It Was All My Fault

When I was 19, I had my Annual Training in Camp Dodge. We were going throw the final 3 weeks of training to learn how to operate the newest radio equipment, which we were the first unit in Iowa to get. I had been in classes for the last year, and now we were finally going to be training on the actual real equipment, instead of just learning about if from shared manuals.

The new MSE equipment came from Fort Hood, Texas, and had been brought to Iowa in these new military vehicles, called a HUMVEE. We had never seen such strange looking vehicles before. As it turned out, it was those HUMVEEs that were going to hold all of our equipment from now on, so we had to learn how to drive the darn things, something I was not looking forward to.

It was on the 4th or 5th day of training, when I woke up with a sore on my ankle. I saw that I had a bite mark, but I didn’t think nothing much of it at the time. But then throughout the day, it became much harder to walk, and I started feeling weird. After supper that night, I told some of my friends about it. They convinced me to take off my boot, and my whole left leg was swollen, and you couldn’t see my ankle. A friend got one of the drivers to take me to the VA. I threw up out the window on the way to Des Moines.

When we got to the VA, and all the Indian doctor wanted to do was grab my breasts, and squeeze and rub them repeatedly. I told him that the pain was in my foot, not my boobs, and maybe he should get his hands off my chest, and look at my leg. He looked at my leg then, and decided that I had been bitten by some kind of spider. He thought it was a brown recluse, which was really bad, since their bites cause the tissue to rot. He said I was in shock, and had the creature bit me any higher up on my leg, I would have already been dead.

I was given codine and crutches, and instructed to stay off my feet for an unknown amount of time. That meant I couldn’t go to training. The only time for the next two weeks I was allowed out of bed was to go to chow or to the bathroom. My whole left leg continued to swell for days, and soon my knee was the size of a softball. George discovered what it was that bit me. It seems the trucks from Texas had some stow-aways. They found numerous black widows in the wheel wells, and since it was a hot summer, they were able to survive in Iowa. At least it wasn’t a brown recluse.

 So, because I was bitten in my sleep in the middle of the night by a black widow, my unit cadre decided that it was my fault. They said it was my fault that I got bit in the ankle, in my barracks in my sleep. They said I should have worn socks to bed. I pointed out that it was JULY, hello, and hot as hell. They said it wouldn’t have happened if I had protected my ankle, so it was my fault. I pointed out that no one knew about the black widows until after I was bit, and the doctor had stated I would have died if I had been bitten higher up. They didn’t care. They kept telling me that they were going to take my rank, and I just got madder. I asked the if they thought I sat awake in my bed that night, and saw the black widow crawling on my bed, and said, “Bite me bitch!” just so I could get out of training? I was facing an article 14. Seriously. They wanted to make an example of me.

They were mad because I was missing the training; I finally was released from the crutches, and allowed to return to training after almost 10 days. Then they got even madder because I picked up everything that I missed during my first day back. That made the GTE instructors mad as well, because they were paid millions to train us, and if I could learn everything they had to teach us in less then a week, then the military would realize that we didn’t need 3 weeks of training after all

So, my commander was pissed at me, the instructors were pissed at me, and they all decided that I would not be allowed to qualify on the new equipment. This caused many of my fellow classmates to get mad, and try to rally on my behalf, which only pissed my commander off even more. But then the woman who slept in the bed beside me got bitten as well. She was a sergeant, and was higher ranking. If they were going to press charges against me, then they had to on her, and they didn’t want to do that. So they finally dropped that part of the harassment.

Then they started rumors that I was in the recreation building getting drunk, under age, when I was restricted to bed. They said they were going to press charges on me for that as well. But everyone knew I was in my bed, but they had certain people they convinced to lie and say I was there. I started getting more and more defiant, and mouthy. I went on a hunger strike for a few days. That only fueled their fire. But I had too many people to back me up, so they had to drop that as well, which they never forgave me for.

So, the last night of AT, I was sick and tired of hearing how I was going to be disciplined for rumors of me drinking in the Rec Hall. So, I figured if I was going to get in serious trouble for something I didn’t do, I was going to make darn sure I actually did it. I got falling down, silly drunk. I wound up getting the Article 14 after all, but my commander told me that he knew I hadn’t drank up until the last night of AT. I asked then why was the Chaplin visiting me, and telling me I was in trouble, and so was everyone else. He said he didn’t know.

I thought I had the last laugh. He had to shred my Article 14 before the ink dried on it, because I transferred to a different unit. The unit I was transferred into became my punishment for the next 10 plus years.



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