28 years


Hello, Friends.

I was chatting with a fellow Veteran today and it brought up so many memories. I just feel like I have to ramble for a while – so please forgive me.

On December 16, 1985 I joined the military. I started out in the Guard before going Active Duty. It has been 28 years…somehow I can’t believe it.

A few months ago my Dad made me a copy of my basic training picture and said – “put this up for the Vets to see at work…they will get a kick out of it.” Most people don’t even realize it is me! I was 17 1/2 years old – not even out of high school yet. I was only two or three weeks into basic training but I felt like a soldier. I remember trying to look stern and professional in my photo and my Drill SGT made me giggle. Just as I was done the photographer snapped the picture. Yup – I am smiling in my basic training picture – the picture says…I’m going to kill all the bad guys…right after I quit laughing.

I look into that little girl’s eyes and I wonder what she would say if she could have seen the future. I loved the Army…loved it with every fiber of my being. Basic training was so much fun! Yes, fun!! I was a good soldier being trained by great leaders. (I have said before that my Drill SGT’s were awesome!) I felt that for the first time I fit – right where I was. I wasn’t different than everyone else. I learned quickly and I was incredibly happy – really happy for the first time in my life. My eyes in the picture reflect that – I have this far off dreamy look of all of the great things I can do now that I am becoming a soldier.

I guess I was raised in a different world by a different set of rules. I cut my teeth on John Wayne movies and on Memorial Day parades and 4th of July baseball games. I believed that soldiers were honorable people – that to be a good soldier I had to live and serve with honor. When that picture was taken my biggest fear was that I might let my Daddy down and not be a great soldier.

We had a LT in Basic that was out on a field training mission with us – a road march – and he asked me to go lower the crossing gate. I didn’t completely hear his instructions and I pushed the button too soon to lower the road gate. Everyone in the platoon started to run to cross the road and I will never forget what he said to me. He said, “PVT – you just made a lot of good soldiers run by not following instructions.” I learned that lesson well – I don’t know if he knew how bad those words hurt. They were meant to hurt and I deserved it…I failed to clarify the instructions and so I made a mistake that cost my platoon. I got the fact that it could apply later on – “fail to clarify and good soldiers die.”

I think in some ways I learned that lesson too well. As a “good” leader the LT taught me an important lesson – but it made me a target for the evil men that were waiting down the road.

I still struggle with that…good and evil. Staying silent to protect those that I don’t want to see hurt. My Daddy is one of them. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to tell my parents what happened to me – so that I could work more in the open – but I just haven’t been able to do it. My Mother will only blame my Daddy – my Daddy will blame himself.

The only people to blame are those that choose evil! The perpetrators and the rapists and the leadership that protects them. I guess that this is why I continue doing this blog in private: “Names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

I miss the Army some days. October 31, 2003 was my last day in uniform – so it was ten years ago that I took off that uniform for the last time. It is still in the rubbermaid container, rank on it…pen in the pocket…sleeves are still rolled. There is still deodorant marks inside the T-Shirt. I didn’t wash it – I just packed it.

That conversation today with the fellow Vet, fellow Medic, made me remember how much I loved my job and how much I hate the fact that it was taken from me. Now that my children are grown and gone I sometimes have this overwhelming desire to try to reenlist – go serve overseas – do what I wasn’t able to do. It sounds like I am bragging – but I am not meaning to – but I was one hell of a Medic! I have the certificates and the awards to prove it. I was a good NCO too! Not great and there is always more to learn – but I really, really cared about my soldiers. I never asked them to do anything I wouldn’t do and most of the time I was doing it with them. Didn’t matter if it was cleaning toilets or mopping floors or PMCS on a vehicle. I tried hard to know them, to keep my promises, to treat them with kindness and respect – I made sure I never sugar coat the suck factor..if the job was going to suck…I told them it was going to suck. I miss them – I also feel like I abandoned them…because without me to target – SGT Jerk would go looking for a new patsy. Last I heard is that he is retired now. That is good news – I no longer worry about what female he is going after.

10 years later I still wonder if I did the right thing, filing charges, making the complaint. If I had kept my silence I would have been retired by now – at least a National Guard retirement. I didn’t gain anything…in fact, in many ways the other females in my company lost…SGT Jerk became 1SG Jerk before his career ended. All I did was clear myself out of his way – just like many other female NCO’s before me.

Now I feel like I am in a whole other fight here at the VA…a fight for females and MST survivors to have equal care in the form of Peer Support. I spoke with the head of our Union today, because I have been passed over for two more jobs. I asked him – “Am I being punished for pushing the female Veterans issues?” He didn’t think that I was being black-balled – but it is hard to tell who to trust around this place. I had someone make a joke to me that I wasn’t getting promoted because I wasn’t “sleeping with the right people.” Then they proceeded to tell me how it is public knowledge that more than one woman has been promoted by that method. My skin crawled…it simply crawled. I nearly had to run off and throw up. (The women being referenced were non-military)

Some days I get tired of the fight. However, this year is almost over and I will be glad of it. Well – that is enough of my random rambling for you today – before I exhaust you with the senseless!

Blessings,

Joan

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