Thursday, November 21, 2013

So Yeah...

I may have just bitten off more than I can chew, but I think on some level I needed to do this. I've been keeping an eye on the progress being made with (hopefully) passing the Military Justice Improvement Act, being led by New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand. While it makes my quite happy to see that SOMETHING is finally being done about the plague of harassment & rape withing the military ranks, it pains me inside that no one put forth this effort to protect ME when I needed it most. So, events being what they are, I decided to send an email to the good Madam Senator regarding my circumstances: For good or ill, hopefully for good, I sent her THIS MESSAGE just about five minutes ago... 

My stomach is fluttering, has been since I hit the SEND button.

"Dear Madam Senator,

My name is Jenifer Chadbourne (my friends call me Jen)  and I'm an Iraqi Freedom Veteran. I've been carefully watching the unfolding progress regarding the Military Justice Improvement Act throughout the year, I ETSed out of the Army just this Summer actually, it's hard to believe at time that it had the problem had to escalate this badly for some serious action to finally be taken.

While I'm thrilled beyond words that the MJIA is within grasp, this progress came far too late for me. When I was deployed in 2010-2011 I wasn't regarded by my unit as an actual Soldier, just a walking pussy with an M-16. Life was terribly lonely, but I did my job.

Granted, and I may as well be honest with you here, I DID commit one UCMJ violation: Fraternizing. One man who treated me like a human being, but still outranked me rather significantly (a CW2 from Utah) but what followed after we were discovered was grossly inappropriate and I would call it "dehumanizing."

A squad-mate from my unit forced his way into my living quarters that night, grabbed my shirt-collar and shoved me into a wooden cabinet, then as soon as I got back up on my feet he rushed straight at me. Right then at that very second, my NCO walked past the open door and demanded to know what was going on: I've spoken to chaplains, psychiatrists, even lawyers (military and civilian) about that event, they seem to agree that had that NCO NOT come by when he did, that squad-mate was likely about to horribly assault me.

For months after those events, even well after I got home from Iraq, I was relentlessly cat-called and harassed by my own fellow Soldiers. I complained of the behavior repeatedly but they insisted that not only should I have anticipated this due to my transgression but to "just be flexible" and endure it. To this very day, to the best of my own knowledge and inquiry, not a single one of them were ever held accountable for these events.

Fine, I made a foolish mistake and I got a slap-on-the-wrist for it, much lighter than what it could have been, but that's not the point nor the problem: Were this simply a matter of being punished for a mistake I made, I'd have been able to face the consequences like any other adult, accept them, and have moved on with my life a long time ago.

I even looked my own Commanding Officer right in the eyes and told him EVERYTHING that had happened, and again, to the best of my knowledge, he never addressed or disciplined any of them for harassing me nor for shoving me into wooden furniture (which was quite unpleasant and painful, might I add)

Is THIS how the Army disciplines female Soldiers who stray from their path? By physically assaulting and berating them in such extreme capacities? The name-calling and inquiries about me supposedly "carrying the Chief's baby" (I can't have children, I had an IUD implanted in 2008) were so frequent and so disgusting that I took to hoarding my roommate's painkillers and considered swallowing as many as 12 at once: I think you can gather to what effect, I was that desperate.

OF COURSE I didn't tell anyone I was feeling so beaten, they obviously wouldn't listen to me so what good would it have done? Even after I got home from the deployment I went to as many NCOs and civillian resources as I could, but they all told me the same thing: You messed up, you should have anticipated being treated this way. Only recently, now that I'm no longer in the Army, have I really opened up about this publicly, I can't bear the thought of any other Soldier, male or female, being "punished" for ANYTHING in the same way that I was.

Madam Senator, while I have every bit of confidence that the MJIA will do a world of good for our service-members who need it most, there is till MUCH WORK to be done to change the culture and mind-sets of those who think this manner of behavior is in ANY WAY okay. When it's perfectly acceptable in their eyes to brutalize someone wearing the same uniform you are, regardless of how trivial their infractions, we have a much deeper rooted problem than just the act itself. 

If someone has to break the rules to punish someone else for breaking those same rules, that's a very clear indicator that they shouldn't be in a command position.

Madame Senator, maybe my story isn't anything terribly special to some, but this has affected me much to my own detriment even today. If I can do ANYTHING, within the realm of the law, to stop this from happening to anyone else, please point me in the right direction so that I can help them.

The Army may not WANT their female Soldiers, but now more than ever they NEED them whether they like the idea or not.

Please tell me what, if anything, I can do to help anyone in the same circumstances I've been through. 

In any case, I'd like to thank you for at least taking the time out of your busy schedule to hear me. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how the MJIA hearings proceed and develop. 


I don't know if men in suits are going to show up at my door, or maybe nothing will happen at all, but still: I've never written a US Senator before in my life, about ANYTHING.

There was a hearing about the MJIA in the Senate yesterday, I watched as much of it as my poor old laptop could handle on C-SPAN's website (sadly, it wasn't much) but I'm keeping my figurative fingers crossed for further progress.

It should not have come to this, Commanding Officers should just do the right thing and do their damn jobs, but obviously there are some that just don't give a shit. It's time for that to stop.

And if I can help, I'll be more than happy to.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts on Veterans' Day

I really don't want to sound ungrateful, but sometimes when people say "Thank you for your service" I cringe. I don't regret joining the Army in 2009, life in the military forged and tempered me. Iraq was a shit-hole, and as hard as it may seem to believe there really were some very good times and really amazing people there. I met my best friend, Ian, downrange. He was like my brother, we always had each-other's back no matter what happened, even long after we got home. Life in the Army, deployed or at home, changed a lot of my perceptions about people: How we behave toward each-other as Soldiers as well as civilians, trained responses to danger versus panic-response, it really is a whole other realm of experience that a lot of people don't understand because they haven't been there. 

Then one day I had my Transition Leave form signed, drove to the top of Reservoir Hill, mooned all of Fort Huachuca and never looked back. 
In case you thought I was lying

As badly as I want to give shout-outs to all of my Army Buddies and people who were always there for me, and believe you me I DO, the whole of my four years in the service has been poisoned by the unforgivable actions (more importantly, a lack of action regarding a specific incident) of a small group of people of whom I had the great misfortune of being left in their hands. Yes, I'm talking about THIS and THIS because this shit is STILL HAPPENING to our men & women in uniform on a daily basis and no one seems to give a shit.

I want to enjoy today on my own terms, I really honestly do. I plan on staying home, I never really liked chain restaurants all that much, I'm not in any financial position to go on a shopping spree and fire-works sometimes freak me out: I always wondered who thought it was a good idea to reward our combat hardened returning troops with loud fiery explosions in the sky, yeah that sounds like something they'd REALLY APPRECIATE. 

Four years isn't a whole lot of time, arguably, I had every intention (at first) of staying in long enough to eventually become an NCO or even an Officer if I could make the age cut-off for the Green to Gold program. I was even giving strong consideration, once the combat ban was officially lifted, to signing up for a combat MOS. But then after a squad-mate forced himself into my room and (I'm 99.9% positive) attempted to rape me, then my entire chain of command proceeded to ignore my repeated complaints of him harassing and stalking me, all in silent accordance with punishment for a UCMJ infraction... it's very difficult, I would say nigh impossible, to re-stoke any fire of enthusiasm or motivation to remain within a system that clearly doesn't value my effort, dedication, or even my very life.

Much to the contrary of anything your recruiter may be telling you, they do not give a shit about you: I repeat, THEY DO NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU.

There is nothing noble or patriotic in picking up a gun and not asking any questions, any sociopath that can bang out a few push-ups can do this. Silencing of dissent doesn't do us any favors, either: There will always be whiners and complainers out there, and part of any respectable NCO or Officer's job is winnowing out the nonsense from the legitimate and addressing BOTH OF THOSE. We have a serious problem with sanctioning violence and maltreatment against our own, and the even bigger problem is that no one wants to fix this because they actually prefer it exactly the way it is.

The military isn't trying to purge the plague of rapists from their ranks because they WANT TO, believe you me: They're only proudly donning a polished affectation of drive and concern because there's only one thing our military truly fears, more-so than terrorists or North Korean nukes, and that's bad press. Under the patches and the ribbons they're perfectly fine with letting service-members "punish" each-other in the most vile ways conceivable, the only reason they're making a public stink about it now is because they finally realize that it's making them look like shit and no decent human being wants to come play with them in the Big Sand-Box.

Why does an institution of our government that pretty much does whatever the fuck it wants anyway suddenly NOW give a flying-lizard-clit about what the American public thinks? Because no one wants to sign up for a cause that silently condones brutality against their own behind closed doors and upon deaf ears. Technically, a Soldier doesn't even have the right to defend him/herself against an attacker according to Article 128 of the UCMJ (in many situations) They didn't tell you THAT, did they? If someone bursts into your room and puts their hands on you, you might not be allowed BY LAW to defend yourself. 

So yes, there were some good times and some good people. I loved many of them like family, I'd have taken a bullet for them. All of that camaraderie and "unit cohesion" has been pissed on because instead of simply leaving me to a slap-on-the-wrist Article 15 (I'll never understand our military's inability to grasp the concept of two consenting adults, albeit of different ranks, being together as abhorrent yet somehow THAT warrants a squad-mate's grossly inappropriate behavior as acceptable punishment for said infraction...) my Chain of Command basically told me, though not directly in words, that even if "R" DIDN'T blunder his attempt I would have deserved whatever he would have done to me.

Last I heard, but have not been able to confirm, my former Commanding Officer and his wife now have a daughter: If so, what would she think of my story when I get a chance to tell it to her?

Despite what many close to me might tell you, I AM quite capable of forgiving people and moving on from transgressions. I have a personal rule when it comes to forgiving people for their mistakes: I am not in any way obligated, in ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, to forgive someone who has made no attempt to apologize or explain themselves or their actions. Go ahead and pray to your imaginary friend for salvation, throw your "sins" upon them to your hearts' content, so far ONLY ONE SOLDIER has apologized to me personally for his poor behavior and it wasn't "R" himself nor any of our superiors. So beg forgiveness from your so-called "god" if it makes you feel better about yourself for being such a shit-person, but do this knowing full well that you never had the testicular fortitude to come to ME and beg for MY forgiveness (with the obvious exception of that one Soldier previously mentioned.)

And until you do, maybe even AFTER the fact, I promise you that I will spend the rest of my life ensuring that I am heard, acknowledged and understood: I don't care if telling the whole world what you bastards did rides upon my very dying breath, you will not silence me. I don't care if I have to suck off the Anti-Christ himself to do it, either.

When the game is so obviously and grossly rigged, the only way to truly win is not to play.

Enjoy your barbeque, go have a beer or two, and reflect upon your wrong-doing. Look your wives and children in their eyes and think about what YOU would do if someone had attempted to do upon THEM what you allowed upon ME and MY HOUSEHOLD. There are countless heroes being remembered today for genuine acts of valor and bravery, for sincere and selfless service under the banner of our flag, and know that as long as you silently condone such acts of violence and barbarism, you will never be honestly counted among them.

I don't say this about terribly many people and mean it, but I genuinely hate you.

Thanks for ruining what should be a holiday by not doing your job.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

They Came for MY SOUL

We had our first "Intruder" upon our property yesterday morning, and it shames me to admit that we were completely unprepared for them: A Jehovah's Witness. She came by herself, an 84 year old woman in a long coat and a crocheted cap. My husband & I might have panicked a little at first, we're in a rural enough area that only a few people are really SUPPOSED TO KNOW our exact location, so to see a stranger sauntering up to our door on the security monitor was a bit of a surprise.

My husband answered the door (behind the scenes I'm grabbing my revolver out of it's holster, just in case) and before John even opened his mouth she already had a little pamphlet held up in her hand at him.

Something to the effect of 'I'm going around town with these leaflets because my church is having a Bible Study tomorrow, we're inviting people to come attend, perhaps you've heard of us?' John nods at me: Not a threat, just an annoyance. John makes the mistake of asking what church, she answers.

The Kingdom Hall of Huntsville, Arkansas: It's about 45 minutes from where we are. That means this person went way the fuck out of their way to go bother complete strangers.

You bet your ass I was chomping at the bit when those words came out of her mouth, I stashed my fire-arm in my waist-band and headed on up to the door. Yes, I'm one of those 'asshole Atheists' you see tend to see on the Internet blasting dumb-assery online (mainly Twitter.) I've been trying to slow down and pick my battles more carefully as of late, but this one literally came to MY HOUSE and sought me out. I may as well make it worthwhile, I'm already armed so what's the worst thing that could possibly happen, right?

After my husband took the pamphlet she handed him, he glances it over while she talks about her "Bible based church group" that she says she's inviting people too, as she's thumbing through more papers in her hand (stacked on top of an old Bible, of course) when she asks what denomination we happen to be: The answer to THAT question, of course, being "None" because we're Atheists.

I'd like to note here that not once during the entire conversation did the words "We're Atheists" or even "Atheist" in of itself ever leave either of our mouths. People have a very negative perception of non-believers as it is, we want to avoid coming off as hostile.

And when we say "None, we're not religious" she actually looks a little confused for a minute. This the Arkansas Ozark Mountain Range, the hairy arm-pit of the American South, nearly everyone out here is either a bat-shit-loco Holy-Roller or a tight-assed Baptist. Meeting people who have no religion at all out here is a bit like finding a 14 karat gold needle in a whole field of hay-stacks. I think within a few moments it clicks in her head that we quite literally do not subscribe to any religious belief nor take anything the Bible (or any holy book for that matter) says to heart, and then asks why. Why what? Why we don't believe in god? Why we don't go to any church? Both?

I 'accidentally' cut John off right as he was about to say something, sorry about that, babe: "Because if any religion on Earth had any real merit to it at all, people wouldn't be killing each-other over them. I'm an Iraq Veteran, ma'am, I've seen and heard quite enough of what people are willing to do in the name of their holy books. If that's the kind of thing that any god is okay with, then I want nothing at all to do with it."

She paused for a second, and what came out of her mouth next absolutely stunned me: "Well the Lord actually tells us that he wants us to live without any war." 

SOMEONE, in 84 years of being alive and advertising her special brand of Bible, obviously hasn't actually read that fucking book!

Seriously? Do you actually think for ONE SECOND that I'm going to fall for that? Now to be fair, she IS only doing her job: She's not a physical threat to either of us and things haven't become hostile or abusive, just a tad weird so far. But really? Lady, I heard my down-range roommate say it's not a sin to kill Iraqis because they're not christians, and I won't even start with the days on end of constant 'calls to prayer' while our base was under attack from insurgents. But nope, apparently she really thinks that the god of the Bible is anti-war and forbids his chosen followers from fighting. Sure thing, what's in the cookies they bring to these Bible Study groups of which you speak?

She reminds me that Jehovah Witnesses are in fact forbidden from either joining the military or going to war, I'm thoroughly aware of this. Not only have I met one or two Jehovah's Witnesses before, but I also briefly worked with an NCO who joined them for the sole purpose of getting out of the Army. When I told her this, she seemed even more confused, as if something not physically possible had taken place: Either I described the dishonest actions of a misled and desperate person seeking a means to an end that went against the Watchtower Society's teachings, or I spontaneously grew a penis out of my forehead.

'Well that's not why he joined us, I promise you,' That's pretty much she says, and she really does seem sincere in saying this, "That young man wouldn't have done such a thing, there'd be a huge stigma... um, against that sort of thing." Ma'am, I hate to burst yet another bubble of yours, not only was this dude in his 40's and knew exactly what he was doing, but he DID IN FACT join your organization just to get out of the Army: At one point within a few days after the original blog post I'm linking here, I heard the words come out of his mouth myself. Yes, ma'am, there are in fact people out there who are taking advantage of your organization for their own means, and I find it equally confusing even if not for the same reasons you do.

Like any other religion, the Watchtower Society and their members are literally trying to sell you a lie. The only difference is that Jehovah's Witnesses will lie directly to your face in order to accomplish this, in fact they are encouraged to do so. 

Now I get it, this lady is just doing what she's been trained to do presumably since she was a young lady being brought up under the Watchtower Society's rules, but twice now she's already lied to me and pretty much pissed on my leg and told me it was raining. Anyone who served with me in the Army will tell you my philosophy about why people lie to each-other: There are, fundamentally, two common reasons why any human being would lie to another human being. The first is because they're afraid of what the other person will do to them if they knew the truth, the other is because they think the person they're lying to is stupid. I've done nothing to harm or threaten this woman, and since she has a "product" that she's trying very hard to "sell" to us, logic dictates that it's reason number two.

Guess what, lady? That shit didn't work on me in Iraq, it didn't work when I got home, and it's not going to work now. But you keep thumbing through those little tracts and pamphlets you keep handing me, I'll take them and I will in fact read them later on, because I know that this kind of life is all that you have ever really known. John and I COULD try to debate you while you're standing on our porch on a rainy day, I think on some level you really don't want to be there either. If I live to be your age, I'd rather stay at home with a cat on my lap either reading a book or cleaning one of my guns, not wandering out in the rain lying to strangers to convince them to join a cult. 

We told her multiple times that we had errands to run, shit to do, but that if we had any honest questions we'd come to the Kingdom Hall and ask: She still wouldn't get off the porch. 

The very same NCO who joined the cult once told me that when a Jehovah's Witness comes to your door trying to preach to you, that they're trying to do you a favor so you should be polite and hear them out. I'll give someone a chance to talk to me, they obviously went through a great deal of effort to get here. But no, I don't OWE THEM my time or courtesy: When I tell you to leave, that means leave. Yes, I still had the gun behind my back, no, I still didn't think it was necessary or wise to just whip it out like a psychopath. She wasn't trying to get inside, she was just damn convinced that she really was trying to help us (in a sort of Scientology-ish fashion, but in reality just as futile and frightening) 

At which point, after about the third or fourth "we have to go now, goodbye" she kept asking for our phone number. Um, no. Seriously, no. I know what happens when organizations like the Watchtower get a hold of your contact information, you 'mistake' it for an invitation, I'm not giving you my phone number nor my e-mail address because I get enough spam and solicitation via both channels. 

The whole of the encounter lasted just under five minutes, as I'm typing this I'm using her pamphlets and tracts as a coffee-coaster.

I still haven't read any of them. I can't be angry at the old lady herself, rather I feel sorry for her. True, nobody was holding a gun to her head and FORCING HER to go door to door in the rain, but religious groups like the Watchtower Society and Scientology have (in some cases, literal) death-grips on the lives of their followers. Not only do I very strongly disagree with the very notion of gods and afterlives, but I don't want to live my life as a slave to something I can't even prove to be real, nonetheless forced or in any capacity coerced to mold every aspect of my being to such ideals.

Lady, go home and stay there for a bit. Take a rest, have some tea and re-think your life. You've obviously had A LOT of time to think about it before, I can't help but wonder if you even want to try and enjoy whatever you have left of it.

And tell your "boss" not to send anyone else, we're not interested.

We're Atheists.