Archive for March, 2009

ROTC arrests and MST

March 30, 2009

watson2cjohnharveyThe man its in this photo is Colonel J.H.Watson,USMC (Ret.)

His current occupation is that of an ROTC instructor at a high school in Florida although his current address at the Duval County jail prohibits him at the moment.

His charges involve child pornography-they don’t yet say he has assaulted any children they only describe the items found on his computer. They describe the children as teenage girls-the same age as the teens he is is charge of teaching leadership to.

I only know the very brief  information that was published with this mans photograph-so I cannot stand in judgement as he has a right to defend himself in court.

What I do know is Colonel Watson is not the only retired military veteran who has been charged with a crime of this nature-and what narrows it down,the solitaire former instructor of ROTC in recent past to be arrested. One only needs to do  a quick search to learn I speak the truth.

The fact that men like this do end up in jail says something to me-it tells me that military sexual trauma (MST) has tentacle’s that reach into all ranks.

Okay-I may be a tad or two off to connect this mans arrest with MST,but I relate it to it being likely this mans misconduct is not something new and most likely was a practice of his during his career. Then I think about how many men and woman he had in his command and then I think of the 32% of woman veterans who the VA says have been victims of MST, and the 6% of the male veterans. How many men and woman in his command and through his years as he grew in the ranks could fit into those numbers?

I know-I’m talking about odds,but…they do have a place in this!  I remember the veterans advocate that I was once going to trust to carry my case forward-he made judgements about my rapes. He wondered why homosexuals needed a reason to rape each other…and the the equally troubling assumption my attackers were blacks. My advocate had to be my judge-and yet could not judge with this kind of bigotry. And then you take this guy-Colonel Watson,and you think of how many in his past that might have had a need to report a rape and wonder how many could not. It is easy to say there may have been several times if you consider the numbers of men and woman Colonel Watson had watch over during his career.

My point here needs to consider the numbers of ROTC instructors that have been jailed in the past year of 2008 for sexual misconduct-and assault on children/teenagers in their charge-all of them retired military with rank. My quick search on ‘GOOGLE’ this morning brought up 10 different individuals on the first page. I wonder how many MST victims these men had contact with during active duty?

Why would one wonder why a victim could not come forward and report that they had been raped? With just my feeble attempt with the numbers explains that well enough to me. If the odds are that the MST survivor has this kind of individual to report to and seek justice then the odds are seemingly off…and it is easy to understand why one would want to remain silent.

The veteran MST survivor remains the ‘silent wounded’ because of men like Colonel Watson. How could one come to this man as an officer and receive full understanding? How could a man like this make a reasonable judgement with his own heart carrying the guilt of sexual misconduct? It is no wonder many remain silent.

I am not a research scientist-I only comment here as an observer of my own life as an MST survivor…what it was like for me to report my rape to an officer only to be laughed at-and years later to a Florida Veterans Affairs advocate to hear him remark how amazed he was that “homosexuals had a need to rape each other”. This man was also a retired Marine. I look at the photo here of Colonel Watson and see the same kind of men-the Navy officer who laughed and the FVA officer who was to ignorant to understand.

Can you see where I’m going with this? I am showing you how hard it really is to come forward and I am showing you that MST has its hands on every level of military service-even in the ROTC program (and yes-I understand ROTC is not necessarily military,but…) and in my way I am showing you that it is a larger problem than one really knows-and that the military wants to admit. I am showing you that sexual misconduct has no barrier of rank or race or age. I hope you get my drift!

the encounter with the vet

March 22, 2009

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Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I had to do the routine of laundry one day this past week. Usually I manage that chore in my own area-but this day I had several things to do in the city,so I managed the wash chore into  part of that trip.

I’m not a dress up kind of guy-I’m simple with blue jeans and T-shirts. However-I never wear T-shirts with logo’s or advertisement or funny comments. Plain and straight. I do own one T-shirt  that is printed…it is a Harley-Davidson shirt from Hawaii. I bought it at a thrift store.

Because my clothes had all been shoved in the basket-the only shirt I had clean was the Harley shirt.

At the wash house the place was nicely not very crowded-but there was this one guy, a guy about my age-long hair and a rough look about him. He eye-balled me as I toted my stuff in and jammed the washers. I could even sense him looking at me then.

I chose the wash house in that area because a few blocks down the road is a small engraving shop-I walked down there while my washers were running. A few weeks ago I was given a gift of a Zippo lighter-the standard USN anchor lighter. It is exactly like the one I bought in boot camp-I’m sure just as old. I took it to have it engraved like the one I bought in 1969…USS Vulcan AR-5

When I got back to the wash house the guy was still there. My wash was done and the dryers I had to use put me in a closer vicinity to him-and then the question came….”have you ever ever been to Hawaii”? I looked at the guy and nodded my head “no”.

I really wanted to ignore this guy-but he kept on with the questions-but they turned on his assumption that I never went to Viet Nam because if I had I would have been sent to Hawaii for R and R…and he kept rambling on about how much fun it was,Hawaii and his tour in Viet Nam. He grilled me on my own military time-based on my tattoos and my confession that I’m not a biker. I answered as many as I could until they reached a point of making nothing sensible but everything confusing.

This was a tough guy-a biker looking fellow-if there is a stereotype to give him. I was subjected to his recount of nine years of military service until he was given a medical-discharge for having combat related issues. He said he was dis-abled because of PTSD….of course,then-I say I am too. Another barrage  of questions. I told him. I did not tell him what happened in barracks D….but I think instinct made him know. I told him how I wanted to be a Navy man-a full life career and explained how out of jealousy and brotherly relationships of biblical proportions intervened.

I was actually amazed at the calmness in the way the man listened to me. Up until the point I found no way out of answering his questioning and told him how I ended up in the ‘brig’ he grilled me with questions that put me in a corner. I didn’t have to answer him-but my own PTSD was jarring me to attention. The fellow could not figure out how a kid who worked in the galley and never saw the combat he saw ends up with PTSD.

I couldn’t believe it-the change in his personality and how he reacted as I spurt out my explanation sans the details of the rapes. I know somehow he was street wise enough to know I deleted some detail. When I told him he apologized to me!! He came around from where he was standing-with his hand extended. He shook my hand about six times and kept saying how sorry he was-and he called me brother…in the mission sort of way as comrade’s would!

I had been honest with him-I told him how I feel guilt from not serving my full enlisted time-and that none of the time I served was duty in Viet Nam. During our conversation I had told him about my sons,my oldest a veteran seaman of 17 plus years-my youngest served in both the Navy and National Guard-and now the Coast Guard Reserves.

My comrade said I have served my country-myself personally,and by my sons following in my steps.

I told him about the cigarette lighter-how much it meant to me,how I lost the first one,and how this one was given to me. I also told him that I ordered a ball-cap with my ships name embroidered on it,one exact replica of the hats worn by sailors on duty. I told him I was going to be going to Hawaii next month to visit the submarine my son is stationed on-and that these items would be with me,proudly.

He said “That is so cool”!!

MST survivors need rights!

March 16, 2009

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There was once a time when I thought I had been the only one. Never had it crossed my mind there was anyone else that had experienced the same kind of fears brought on by being a sexual assault survivor.  I was convinced that my life was an extraordinary mix up and what had happened through out was too hard for anyone to believe. It has been too hard for me to believe.

When I entered the Veterans Administration Hospital (VA) treatment program for PTSD I was amazed to learn there are many others-so many that VA has an individual title-‘military sexual trauma’ (MST) and even has an in-patient treatment center in Bay Pines,Florida. I have heard it is a seven week program. I have come to know the numbers of MST survivors are in the thousands. It did not make me feel comfortable to know-it actually makes me sick to think of it.

When I was raped the beginning of the longest fear began. Included in that fear is the ability to stand up for myself.  I lost that ability in barracks D-results of too many times having my arm twisted behind my back to do things unmentionable for my bully. Anytime an argument begins I already loose because I have been trained to loose.

I never thought that I would be writing about all of this. For much of my life since discharge from the Navy I had figured it out that no one was interested in what had happened. I spent most of my life appearing like a looser to many-I couldn’t hold a job-I had a hard time staying sober,or clean from drugs. Things I know now are directly connected to my mental health-that being distorted by the events in barracks D….they call it PTSD.

When during treatment-which finally came some 30 plus years after living the way I had-in secret of what had happened those years ago…when during treatment I was encouraged to appeal for a ‘service connected disability’. I was told-and it is so,that I am permanently injured due to the events in my life in the military.

As a male survivor-I can only speak from my point of view. I know that sitting down and telling any man that I had been raped was not a pleasant thing to do. The first man I ever told was the officer I told about the rapes-the morning they happened. He laughed it off as if I told him a funny bit of trivia telling me to “get used to it”!!

When I told the ‘veterans advocate’ at our local Veterans Affairs office my story he made statements that offended me and insulted others. He was perplexed that my attackers were not black men. He made another statement that rang of ignorance…”gee,you never think homosexuals have a need to rape each other!” There were other comments that seemed to regard rape as a sexual encounter of some kind-and not a physically violent crime. Comments that kept connecting men raping men has anything to do with homosexuality-these are wrong.

Combined with that experience-echoing the sounds of the officer back in barracks D….”get used to it!” and knowing the numbers of MST survivors are large-larger than the American public know,I cannot stand it that MST survivors suffer so much humiliation and shame would also have to be subjected to the same kind of ignorance that I found myself facing.

And I am thinking about this from the perspective of a MST survivor-male and female…the degradation is the same. What disturbs me is the unfairness it all carries with it.  Being forced to remain silent all of our lives out of fear-and for safety…then being convinced to trust once again-to come forward and enlist the system to correct some wrongs,offer validation-and then the same system confronts the MST survivor with bigoted remarks. Is this happening to every MST survivor? I feel like it is-and it the reason the true numbers of MST survivors are actually unknown.

After the rape-nothing goes away. You may take a shower and wash off. But nothing goes away. It is worse than a tattoo. At least if you don’t like the tattoo you can have it changed-but most likely the mark on your skin never goes away. It is like the mark in your mind-the mind of a rape survivor…it is always there. Just what might even be considered a slight thought about the rapes makes my skin feel quivery and my stomach ill-and after 39 years one would think it might change.

And then by chance that you are reminded there is an option to seek validation through the challenge of justice-there is no one that is qualified for you to trust. I certainly did not feel any wings of protection coming from my first ‘advocate’. I felt fear-and knew by instinct that this was someone who was not on my side…and I did not want him to be trying to be.

Where are the rights of these veterans?

The Veterans Administration says we cannot provide our own representation-unless they are approved by the VA. The representative they approved-and provided me was a bigot. He had no ears for my case…he did not care-I was paper work to him. There are many other MST survivors who should fear this policy-who should have the freedom to proper representation in these sensitive cases. The ‘gunny sargent’ turned veterans advocate has no business being a confident in something he absolutely does not even believe in-cannot comprehend in truth…confused as to why homosexuals need to rape each other,or that violent crime is only committed by certain races.

That is unjust-and I believe it is illegal. Yet this is the kind of approved representation MST survivors are offered?

1970…70…70…

March 9, 2009

img014It all seems so surreal. I can look into this photograph and see so many memories-I know in my mind today what is behind me-this photo was taken in the ships laundry of the USS Vulcan. I can see the lockers which are not in the focus-and past them are the pressers and then the space works itself around a tight ‘U’ where two huge machines stood,the washer and dryer. Large enough you could climb inside to reach the stubborn damp cling ons that caught in the far edges. Just past the washer was the only exit-a ladder going up to an obscure corridor that dead ended at the hatch where the ladder came through. The only other  part of the memory in this photograph is that in front of me was a desk-at the end of the desk was the bulkhead-another dead end. A very tight space-the desk was built in-it never could have been moved there.

The thing that sticks out in the picture is my uniforms. The shirts were cut at the sleeves-above my pocket in bold lettering it says ‘Little Herron’. The alterations were done by my brother-he operated the ships laundry,it is his desk that is in this cramped room. He took this photograph.

Because my uniforms were mutilated in the alterations my brother had made-my passageway through out the ship was restricted to certain areas. I could not afford to purchase replacement shirts-I could not even be sure they would return from the laundry safe-or join my other shirts. I know I don’t look very happy in this photo. I could not see what was about to be my future. This photo was taken around October 1969. I do know the thrill I had first found by joining the Navy had been diminished by my older brother-I was stationed with him on the USS Vulcan.

Time seems to have gotten stuck for me there in 1969 and 1970. I don’t feel like I’ve grown older. I feel like I’m still stuck at age 18.

In my funny ways of memorializing my life I have kept the ‘World Almanac’ issues from 1969 and 1970  as a compressed history of that time. I am stuck there and want loose,but can’t find the freedom.

I have this peculiar way about me in how I experience God in my life. In the Bible it says we have angels which camp around us-keeping eye,so to speak. I’ve believed that before I even knew it was in the Bible.

Sometimes I find messages in odd sort of ways-like at times it comes in the shape of an actual dime,always finding one in unusual places at ironic times. The other is in the presence of birds at a very special moment in time-a distinctly special moment. A few years ago a hawk flew in my house and the big window at the west stopped it-the bird let me pick it up and carry it to the door…and freedom. That happened on a New Years Eve…my rapes began on New Years Eve 1969-70. There was something very special about that bird and about that timing.

Why things are-I do not know. How come good things happen to you,and bad things happen to me-and yet good happens in my life and the opposite for others. A really strange thing.

I went to reach a peak in the fact that my military time was not a perfect dream come true. I wish I could look in that photograph and reach in there and find good memories. Instead I can only see the memory that I’m haunted to live with every day of my life. I wake each day-every day it seems to never go away….and I see myself as an 18 year old boy on the USS Vulcan and the wrong thereafter.

I finally received a notice from the VA. The process of deciding the level of my disability as they see it. I’ve had several comment that I should continue to ask for a full 100 %. I find the number given me is unique…and probably appropriate,although-not as settling as one would think.

There is a retroactive period which goes back to my filing for the claim-5 years ago! In these economic times-especially for a poor man,the awarded amount is going to help make some changes. Not very many-it is not a large amount in usual circumstances. Looking at it in my head says it is not enough to replace all the memories that could have been. There also comes with it a form of guilt. I can go out now and purchase some nicer things-maybe a new vehicle. But-I won’t be able to do it with out seeing the wounded and dead of Viet Nam. That vision keeps me from having  joy from this.

I was sitting yesterday with my oldest friend-a Viet Nam combat veteran. He expresses his pleasure in my success in taking on the VA and holding someone accountable for the injury the rapes put in my spirit and my life. He knows how I feel-the guilt,and the amazement at the same time. Amazed that after all of these years some recognition of what had happened to me comes forth-acknowledgment that I was hurt badly then,and above all the acknowledgement that the injuries were directly caused by sexual trauma…we know it here as MST  ‘military sexual trauma’.

I do not know why our angels lead us in the way that we go. I don’t know why my friend went through combat with out a bullet wounding his flesh-but the flesh of another was among those casualties that are expected of war,although-not accepted. Yet my friend is wounded by those very bullets that missed him-and killed others that were around him.

Why is it that things are so? I am glad I do not have that answer…I would know too much. My friend does say “we won”….not in the terms of victory where a dance is involved. We won in meaning that there are other MST survivors that need to battle this too…to take on the power to say “I was assaulted too”!!  And find the final part of what happened.

It is not the money-it definitely is not the money. My body is weary from the energy put forward over the last five years. I’m actually recovering from the exhaustion that finally overtook me last week when the papers came. The ironic number of ’70’ being the level of my disability…1970! That is more reward than the dollar amount will ever come to. The spiritual indication of it…that rewards me!

Forgive my rambles…most likely the form of speech I will have for a number of days!

Civil Rights for MST survivors

March 1, 2009

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There is a class of military veterans who have no civil rights. These are the ‘military sexual trauma’ (MST) survivors.

How can I say that-every one under the Flag of the United States has civil rights? No-not everyone.

In my dictionary-under the heading of  ‘civil law’ it says it pertains to the rights of private individuals and to legal proceedings concerning these rights as distinguished from criminal,military,or international rights,courts-or legal proceedings. Under the heading Civil Rights it says RIGHTS belonging to an individual by virtue of his/her status as a citizen. Under the heading Civil Law it says the body of law dealing with the rights of private citizens in a particular state or nation,as distinguished from criminal law,military law,or international law.

I am not a lawyer-I am a civilian…my dictionary says that means I am a citizen not connected with the military

I believed I have a right to a lawyer to represent me in any legal matter. I have found that this is wrong.

I am a MST survivor. I have have suffered life long residual mental health issues because of my being a ‘military sexual trauma’ survivor.

Because of my life as a survivor had finally come to the attention of the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in my region of Gainesville Florida I entered the PTSD-MST clinic for evaluation and treatment. I once thought I was alone. I learned there that there are thousands of MST survivors…some known,some like me who kept silent for many years.

During treatment I was advised to seek validation-to enter a claim against the VA system,I was told I met the entire page of criteria for PTSD and deserved benefits offered through the VA system. These benefits included medical care and perhaps financial compensation.

To apply for a claim the law required me to report my rapes to a local ‘veterans advocate’…this had to be done in my home county in Florida-Levy County. These veterans advocates are hired by the county under the direction of the Florida Veterans Affairs Office.

The advocate I met with was a former ‘gunny sargent’ well versed in combat injury-he had even won awards from Congress for work to aid veterans to obtain what is rightfully theirs. He had no experience-nor knowledge of how to care for  MST survivors. The fact is-when I told him my story he looked in amazement and said “Gee…you’ never think homosexuals have a need to rape each other”…he also assumed my attackers were black. Both statements were no where near the truth,nor did they hold any valid reasoning.

I declined any further aid from the Levy County office,instead I sought the help of an attorney. I had to travel to Jacksonville Florida to find legal counsel-and the attorney took my case on an old fashioned handshake…she too was an MST survivor. She understood my pain-and understood the need for justice in these cases.

We attended a hearing in November 2007 at the regional offices of the VA in St.Petersburg Florida. My hearing was over two hours long-a length of time I understood was unusual,they say a hearing only lasts about 20 to 30 minutes.

It took one year to nearly the day for a decision-my papers were signed by the VA Judge on November 3,2008. His decision said that I am indeed suffering from PTSD and the results of why are directly connected with my military service-directly connected because I AM a MST survivor.

Yesterday a letter arrived via US Postal  carrier. The letter says that my attorney is not an approved VA attorney…the question is-will my service connected disability be reversed because I chose as a citizen to find a person versed in law to represent me? My attorney is dis-qualified to represent me in the VA court (of law).

This letter not only affects me-it affects every MST survivor in the United States. It says to us-we have NO RIGHT to find legal counsel on our own! It says we must be bound by the VA system…we must use counsel which is approved by them-I understand a list of attorneys is available who are approved by the VA.

I know only about myself-yet I can only assume that every veteran chose to volunteer for military service…why? To defend our nation-to defend our flag…to defend our rights as citizens of the United States. I guess I am wrong…the letter I received yesterday surely proves that. I have NO RIGHT to select an attorney of my choice of my free will to defend me or represent me in/at a national institution-the Veterans Administration.

Our rights are being violated!

In my effort to bring justice for every MST survivor-and even every veteran have been returned in vain. I have written countless letters and emails to Congressman-and Senators. Only two have responded (unless you want to count the form letters under the heading ‘newsletters’).

Of those two-one actually set an appointment for me to meet personally with her-Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite from Florida. The meeting never took place…the Congresswoman is no longer on the veterans sub-committee. I’m talking about CIVIL RIGHTS…and a member of Congress-an elected official of our Untied States is saying…this is not my job?? Our meeting was canceled  just one day before elections in 2008;and two weeks ago her office called to say “not our job”.

I know we are being wronged. I know when I enlisted at age 17 into the United States Navy I was enlisting to serve our country-OUR COUNTRY! Not merely the region where I lived-the entire United States. War was going on then-the Viet Nam War. Many of my age group refused to serve-instead they fled to Canada to be safe from prosecution,and to be safe from war. My desire to serve was so strong that I had tried to enlist in the United States Marines-a choice which would have guaranteed my duty being in the battle grounds of Viet Nam. The recruiter said I was too skinny and sent me to the Navy recruiter instead. It did not matter-Army,Navy,Marines-any branch of the military service would have been the honorable thing to do!

I’m not fully sure how government works-but I do feel that regardless of where an elected official comes from he or she should want to take up the banner and fight for the justice and rights of an American citizen…and right what wrongs exist. In this case-fight for the rights of MST survivors.

My self-personally…I never expected to seek justice for the rapes that qualify me as an MST survivor. Like many MST survivors I chose to live with my wounds in silence. I never thought anyone would care since the first day I became a survivor the officer in charge whom I reported my attacks to said “get used to it”. Once the 35 years of silence ended and I learned there were as many as 32% of female veterans and 6% of male veterans that are also MST survivors I became angry…angry that they too might have to report to a bigot such as the one I met at the Levy County Veterans Affairs Office. I decided to fight for these other ‘silent wounded’ and speak out for the RIGHTS we have had hidden from us…if not even taken away.

Yesterdays letter nearly defeated that effort. I went into a state of shock…I even wept. The hurt from ALL of my life as a survivor collected inside of me-almost allowing me to cower in retreat,the pain was that hard to bare.

I will not quit! I will continue to stand up for MST veterans rights. Our CIVIL RIGHTS! We are citizens of the Untied States. We volunteered to serve our country to defend equal rights and freedom….yet our freedom is taken away from us if we are NOT permitted to seek our own legal counsel-our CIVIL RIGHTS are NOT available to  the MST survivor if we are restricted to seek defense in the offices of men who disregard us as ‘homosexuals’ or cannot understand that no matter what race a person is-that if a man is black he is automatically deemed as the culprit in a crime.

If you are reading this than you have a responsibility to assist in righting this wrong-I beg you to write your Congress and speak out against this wrong. Stand up for us as we once went forward to stand up for you. The fact of MST exists today…there are many more survivors returning to civilian life-silent wounded. Help us obtain our CIVIL RIGHTS!