hoe, bitch, and others were all commonly known terms of endearment from many of our peers and superiors.I was saddened and stunned by treatment these women received and it set a precendt for me and many other females in my command to follow; never cry rape!