Camping, MST, Goose and the DoDo Bird

This weekend Brigid and I got to spend together doing her favorite thing in the world…CAMPING.  (okay – I’m lying about that…Brigid hates to camp!)

There is a very special place near where I live that is going to be a hunting/fishing/camping retreat open to Veterans and their families.  The buildings aren’t completed and the first Women Vets Campout was in tents…this one was in campers.  Someday it is going to be a wonderful place!

When I first heard of the idea I went to Chuck, the retired veteran who is putting all of this together, and told him, “Please, don’t forget the women!”  We got into a lengthy discussion about Military Sexual Trauma and the issues that female survivors have.  (you aren’t getting me out there with a bunch of men I don’t know.  band of brothers my ass!)  Next thing I knew we had a women vets campout scheduled!  This weekend we had our second one.

I can’t say I am thrilled about the turnout.  We had confirmed reservations for 18…4 of us showed up.  That’s okay, though.  That’s how it is with many women veterans.  I am awfully proud of Brigid that she made the drive down here…again!  She is getting really great at getting out and about.  I know how difficult it is and she deserves to be proud of herself.

Last year before the campout we went out to meet with Chuck and look over the site.  He had one of the men there named “Goose.”  Okay, Goose isn’t his real name but I can’t remember what his real name is.  Goose is a Vietnam Vet.  He walked over to me, shook my hand, and said..”So, I hear you got the PTSD?”  I had to smile at the way he put that, like PTSD is the flu that you can catch from not washing your hands before picking your nose.  I explained that I do have PTSD but not from combat.  His response was that it didn’t matter where or how I got it, I got it in the military and that was good enough for him.  Then he got kind of bubbly and asked, “Who’s your VA therapist?!”  We chatted about medications, bad dreams, therapists, psychiatrists and the VA claims process.  My husband made the statement, “When this whole claims process is over and she gets some justice I just hope she starts to get over it.”  Goose walked over to him, stuck his finger in his face and said, “Listen, don’t EVER get OVER IT!”  My husband learned a powerful lesson that day and I had an overwhelming urge to hug Goose!  (not usually a reaction I have around men I just met!)  Goose gave me a quick shoulder squeeze before we left, “Have a good one, little sister, and hang in there.”

I cried that night.  I am 41 years old.  The men and women who served during Vietnam are my heroes and they always have been.  (Combat, non-combat, stateside or in country – still heroes!)  My daddy was a Marine and served during the Missle Crisis.  He raised me with such a love of Country and of Her warriors that despite everything, I still love the military.  To be “embraced” by a hero…that was amazing.  To be accepted by him and to feel that “band of brothers” feeling that I haven’t had in so long was just too much to bear.  They were happy tears, they were bitter tears.  Hell, just writing about this has me tearing up!  Sometimes, I think he is an Angel…cause he really knew exactly what my heart needed.

This is what we all need, isn’t it?  To be embraced.  To be accepted.  To be valued as a being of worth.  To be part of that strange collective that is the warrior brotherhood.  To be able to say, “I was the victim of sexual abuse and I was the victim of physical abuse and I suffer because of that.  I suffer not only because of the assaults but I suffer because those doing the assaulting were supposed to be my brothers!”  I have PTSD!  I have the same PTSD as someone who was a POW or fought in combat.  I just don’t get to admit mine in public because to admit it in public means too many questions.  Questions I can’t answer because when you hear the answers and you freak out and turn away from me…you violate me all over again!  I know that people don’t mean to – if the situation were reversed I would be ‘freaking out’ myself if someone told me the same story that I lived.  That doesn’t make the pain any easier to bear and it sure doesn’t keep the shame from crawling across my body.

All in all it was a good weekend.  I just hope that next year we see even more people!  We have to reach out to one another!  We have to be accepting of one another!  We have to be our own little “band of brothers” because we sure don’t want to ‘invite’ anyone else into this club!  We don’t need any new survivors – but there are people becoming survivors every single day.

My dream is to be among the last generation of MST survivors.  I would hope that when my life is over that the very idea of Military Sexual Trauma is so repulsive to the military community that men and women sit around tables in chow hall and talk about Military Sexual Trauma like my generation talked about Agent Orange.  “Can you believe that there was once a time when soldiers sexually assaulted other soldiers?  That is shear craziness!”  I want the next generation of soldiers to talk about it like my kids talk about black and white television or 8-track tapes, “you mean that when you were a kid some of the televisions didn’t have color?!  You are kidding me!!!”  I want that next generation to be amazed because the idea is so foreign and that they themselves have never, ever seen anything like it!  Military Sexual Trauma…What’s that?!”  I want MST to be a DoDo Bird…extinct.

That is my hope and my dream.  But to make the dream a reality we need those who are strong enough to pull forward and carry the banner for those who don’t have the strength.  So to all of you who are carrying that banner I say ‘thank you.’ 




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3 Responses to “Camping, MST, Goose and the DoDo Bird”

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