Archive for the ‘The Invisible War’ Category

Trench Warfare

December 6, 2013

Hello, Friends.

It has been a while since I posted – I apologize for that. Life has been busy and I have been struggling. As you know – I was not hired for the Peer Support job. I have actually had three other interviews for other jobs in the system…three interviews – three rejection notices.

It wears on me. Even my boss is stunned – she can’t believe no one has “snatched me up.” She admits she dreads that day. What is really disturbing is when I find out that the person who got the job isn’t as qualified or doesn’t have the experience that I do.

I know in my heart it isn’t me – but let’s face it…the brain likes to tell me other things. The brain says, “You aren’t smart enough, you aren’t good enough, your just not anything enough.”

Then things happen like today. I had a visit with a special Veteran who reminded me that I changed his life. I made an impact – I did something special that no one else has ever done. It is moments like those that make me wonder that I am not “stuck” – I am blessed. Maybe I won’t move up until someone needs me. On the other hand, my husband reminded me that if I would just “not be so much of an advocate, if I would just be quiet, if I would not rock the boat.” maybe I would get promoted.

I have also been bummed that some of the Legislation we are working on has been trapped in committee because no one in Washington can seem to get their crap together on the other issues. Nope – no matter how hard certain people are trying…good MST legislation is stuck. It angers me…It makes me weep for those who are waiting.

It reminded me of trench warfare. I have spent time as both a field medic and a hospital medic. Being a hospital medic is awesome! Three squares a day, clean sheets, comfy rooms…no field gear to speak of. White dresses with white pantyhose and white shoes. No time away from family. Being a field medic is sort of lousy – even in peace time. Weeks in the field, cold MRE’s, shitty coffee – when you are lucky enough to get coffee! No sleep, hours of boredom followed by moments of sheer panic when you are called into action, followed by hours of boredom. Or worse – hours of useless training followed by hours of useless training. Dirty boots, dirty face, dirty clothes. If you are lucky you might get to rack out for an hour or two. If you are really lucky – you might even find space that is warm…or cool…depending on the climate.

The difference between the hospital and the trench is who reaches the wounded first. In trench warfare the only ones who can save the “wounded” are those who are in the trench with them – cold, muddy, dirty, tired. No matter what happens in the hospital – it is those on the line that are the ones that will make a difference.

I had a person in a local store the other day – a stranger to me – suffer a seizure. I just happened to be near the customer service desk when they paged it out. Being a small town – I offered to do what I could until the ambulance arrived. The man had cut his face in the fall, was no longer seizing but was very confused and agitated. I knelt beside him and talked to him, kept him still as the pool of blood got larger around us. They brought me gloves to put on and I wanted to put pressure on the wound but anything agitated him further. A woman, a nurse, arrived on the scene. She would not touch him and when she did – she made them get her a hand wipe. She refused the gloves and just slipped paper towel under him. She acted like she cared – but she wouldn’t touch him. There was blood. I held him until the ambulance arrived, amid the blood, and spoke softly to him. Wounded is wounded – either by blood or by spirit.

The trench is a hard place to be – you are constantly reminded of what has happened to you, what is happening to others and the things you cannot change. You know the enemy – you see the enemy – but you can’t touch them…they are in the wire and they practically mock you as you try to stop the bleeding.

I will stay in the trench – I will man the wire – I will hold the line. I will save as many as I can – no matter who I piss off in the process. Maybe I will spend the rest of my life, the rest of my career in the trench. It will be okay – I will be okay. Someone has to stop the bleeding, bind up the wound, minister to the heart and to the hurt.

There are many of us out here – we read one another’s blogs, we send messages and emails. We are the medics in the trenches. I am grateful for you – because you lift me up when I am in pain.

Peace,

Joan

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Really Inconvenient Truths!

September 25, 2012

Hello Friends,

I am so glad to see that Jay’s blog is up and running!   His words are so wise and so true and I wanted to expound on comments that I made there. 

In his latest post Jay talked about this difficulty that we Survivors encounter in the VA and the VBA.  How hard it is to open up to a service officer about what we have endured – how, too many times, we are treated like we did something wrong.

I believe that we make them uncomfortable…very uncomfortable.  You see, we are an in their face reality check!  In their heads they can make up any little fantasy world they desire.  They can say things like, he/she probably asked for it or it was just a false accusation.  Then they have to look at the evidence – the destroyed lives, the damaged bodies, the ruined careers (ours…of course…not the perpetrators!)  Now their little world is shattered – and they have to look at the facts.  The facts are, some soldiers rape…they harrass…they abuse their power and they get away with it.  When they get away with it – they WILL do it again.

We are the really inconvenient truth!  (A thousand pardons to Michael Moore for stealing his movie title)

People want to have these ideas about good soldiers who serve with honor and with courage.  They want these pictures in their heads about band of brothers and idealistic bull shit like that.  Yes – there are soldiers like that!  There are people in the military who will always try to make the right choice no matter what it costs them.  They are good people.  Unfortunately, there are really ugly people out there!

Ugly people, horrible people.   They rape for the power and for control.  If they were civilians they would still be rapists.  They would still be the power and control freak boss that you can’t stand to be around.  The military culture just allows them to go as far as they would like to go.

This weekend I had an opportunity to do some special  duty with some guys in my VSO.  We enjoy one another’s company and we enjoy flipping one another shit.  In fact – it is one of the things that we do best!!

I left that day laughing so hard I nearly wet myself.  I serve with some really terrific guys!  I’m that “annoying little sister” they all have to put up with…so to speak.  It creates that warm, fun and enjoyable feeling of brothers  and that was why I loved the Army.  I was still laughing when I drove home.

Then I started to cry.  I cried for everything that I had lost.  For everything that was taken from me.  There was a time when sitting around with my Army buddies flipping one another shit was the best part of any day.  I felt warm, I felt protected, I felt like I was part of a family.  Then I was “shunned” and everything was gone.  The “family” turned their backs on me.

People will ask, “how long does it take to get over this?”  This isn’t something that goes away.  You don’t expect an amputees arm or leg to grow back, do you?  No!  It is an injury, it is chronic and they learn to live with it…but they won’t wake up one morning and discover it is “All Better” and they have two good legs.  PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injuries) are the exact same way.  You don’t wake up one morning and all of the problems are gone.

In physical therapy an amputee can learn to live with his/her leg.  They can learn to live without an arm – how to tie shoelaces with one hand.  In Mental Health Therapy we can learn to live with PTSI – we can learn to get up in the morning, brush our little teeth and move out the door.  We can learn to deal with the nightmares, the flashbacks, the fear, the paranoia and the pain – but we can only tie that “shoelace” with half of ourselves – because the rest of ourselves was damaged or destroyed in that Invisible War we are Veterans of.  No one questions that in Combat PTSI – but they sure want us to get over the sexual assaults and harassment!  I don’t get that!

That is why we are a really inconvenient truth – we have been changed for life – we have been wounded for life.  We aren’t going to “get over it” and “move on.”  Sure – just like an amputee we can lead regular lives – but we will never just “get over it.”  That is what makes them uncomfortable.  You see – if we just “get over it” they can just forget about it.  That is what they want to do.  If we are in their faces – they can’t forget about us – and then they have to deal with us! 

And that – my friends – is a really inconvenient truth!

Peace

Joan

Spoils of War

August 20, 2012

What does that mean to you? How many times have you heard that term? Think about it. What three words ALWAYS proceed that statement?

RAPE AND PILLAGE

That was the reward for winning the battle. Take whatever you want of the enemy’s and rape as many women as you want. Make them slaves, kill them, it didn’t matter. They were just women anyway.

Some of the greatest military leaders of all times adhered to this. To reward the soldiers for doing a good job. Napoleon, Ceasar, Alexander the Great, Ghengis Kahn, the list goes on and on and on.

What about the Vikings? Do you know what Viking means? To go a-viking means simply to go and rape and pillage, and decimate the opponent.

Oh, let us not forget about our own history here. The Civil War. Didn’t matter which side you were on, but if you were lucky enough to march up to a nice plantation, or a farm house of nothing but women, chances of at least one of those women being raped was pretty high.

World War II, Korea, Vietnam. Yes, our soldiers did a lot of raping in those wars. Lots of raping. And it wasn’t always raping the enemy. They were raping the male soldiers back then, and what about the female staff of nurses?

Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom. These last two wars changed everything. Now our soldiers stop raping the enemy, and started raping ONLY their fellow soldiers. Men and women being raped by the people supposed to cover them in the fox hole, or to be their backup, raping them.

During The Invisible War, there was a statistic that made me almost vomit on the spot. They say a sexual predator in the military will go on to assault/abuse 300+ soldiers.

300+ soldiers. And there is no sex offender registry for them, unless they are actually convicted AND spend more than a year in prison. And that is rare. It is about 1% of all REPORTED military rape cases that actually result in a conviction with jail time, and only a FEW of them are for over a year.

After the film was over, a gentleman in the audience said none of this went on while he was serving. Joan’s husband was beside me and said, “Oh yes it did, you just didn’t notice.”

Last week was the anniversary of the first female Marine. Pvt. Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve Aug. 13, 1918. But rape in the military started even before then. The Revolutionary War, women like Florence Nightingale and others who tended to the wounds of the soldiers, many were raped by the soldiers.

All of these examples caused my boyfriend to say, “That’s why women just don’t belong in the military!” I don’t know why I allowed him to keep his manhood after that, or why I didn’t lay him out flat. But we should feel sorry for dumb animals and men. That is NOT why women should serve. Women have EVERY right to serve. We also have the RIGHT to NOT be assaulted/raped/harassed/abused.

But how are we going to stop it, when the whole basis of the military since time began was rape and pillage?????

Pray for change

Brigid

Fundamental Culture Shift

August 16, 2012

Hello, Friends.

Well – everyone is talking about The Invisible War and I can’t be happier about that!  In the past I have talked about solutions to the problem.  I would like to say that this is “easy” to fix – but anyone who has served in the military knows that change comes slowly.  In fact, when I went to basic training in the 80’s…my mess kit was manufactured in the 1940’s!  No, change doesn’t come swiftly.

The unfortunate reality is that we need to have a fundamental shift in culture – not just in the military, either.  I have a daughter and it terrifies me…the things I see on TV and in music.  The books she reads.  The internet she has access to.  The way that women are portrayed and talked about.  I am no longer her “mother” – her primary female influences (mothers) are people like Katy Perry, Bella from Twilight and Snooki from Jersey Shore.  They are the one’s that tell her what a woman should be like.  Even if I restricted all access to these things, it would do no good, because her peers and her teachers get to spend more time with her than I do.  All you can do is mitigate the damage to the best of your ability – try to teach her that she doesn’t have to look like a $5.00 hooker to be beautiful.  Teach her that her value is in being an amazing person on the inside – not worried about wearing the right eye shadow.

It was the same for me as a teenager.  I zoned out when my mother tried to teach me to cook and sew and how to mop the floor in pearls and high heels.  I despised her “how to make your husband happy” lectures about dinner and housework and such.  Of course, she was a stay-at-home mom who put dinner on the table at 4:30 pm and ran Daddy hot baths.  She was a typical 50’s mom -even though it was the 70’s!  She wasn’t wrong – she was just a product of her culture.

The Invisible War points out that Company Commanders don’t want to contact their Battalion Commander to tell them that there has been an “incident.”  That sexual assault is viewed as a “failure of command.”  The film is right – that is exactly how it is viewed.  When “bad” things happen – no Commander wants that on their record.  The current culture says that good leaders don’t allow anything inappropriate to happen.  Unfortunately, this keeps the Commander from actually doing anything – let alone the right thing!  Company Commanders cannot control everything that happens within their units – neither can senior NCO’s.  The consequence of this “keep it in the company” mentality is that the Predator can Prey again!

We have to change the culture that surrounds rape.  The culture that accuses the victim and creates silence through shame.  The culture that says – “If you weren’t in the military – you wouldn’t have gotten raped.  What do you women expect?”  We have to change the culture that allows women to be viewed as second class citizens.

Change comes slowly – but if we don’t get “change” into the fast lane – our Nation will pay a hard price.  The only way to do this is to speak out – talk to everyone you can – make them understand.  If we don’t then we will be allowing the same repeating pattern of violence and hatred.  And that is unacceptable!

Peace,

Joan

 

Welcome New Readers

August 10, 2012

Hello, Friends!

I have been so excited to see our numbers climb as a result of the article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.  We have had two pretty big days! 

For that reason, and because I know you will start at the top of the blog, I wanted to take a moment to say, “Welcome.”  I also wanted to familiarize you with what you are about to delve into.

Some of this blog is about Brigid and I sharing our stories.  Some of this blog is nothing but pure therapy and some of this blog is blind rant or blind faith.  However you, the reader, wants to see it.  Sometimes we write very thought out and composed posts, other times we just encourage on another and sometimes we (especially me) write from a place of deep anger, frustration and passion.  Those posts don’t make the most sense  – looking back on them – but they are part of the healing process.

Healing is never a straight line event – it is always a long and winding road.  That’s okay, don’t they say that half of the fun is getting there?

If you are out there and you are a survivor we want to be here for you in whatever capacity you need.  Most of us, who are survivors, feel a deep lack of trust.  It takes a very, very long time to feel enough confidence in another person to know that they aren’t going to hurt you.  For example, after our article appeared in the Gazette, I asked Brigid…”Do you still love me?”  I think you know her answer – but I feel as though I pulled her into something that we weren’t necessarily ready for.  Even after 16 years – my biggest fear is losing her in my life – especially because she could possibly feel that I would betray her in any way.  No…wait…let me correct that – my biggest fear is betraying her – my second biggest fear would be losing her!

I want to encourage you to feel free to make comments, ask questions, just post and say “hi!”  This blog may have begun as therapy – but the goal has now become education, support and understanding.  In my other life, I hear a lot of really crazy questions.  I got one just the other day asking, “what statistics exist that show how much rape was in the military before it went co-ed?”  It was a good question and I am glad it was asked.  I had a fellow male Veteran  say to me; “What do women expect?  They join the military, you put boys and girls together, they are going to have sex!”  Wow!!  And I have a lot of respect for this guy…I even like the guy…but he is just clueless!  So, maybe you are reading this and you have these types of questions.  ASK THEM!  It is okay to ask questions!  Questions are not hurtful…but Ignorance is!

Finally, as you read along you are about to get a rare glimpse into a very exclusive club.  It’s a club that we didn’t even know existed – until we became members.  It’s a club we never, ever wanted to join…the Club of Military Sexual Trauma Survivors.  Please, use what you learn to help others. 

And remember…Brigid and I are both crazy…and the VA finally gave us the paperwork to prove it!!  🙂  (Sorry – private, club member only jokes!!)

Peace and Love,

Joan

The Best Revenge

August 9, 2012

Hello All,

The Prodigal Brigid has returned, at least for today. I am sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I can’t begin to tell you all the things I have gone through since I last wrote. I got very, very sick, and almost died. It has taken me a several months to recuperate. But being the fighter that I am, I am still here. My daughter tells me I just refuse to die, and I hope she is right. In the middle of my illness, we welcomed my beautiful grandchild into the world. I have been stealing her almost every weekend, so my time is very limited these days. Enough of the excuses, time to get down to business.

I finally did get my decision from the VA for my Comp & Pen. I got a whopping 30% service connected disability for PTSD. They didn’t want to give me even that much, because they said I was too happy. But they had to, because it is the minimum they can give for PTSD stemming from MST. And it didn’t help my case that I am not an alcoholic. Too Happy. Let that sink in a little. I have severe anxiety attacks, have extreme startled responses. I deadbolt my door every time I come home, and check it constantly through the night, to make sure it is locked. But I am too happy. It took me reaching out to my congressman several times to finally get my paperwork going. So now I get $392 a month in compensation. I swear, I feel like a cheap $5 whore, except I don’t get even that much. But it isn’t about the money, and it never was. Having CID admit that I really was raped in Ft Gordon was probably the best thing that came out of this. That they actually admitted it. The only negative thing in my plethora of pages of the decision was that I was too happy. Wish I actually was too happy. But I have always said the best revenge is living well. And the entire time I was a soldier, I had a mantra. NEVER LET THE BASTARDS WIN. So I refused to let my chain of command see that they were winning the war against me. I learned to paste that fake smile on my face and pretend they were not getting to me. Guess I got too good at it.

On to current news. Joan and I were on the front page of the newspaper today, and even though we were photographed so we wouldn’t be recognized, a couple of people still knew it was me. I can’t tell you how scary that is. We did the interview, to try to bring in awareness for the film we are showing tomorrow night in Iowa City. I thought we would just be a fluff piece in the entertainment section. I can’t repeat the slew of profanity when Joan called and said we would be on the front page. Can you say PANIC ATTACK with me? All of the responses have been positive, however, and we are hoping the message encourages more to come forward, seek help and compensation, and become survivors instead of victims like Joan and I have done.

Speaking of Joan, can I tell you what a wonderful woman she is? She is relentless, getting donations to have the film brought here. Her goal is to have every community see The Invisible War. It is amazing how quickly this is taking off. So it was worth it to be in the paper. To bring this issue to the front, and maybe not only help others find the courage to come forward, but to possibly effect a change in the military.

Joan, I have to tell you that you are such an amazing woman. You have done so much. How did I ever get so lucky to have you for my bestest friend in the whole wide world?

I told Joan that I believe the article has done more for the cause than the failed lawsuit Burke Law attempted. And don’t get me started on Burke Law PLLC. I don’t have anything nice to say about them, but I could run on for days on the cold hard Brigid-like truth about them. I will only say that someone really needs to take a stupid stick to them and beat some common sense and sensitivity into them.

I will stop here, and try to write more often. If you get a chance, please see The Invisible War. Spread the word. One voice in a storm usually goes unheard, but when you had several voices, it gets much harder to ignore.

Stay Strong,

Brigid

One for All – All for One

July 12, 2012

Hello, Friends,

I haven’t had much time lately – I have been working on a really big project!  We are bringing the documentary, The Invisible War, to our Community.  It has been very exciting – but it has also been very scary.  I have had to present to Community Leaders, talk about Rape in the Military and think with my head and not my heart.

It has been empowering in some ways.  Yesterday, I worked up the nerve and walked into an Armed Forces Recruiting Center.  The only guys in the office were Army.  I gave them all of the information and invited them to the event.  “Come in your uniform, after all, you don’t condone this behavior…do you?”  Yeah – they looked like a couple of deer in the headlights of a very large semi-truck!  Funny thing is – they were both out of town that day.  Convienent.

This event has made me question if I could do more if I “came out” as a survivor.  Is the voice of Joan enough?  Do they need to see my real face, know my real name.  I don’t know.  What do I have to lose?

My husband barked at me last night because I was out at an event until almost 10:30.  He said that he understands what I am doing – but he doesn’t exactly get “why.”  He is worried that I am just drudging up old stuff that happened a really long time ago.  He is worried that it will make me sick.

“Why.”  Well, that is a loaded question!  I guess the only real answer is The Three Muskateers motto – All for One and One for All.  If all of this work and all of the strain and all of the feelings to bring this film to my area cause just one person to seek help.  If it can change the life of just one person – then it will be worth it.  All for that One.  Maybe – just maybe – that one becomes two and two becomes four and four becomes eight.  Then we ALL come together to bring change.

It sounds incredibly moral and selfless – but in some ways it is really selfish on my part.  In some ways I guess that I want this to mean something.  I want my life and my experiences to mean something.  Surely, I didn’t live through this for nothing.  If it is all for nothing – then the bastards win.  That is unacceptable.

The Motions – Matthew West

This might hurt, It’s not safe but I know I’ve got to make a change.

I don’t care if I break, at least I’ll be feeling something

Cause just okay’s not enough, help me fight through the nothingness of life…

I don’t want to go through the motions

I don’t want to go one more day,

without your all consuming passion

living inside of me.

I don’t want to spend my whole life asking

What if I had given everything?

Instead of going through the motions.

That song haunts me.  What if I gave everything?  It haunts me because I am not sure that I am strong enough to do that.  I’m not sure that I have the faith it takes.  I’m not sure my heart could handle the rejection and the ridicule. 

What if I gave everything.

Peace,

Joan

Apple Bins

June 26, 2012

Hello, Friends,

With all of the talk in the media about The Invisible War – I feel compelled to say this…”It only takes 1 rotten apple to spoil the whole bin.”  In other words, not every man that I served with was a piece of shit!  I sometimes feel as though I am saying that every man in the military is a rapist – and that just isn’t true.  So, I thought I would share some of the good times – great times – with you.

To my Drill SGT’s…You spoiled me rotten!  I can never think of you and not smile.  You taught me the greatest lessons in leadership and service and when faced with a tough decision…I still ask myself, “What would DS-K or R do?”  You didn’t talk to us about leadership, you showed us, through your words, actions and deeds.  I hope I made you proud.

To the Infantry, Engineers and all the other Combat units I supported:  Thanks for your friendship!  I will never forget the first time one of you yelled, “Thanks, Doc!”  That meant the world to me.  Every medic knows that “Doc” is a term of affection reserved for the medics that have earned your respect.  Thank you for letting me be, “Just one of the guys.”

To Top and LT and the CO at A Co.:  Thanks for teaching me to be a soldier.  Top – thanks for running beside me and never letting me quit.  LT…thanks for the great times and for teaching me that Loyalty comes from the Top – Down…before it comes from the Bottom-Up.  CO – thanks for your guidance and for caring about me as a soldier.

To the Majors in 2001:  What a time we had!  Serving with you in that year for that special event was one of the best times in my whole life!  Your dedication to your troops is an inspiration.  The faith you put in me was humbling and I hope I lived up to the standards you set for me.  I still read that citation your wrote and laugh out loud.  I got rid of a lot of stuff when I left the military – but that citation, the medal and the T-Shirt…I kept!

To Supply Guy, Ready Man and JK – I really miss serving with you three nut jobs!  We had so much fun and so many wild times together in the office.  I loved the “staff meetings” around the picnic table when all rank came off and really great ideas came to life.  Thank you for being my friends through thick and thin.  Ready Man – thank you for risking your career to procure necessary documents for me.  Supply Guy – thank you for your conspiring with me to drive the boss crazy!

I could go on and on…but most of it doesn’t make sense to anyone who wasn’t there.  The important point is that not every guy in the Military is a pig.  I think I feel bad for the good guys most of all.  They are getting painted with the same lousy paintbrush.  Thrown into the cider mill with the “bad apples” in their bins. 

It’s too bad, really.  Many of those men have served honorably and some have given their lives for their country.  Now – the “military hating media” is going to call them rapists – just like they called the men of Vietnam “babykillers.”  I hope that this small post lets people know that not every soldier is a SGT Jerk or a Clarence.

Peace,

Joan