Veterans Rights-building a bridge!

oleno bridge

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

Building a bridge is an amazing thing. I couldnt even begin to tell you where to start-but thinking about it always amazes me.
The bridge in thjis photograph was built in the late 1930’s by teenagers plucked from the cities and entered into an orginization called the Civilian Conservation Corps-its history I am not going to attempt to tell you here because its the bridge and the feat of building a bridge that is what I need to compare to what I am trying to do to earn certain rights for a unique group of military veterans-those like me who have experienced sexual trauma while serving thier country.
Back in 1970 when I was discharged-with an honorable discharge-I had been given freedom from a situation of daily ritual sexual assault that had endured from the early morning hours of new years eve day until then on Feburary 22 .
I have to confess-I went through one gate into another remaining mentally confused and unstable for a better part of my adult life….I thought right then as I have thought a great long time that I was the only one this ever happened to.
I still am confused and deal with life every day in a pattern developed all those years ago-a protective pattern,in a way-but definantly an eratic path I’ve walked.
I never realized-I never dreamed that one day help would come along. I never knew anyone was iinterested in what I had experienced…I never had anyone I could trust to express the pain that has simmered inside of me and grown all of these years until I met Charlotte at the VA.
Charlotte is my therapist and the only being other than God that knows me…
from being treated by her and learning to trust her has built my esteem. I am very grateful for her.
Opening up that I am a victim of rape-a male victim of rape has come to effect a battle in me against those who attacked me 37 years ago-in a way,it is the only thing that I can see. To talk about it to someone that can be trusted has been like puncturing a boil to purge the poison out of the sore…like purgeing the poison out of me.
I cannot explain what I dont exactly understand myself because I’ve lived on this track of confusion for so long and because I’ve had to hold this secret to myself for all these days and years and now to have a venue that I get it out….
A big hurdle came into this last year around March-at the advice of my therapist I looked into appealing to the Veterans Administration to evaulate my case-indeed,to earn some compensation for the damages done. I had been reporting to the vetetrans service officer in my home county and during one of the meetings there statements made and jokes passed among the three agents in the office-about me! And,in front of me….the experience made me fly off the handle-and of course I set out to do damage,and of course…the damage was inflicted on myself. Fortunantly this time I saw that I couldnt go through with it-the damage….I always refer to it as DAMAGE CONTROL,a term related to the Navy that I connect with myself.
I’ve done damage control in the past to extent it landed me in the hospital once and as I was fleeing from my attempt this last time I realized that the events and comments in the veterans service office were just as if I was in barracks D all over again and that if I did not do something then the attackers in barracks D became these people in this office….and they all will win and I will always remain lost and defeated.
I admit-I was ready to give up. But as I drove home that night when I went out for damage control I realized that if I dont fight back the men in barracks D have won again and I am still under thier control.
So like these kids that once upon a time stood on the river bank and thinking among themselves how they were going to build a bridge across that river I am standing on the river bank wondering how I can build the bridge that needs to cross the river of a gap in the system of how veterans are treated when they are brave enough to come forward and say they have been sexually assaulted….the rights are there-the bridge just is’nt built to get there.
The kids that built this bridge must have met difficulties as all bridge builders must have had to over come-it is’nt as simple as laying a plank across a creek,and thats the thing I am seeing in the need to build this bridge….our bridge!
I dont think they sent one kid to build this bridge-he certainly needed help. Thats the way it is with the bridge I want to build so that with numbers we can build a bridge that is strong and safe to walk across.
I know there are more like me out there….man and woman,but also veterans…honorable veterans-and yet as I do they feel shame and guilt and fear because of the effects that rape and sexual assault have on the inner soul,veterans that like every other veteran in any military service walked up and volunteered to serve and protect all like one another and because of this kind of thing happening to them they become different….and silent,and I can understand. But today we have to rise up and realize that if we dont the rapist has empowered your body one more time-your life!
We have rights to be helped…we have rights to ask for what we deserve and we are afraid to come forward…..HELP build this bridge! We werent heard when we screamed in pain the night our body was abused….lets try harder and scream louder and keep screaming until the bridge gets built.
Compensation is not going to return any of what was taken from us….but winning this-getting what cannot repay but what we desrve- will give us personal strength in how we stand each day because we would have won and taken back a part of ourselves that we lost when we were assaulted….power.
Please take a part in this-build this bridge with me….I am alone and it is not an easy enough task to do alone and once we get this built just think of the many who be able to cross it !!
The parts are in your hands-pen and paper or the computer-your VOICE….to get them together we need to keep putting them into the hands of those who have shut thier ears to us and keep putting the pieces in thier hands over and over and over until they start to put them together to build our bridge.
There was a guy in the Bible-you have heard of him…his name is Joshua,he won the battle for Jerico but staying silent til the right time and when that time came he ordered his army to yell and yell as loud as they could-and the walls of Jerico came tumbleing down.
That my fellow veterans is what we need to do….we have been silent too long.

4 Responses to “Veterans Rights-building a bridge!”

  1. Mike E Says:

    I’ve wondered: Is such sexual assault used (condoned, encouraged etc) as a strategy — perhaps a subordination technique — by the US military?

  2. B.J. Says:

    To answer Mike’s question: No, sexual assualt is not used or encouraged as a strategy by the US Military. I’ve seen people kicked out, demoted, given dishonorable discharges, and put in prison for various degrees of sexual misconduct. What happened to Uncle Jay was horrendous. I’m not sure if the guilty ones were punished back then (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were), but I do know that that type of behaviour is dealt with severely today. How do I know, because I’m an active duty military member with almost 16 years time in service.

  3. Mike E Says:

    Well, but just because the guilty are punished — does that mean they were definitely not following orders?

  4. B.J. Says:

    No, they weren’t following orders. First, all military folks are given “LOAC” (Law of Armed Conflict) training annually. We’re told what constitutes ‘lawful’ and ‘unlawful’ orders. Those of us who are serving honorably will not give an ‘unlawful’ order (such as the order to sexually harrass someone) as we know we’ll pay a hefty price for doing so. Anyone who ‘obeys’ an ‘unlawful order’ is subject to prosecution under the LOAC, the Manual for Courts-Martial and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); because, we all receive the same LOAC briefing which tells us how to distinguish between lawful and unlawful orders. We are permitted and expected to disobey unlawful orders, and report the unlawful orders up the chain of command. Ever watch the movie “A Few Good Men” with Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Jack Nicholson? In the end, one of the Marines claimed they were guilty as the victim was helpless, and they were supposed to fight for him. Basically, he was admitting they failed to follow their LOAC training and disobey an unlawful order as they were taught to do. An ‘unlawful order’ must be disobeyed; therefore, those who ‘obey’ an ‘unlawful order’ aren’t following orders at all. If they were following orders when given an ‘unlawful order’, they wouldn’t have followed the ‘unlawful order’. Follow?

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