Saturday, March 30, 2013

This Might Hurt

I talk a lot of shit about religion, deal with it or hit your "STUMBLE" button. I also talk a lot about what my experiences in Iraq have done to shape my world-view. Sound extreme? Maybe, but you'd be very hard-pressed to leave such a situation alive and NOT be changed by it in some way (and if you haven't, then I seriously have to question your intellectual capability.) Sometimes this disturbs people, and I understand why. Warfare is not a realm that a lot of people understand or can even comprehend, but I'm going to talk about it anyway because I know there's no fucking way I'm the ONLY female Iraq Vet in the whole US who saw and experienced some really horrible things that need to be seriously discussed and addressed.

Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it an illegitimate matter or concern. You don't HAVE to understand, but if you sincerely want to then thanks for the effort and please keep reading. You don't HAVE to understand how our gun laws work to know that we have an issue with violence in our country, nor do you HAVE to understand how guns themselves actually work to know that restricting clip sizes or certain guns themselves won't do jack to stall the growing plague. 

About halfway through the deployment, I met someone. He was incredibly swift, intelligent to the point that he could talk your mind into spirals but you'd catch every little thing all the way round-and-round, but unlike most Warrant Officers I'd met before he was NOT an overbearing entitled jack-ass. Quite the opposite, in fact. He adhered to an ideal of compassion and morality that I have yet to see in any other military leader that I've met or worked with. He walked his talk even to his own detriment, which angered several of his "bosses" who just wanted him to go with whatever half-baked plan they had in mind.

He also had dirty-blonde hair, mischievous pale-colored eyes, and quietly boasted to be quite the cunning linguist. Yeah, you already know how far this went...

Nothing makes for a "Whirlwind Romance" quite like the ever-pervasive threat of a horrible death at any given moment, that and I'm a sucker for a perfect sunset.
Rank-difference and UCMJ rules aside, my husband knew the whole time and was perfectly okay with this. In fact, he had a lady-friend back home and heard no objections from me about it at all: She's actually a really cool person, once I got home 'good times' were had by all. Halfway across the planet and completely devoid of any of the familiar comforts of normal human life, who could blame ANYONE for seeking solace and warmth in another human being?

Then my squad-mates found out and not only figuratively crucified us both for it, but then relentlessly sought me out for their own... reasons. I guess they figured that if I was down with having consensual sex with another willing and healthy adult, then I owed it to them (as "their female Soldier") to oblige them after having been out there without any action for so long. I reported every single one of them who propositioned me, especially one who somehow got it in his head that my fall-from-grace was the only permission he needed to follow me places and call me names in front of my team: I'll call him "R" because he's a fucking Retarded Redneck whose Retrograded Reasoning Resembles 3rd Reich era Ridiculousness and was quite possibly also a Racist.

"R" never left me alone after that, he loved to ask me if I was carrying my lover's baby and what diseases he gave me (NO and NONE: I've never had an STD in my life and I have medical records to prove it.) He followed me and my roommate, whom I couldn't fucking stand any-way because everything was non-stop Jesus-banter from her, almost everywhere. He looked for excuses to come pounding on the door to our quarters to 'remind us' about any trivial little thing. The night my 'relationship' was discovered, "R" forced his way into my room and shoved me into a wall, he purposely smacked my head into it.

I myself reported him alone on at least five occasions in less than two weeks, my roommate had her head so high in the clouds I think she really was looking for angels. She told me I deserved it for making such a mistake, she was angry at me for him being a twat. Okay, sugar-plum, where you come from I guess victim-shaming in a social norm. Oh, you're from Georgia? Fucking figures. Despite "R" treating us both like crap, she regarded him like family and he could do no wrong as long as he was coming after my "heathen-ass" as well. After a while I had lost track of my complaints about "R" and his threatening behavior, even then not a single NCO or Officer in my unit did anything to stop him.

I broke the rules, I got into trouble and got my first (and only) Article 15. Fine, I fucked up, I get it. But since when is Sexual Harassment and Assault an acceptable means of punishment by the UCMJ?

If it were simply a matter of making a mistake, having my sentence carried out and being done with it then I might have just been able to accept the situation and move on with my life. But after everything went down the way it did, to this day I am convinced that my only real mistake was playing the same game as my male-counterparts and beating them at it: One of the very same team-mates bragged about having nailed a female "butter-bar" (a less than flattering term for an Army 2nd Lieutenant.) I even got asked out on a date by a Lieutenant Colonel at the coffee-stand in front of a number of other Soldiers, they could have cared less!

I looked my own C.O. in the face and told him EVERYTHING that had transpired since it began: About being forcibly pushed into a solid wooden wall, being called names and propositioned for sexual favors on a near constant basis, on one occasion another Soldier from a whole other unit on the FOB came to me asking me to "help him" because someone (gee, I wonder who) had told him that I was the lady to talk to about that sort of thing.

To this very day, to the best of my knowledge and inquiry, no action whatsoever was taken against "R" nor my negligent "leadership" for encouraging him.

What does yet another horror-story about sexual harassment and misconduct against women in the military have to do with religion? Good question. Because since day one of the deployment itself, I have had almost non-stop day-after-day verbal confrontations with fellow Soldiers about the fact that I didn't have the same imaginary friend many of them do. General Order Number One expressly forbids attempting to convert or in any way preaching to a local National any religion at all, yet some Soldiers still left Chick-Tracts in public places where Iraqis were likely to find them. I even came across one printed (from a computer) in Arabic!

For almost the entire time I was there, before AND after my dealings with my "boyfriend," I heard no end of my apparent short-comings and faults due to my inherent absence of belief in the christian god. Apparently I had no morals (even though I didn't lie) and I also had no respect for the rights of others around me (even when they kept me awake for almost four consecutive days by randomly beating on the door to my room and cat-calling me.) Obviously, faith in god lays some pretty convincing frame-work for social harmony and morality, eh boys?

It's perfectly acceptable to break the rules for a good cause, be it "spreading the Word" or getting laid. As long as you are, of course, a man.

Only one other person in the team stood up for me and dared call them out on their bullshit, they rewarded his bravery by shipping him away. This man I now regard as the brother I didn't have the privilege of growing up with. As for me, they read me the riot act: It was bad enough that an act of consensual sex (a concept the military has always had trouble understanding) brought "shame" upon me and the unit (but allowing a psychopath to hound and harass me to no end was just fine) but then I needed to be taught a lesson (that my vagina is Company property and I have no say over who gets to see it or if I even consent to it, gotcha boss-man...) all of this I HAD to understand.

After all, according to my supervising NCO who coerced the confession out of me by locking me in a room with a wild-eyed "R" and my other superiors...

"The UCMJ was modeled after the Bible."

Hey I never said I was a GOOD person, just an HONEST one. I'd rather live my life as "the Whore of Babylon" who at least had the balls to tell the truth about a difficult personal affair than as a deluded bully and fraud whose only goal in life was to wield as much power over others as they thought they could get away with.

Apparently the very same old book that tells followers that it's permissible to stone skeptics and sinners to death has been the driving force behind our armed forces and how they conduct themselves toward the enemy and each other, well hot piss! If THIS is honestly the case, then I'll have nothing further to do with either. If THIS is the standard of behavior for what is meant to be "modeled after the Bible," then our military has far bigger problems than anything that terrorists or North Korea could ever throw at us.

As a footnote I'd like to add that since all of this transpired in 2011, ONLY ONE Soldier had the decency to apologize to me for his behavior: it wasn't "R"

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