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.

Loosing my First Crush in a Decade

On Valentine’s day I met a man by responding to a post in our local Facebook poly group. We began cooresponding and we met the following Friday when he arrived at my home. We visited with one another and it led to us becoming intimate while my husband was present. We chatted quite a bit the first couple of weeks and the second weekend we spent together was equally as satisfying as the first. 

Quickly communication began to deminish as the weeks progressed. We continued to see each other about once a week or so plutonically until this past week when he decided he did not want to be in a relationship with anyone. It hurt when I read the words but it felt good to finally get an actual form of communication from him. I shed a few tears at the stop light on my way to my therapy appointment and reflected on what I have learned in the few short weeks I have known him.

I remembered what it felt like to be excited to see a message​ from him and how giddy I felt in his presence. I felt comfortable with him, but I sensed he was gaurded about something. I looked forward to his presence and the things he said that would happen that never did but I always felt I was more interested than him the entire time and that he wasn’t always truthful. I initiated the conversation, the meetups, extended the invites, and made an effort to talk to him. He did say it was overwhelming at times to have attention from a woman and I tried to give him his space.

I hoped for something that was unrealistic to obtain from the beginning but I allowed the feelings to override my instincts because to be honest it felt really good to feel good after not feeling that way for so many years. I loved that he made me laugh endlessly when I was with him, but I also disliked the disconnect I felt growing between us. The last​ night I went out with him alone I struggled to spend time with him and the night ended on a very bad note when he irresponsibly drove drunk in what I perceived as his efforts to get away from me rather than staying at the venue he had admittedly slept at before. 

He didn’t talk to me or respond to my messages for a few days and told me his phone had been shut off but in the next breath told me that he talks to his ex every morning. I was advised by more than one person to not get attached, but that is easier said than done when it comes to humans and emotions. I felt a connection with him that I had not felt with another man since Andy came back into my life, and of course not of the same calliber, I barely knew and still barely know him. I once again let my guard down and opened up too soon.

The last time he came out with me and my husband unexpectedly and returned home with us but refused to do anything besides snuggle, I knew it was the end. He left the next day and we did not speak for about a day. I messaged him to let him know I had started my period, as I thought it may be a relief for him, and possibly the reason he had been avoiding my advances. I got no response, and after a medical incident I alerted him to on Monday went unanswered I really started to get the hint. 

Yesterday I went to the VA to get my IUD inserted and as a person in an undefined relationship, I decided to tell him. I also told him how I really felt about our situation and current lack of communication. I finally got a response today and although it was not the one I wanted to hear, it is the one that I knew was coming. My husband was hurt by his actions and had been encouraging me to let go of the relationship for weeks at this point, but I held on for some reason. 

I responded as honestly and heartfelt as possible to his statement and I got my true feelings out. While I would like to remain friends with this man, my husband feels he doesn’t deserve my time or energy and has stated he is not welcome at our home. It saddens me that what I had hoped would be a great start to a friendship ended so abruptly, but I also know that part of this process involves my husband and his feelings about those involved in our lives as well.

While I disagree with my husband’s thoughts about my judgements and how I treat others he deems as being unworthy of my affection or kindness, I also know that to continue to grow with my husband I have to be willing to compromise with his feelings and actions as well. While I wish my crush had been more open and honest with me about his feelings, I did learn that my unhealthy patterns of beliefs about myself did return when I was unsure of where I stood with him. It made me anxious and almost nauseated at times to remember how scary it is to be in an undefined relationship.

I realized in my own time that I needed clarification on where he stood and I asked for it when I felt I couldn’t continue to move forward with him without communicating further. I learned that I am capable of  having  positive experiences with people away from my comfort zone, which I have been unable to do in over a decade. I remembered how much I enjoy going out to hear my friends play live music. For a short time, just feeling wanted or desired again was nice to experience as well, even though I know I am by my husband still after ten years. 

Many emotions I had been numb to for so many years were able to be felt in a little over a month, this let’s me know that it is possible I can feel a lot more, and I can feel them about myself for the first time in my life. I may have gotten bruised, but I learned and I grew. The bruise will heal too, in time, and I hope that one day he does find what makes him happy, I wish him well, and hope he gets his life in order in a manner he sees fit. I’ll continue to be in the picture however it plays out and although the outcome was not what I wanted, I was reminded that there were two other people involved that wanted different outcomes in the end. 

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.

When My Brain Tells Me Lies

As of late I’ve done a lot of self reflection about the person I am. I evidently am a very hard person to live with as I’ve now heard it from both my brother and my husband. I’m constantly judging myself for my actions or lack thereof, but so are the others that are watching. Recently my husband told me before he read my therapy binder he thought I was an asshole and I didn’t care about him. To hear him say this five years after he read my binder allows me to know he must still feel like this often. He told me that he was very much considering ending our relationship.

I never felt that way back then, and to this day, I’ve never considered leaving my husband. Those words stung because to know five years ago that the father of your child was debating leaving when the thought had never crossed my mind left me spinning. If he felt that way then, what keeps him here now? I hope it’s love, it must be because I am not any better at accomplishing the tasks he wishes for me to complete. Dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning that I never get around to and my piles drive him insane, but I do not think he realizes it drives me insane too. I used to work 40 hours a week, cook, and keep a spotless home before we had kids. Sometimes I think he forgets what kids take to live every day. I know I disappoint him and my children. I know our household is not traditional, my husband says there is no stability in my actions or routine.

I apply for jobs and do not get call backs, I attempt to do a job and I don’t do it good enough. I get told by family, “I don’t care if you work or not” but in the next breath “you don’t get something for nothing.” That I need to be taught how to stand on my own as an adult and stop relying on others to bail me out. I just wonder sometimes if they forget the numerous times they were helped throughout their life.

I do not ask for what I am given, and I appreciate it. Sometimes I wish others could see that I really do try. I don’t mean to forget to pull meat out of the freezer, or to not move the laundry over on purpose. I don’t mean to get frazzled and find myself doing three different chores at once. I try to concentrate so hard to remember to get it all done, but it never fails, and there is always someone disappointed about something.

If I could just stay awake and work for a day straight with no interruptions my house may get clean, I may have meals prepared, laundry folded, house cleaned and dusted. Then there is of course the other responsibilities that I lack in doing my best at. Feeling worthless sucks, feeling like a failure at everything you attempt sucks, being told to act like an adult when you’ve been one almost as long as you were a child sucks. But being told by your husband that you are difficult to live with five years prior to him almost walking out the door when the thought had never crossed your mind is worse than a slap in the face. 

After I got my DWI I tried my best to fix myself for him and for our children. I still to this day try to fix myself to be a better person for them. I hope in the future my abilities to please my family will return, I hope one day my kids will understand even though I disappointed them and told them no to things I was never told “no” to, that I am trying my best. Everyday that I wake up, I try to be the best version of myself I can be. Sometimes my brain tells me inaccurate information, sometimes I get irrational beliefs or thoughts and get misguided, I may dissociate and remain distracted for hours at a time before snapping out of it. On any given day I may get tons of work or no work done, but I promise that I am doing the best I can to try to please and to be the best version of myself that I can be. I think that is all I can do.

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. 

What is a VCF; Tell Your Hubby to Howl at the Moon…

Today was my appointment to get back on birth control at the local Veterans Administration. As I entered the nurses room and began answering her questions she asked me what type of birth control I was currently using. I told her I had been using a vaginal contraceptive film and she stopped typing, turned to look at me, and asked quizzically, “a what?” A bit stunned, I mummered a vaginal film and she again asked me what I was talking about. My face began to flush as my two year old daughter sat on my lap. I finally said, “it’s a film that dissolves when inserted in the vagina.” 

Upon answering her questions she turned to enter the information in her computer and I thought to myself what kind of nurse in the gynocologist office doesn’t know the kinds of birth control available. As she proceeded, I got further confused. I had been told in September that I was up to date on my papsmear and other female care checks by my primary care team and this nurse was telling me I was overdue. Mind you I was sitting in the exact same office my primary care sits in on the days she is working at the VA. 

When she asked me what kind of birth control I was interested in I responded the copper IUD. She then asked me why. I felt a little taken aback but I responded I wanted a non hormonal birth control option. She again asked me why. This time I answered with a hint of annoyance, “because it is my preference.” She then asked me if I would be able to talk to the doctor with my daughter as he might get “upset” because she was present.

At this point I was a bit flabbergasted; my husband was at work, the VA is the only place I have healthcare, and I had no babysitter. I coldly replied that I had done it before and this should be fine. She escorted me to the doctors room for my consult and he went through the entire spill about every option the VA offered again. I told him my preference and he informed me I would have to wait for my next period to get it inserted.

I was annoyed, but I understand why the doctor had to wait to get me back on birth control. While he was calling in my prescription and on hold with the pharmacist he says, “you may have to tell your hubby to howl at the moon until you can get your IUD.” I have no idea what the expression on my face was but I was pretty much humiliated at this point. I thanked him for getting me what I needed and the nurse gave me a card to call for my return to get my IUD scheduled. 

As I walked to the pharmacy I reflected on the numerous times I had tried to get and/or remain on birth control from that particular provider. I remembered the time in 2010 when we had moved from Massachusetts to Arkansas. I transferred from the Brockton, MA veterans administration back to my previous provider in Fayetteville, AR at the local Veterans Administration there. I had all of my records forwarded to the VA as well as brought my records with me when I left in May and I believed that everything would be fine when I was ready to return in Arkansas for my next dose.

When my depo shot was due that summer I called to get an appointment. I was stunned when they told me I would have to be re assigned a new health care team and visit a primary care physician before I could get my shot. I made the appointment, however the soonest the could get me in was a month after my shot was due. I went to my appointment that August and was immediately informed I needed an EKG. I asked why I needed an EKG to get a depo shot and the male nurse told me simply because I was due for one. 

Bewildered, I made my way to that technician for my heart check. She plugged me into machines and began the exam. She got a concerned look on her face and asked me if I was feeling alright. I responded I was fine and she asked me what I had been doing that day and if I was on any drugs. I told her I had just finished cleaning a home in Goshen and come right to the VA for my appointment and that I was not on any drugs. She looked at my tie-dyed grateful dead shirt with disbelief and said well you have bradycardia, your at 50 beats per minute.

I asked if it was a problem and she said no, just that most people my age do not have this. I returned to the nurse in hopes to get the go ahead to get my depo shot and he was also concerned about my results from the EKG. He asked me if I was a marathon runner; I laughed and said I wished. He finally sent me to my primary care physician and I was allowed to go get another papsmear and pregnancy test to get back on my depo shot.

I do not remember how many months it took before I was allowed to get my shot again but it was several. You would think birth control would be an easy enough thing to give to female veterans as we always had simple access to them in the service. I often wonder how much money is spent on the numerous procedures that one must go through to get a simple shot. I mean an EKG for a depo shot at the age of 27? The multiple letters that are sent for appointment reminders that arrive after your appointment, and the lack of communication between VA health care systems are likely costing the taxpayers, which I am also one of, countless dollars on uneccessary and dysfunctional procedures both medically and administratively. As a veteran that depends on the VA for my healthcare and has whitnessed multiple veterans turned away from treatment and medication for various reasons, I would really like to see money being spent on fixing these issues and serving more than continuing to waste money on a broken system that keeps loosing veterans at a daily rate. I also find it disturbing that I know more about sexual protection than the registered nurse the VA has hired to take care of me; this is the reality of the VA medical care system.