Archive for November, 2009

barracks D drawing

November 20, 2009

barracks D drawing
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


This is not easy to do. Trying to relate everything from the past 40 years into just a page of words-the right words….and,to tell the things on your mind in just a few hours of just a few days-to relate the pain and describe the losses or explain the fears. No-none of it is easy.


I used to leave the visits with my former therapist (Charlotte-at the VA)
and would feel like I was walking through mud about waist deep.The feeling came from the exhaustion from the work of telling my story…to the first person who ever wanted to listen. You have to understand carrying over 35 years of personal torment by yourself-to finally release it was the work and the results have been difficult but there.


I am tired like that today-I spent the past Tuesday and Wednesday telling my story again, being recorded and filmed, and learning some had not been recorded, so…telling my story again,being recorded and filmed. Today is Friday and my body is feeling better. Yesterday I could hardly move. Today I still feel worn-but I also feel power in what has just happened this past week.


I have never found trust in anybody in my life until I met Charlotte B. (my VA therapist) I know it took a while at first but the way she remembered such odd details about what I had began telling her showed me this was someone who cared-for real cared!


All of that has been broken somehow-as if it is a must in the usual way my life goes. An odd thing is as is all of the ways the road turns is-while visiting my Navy son in Pearl Harbor I learned of a woman who was doing an article for National Geographic. Her topic was ‘military sexual trauma’ and how it effected woman veterans who have been traumatized. I telephoned her and asked “why just woman”?


Unfortunantly…the artcle went along the wayside because the magazine lost interest-but the journalist did not. She and her photographer friend have continued the project out of pocket…and out of pocket they traveled here to Florida and now I must say how proud I am to know these two ladies.


They came here and listened. They came here because they know wrong is being done and silence is there because so many are afraid to come forward.


I was raped in a detention barracks-and no one cared. I lived for 30 some odd years before anyone did. Feeling good about this person believing me I followed the suggestion that I deserve veterans disability for PTSD due to MST (military sexual trauma). Reporting the circumstances to the DVA (Division of Veterans Affairs) officer in my home county I was responded to with comments of bigotry and ignorance. I felt violated again-and by now knowing I am not the only veteran this has happened to…I began writing about my life as a veteran who has felt no honor and about the life I have had. Good or bad. It has not been all that good,but there are places!


I also began writing to anyone who could help make a change. I cannot tell you the feeling the body and soul of a rape survivor has-the shame and guilt that should not even be there-but is. And the filth…it is always there in memory. I wrote Congressman and woman-and Senators. To the best of my ability to find contact information. Some responded-Congresswoman Ginnie Brown-Waite was going to meet me and talk about changes for veterans rights…veterans of MST. She does not have a seat on the veterans committee any more-as it was conveyed by her office to me. Veterans civil rights are being covered up and a US Congresswoman says it is no longer her job?


I wrote Senator Bill Nelson from Florida. His Chief of Staff contacted me-we exchanged telephone calls a few times and a few emails…and then a few emails he had not responded to. And…no more contact with Senator Bill Nelson.


Two woman hear a persons story one day. That persons story was about MST and that persons account of how life living with the troubles PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) that make the lives of us survivors miserable. I am in awe as to how that has become a personal project of these two-to me they are heros. Our Congress are elected to serve us. Our Senate is elected to serve us. MST survivors are not a ‘big interest’. We offer no cash return. We are not deserving of a parade or any recoginition…in fact-I think they’d rather us go away-we are not the returning troops they want to laude and salute. We are wounded-but expected to stay silent. We have not had service from these elected Congress persons and Senators like the service we VOLUNTEERED to do!…and to do for our country.


I ramble when I am tired. I am tired today-but this wave of fatigue is so worth it. The story of MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA must be told-the problems that come with it must be exposed…and all of it must be changed. It is wrong for a young man to grow up in a foreign country and all of his life to desire to be an American…he grows up and enlists in the US Marines-there the prejudice of others led to the attacks that changed his life. A young man giving of himself for countryman of a country not yet his because he hopes to earn his citizenship in exchange for volunteering to defend the country he wants so much to be a citizen of. And this is what he earns? I weep thinking of this mans story-it breaks my heart so.


I too wanted to serve. My draft card was returned the day I volunteered to enter the United States Navy…I wanted to do my duty and once in the Navy-I wanted to be there forever. Another form of prejudice ended that…a form of jealousy-perhaps it could be called brotherly hate. I never will be sure. Months after my enlistment I was discharged with an ‘honorable discharge’…except I’ve never felt any honor.


I am very thankful for these two ladies…Lynn and Ann. They weren’t elected-no one hired them….they just heard one story of MST and from that one story came a seed-and that seed is growing into a vine that is soon going to grow into a tree-a solid solid hunk of timber,un-moveable-unable to ignore. The wind going through the leaves of this tree will be the voices of survivors and they will not be unheard-I know this.


I just have one last thing to say-I want to remember the lost on the USS IOWA and how the US Navy tried to cover up and twist truth to blame one man-one sailor who loved the Navy and was dishonored by them(the Navy claimed falsely that the sailor was ‘homosexual’ and detonated a bomb to seek revenge for a jilted love-ALL FALSE)…. 47 men died at the fault of poorly maintained equipment.If they can try to cover up this…you know they will do it elsewhere!

The Navy acknowledged the explosion was an accident due to faulty equipment-but they NEVER apologized for falsely accussing the young sailor-he died in the explosion too.



looking into the face of God

November 15, 2009

looking into the face of God

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

…oh God…how much longer is the wait?

Catfish Hotel

November 9, 2009

catfish hotel-St.Johns River,Florida

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

Along the St.Johns River (Florida) there are small camps various distances apart-long distances! This place in the photo-known as Catfish Hotel-is so away from anything,anywhere,and is only accessable by boat. The river banks at this point are approximately 8 miles apart-the nearest highway overpass about 4-but it is guaranteed,you are not walking out of here.

It is fair to say the Catfish Hotel is a sanctuary for escape from thunderstorms-which Florida is famous for. It was built by airboaters (oddly,out of steel) to escape storms-yet,it has been used as a camp for many years and it comes complete with a cook out grill for a kitchen.

You could drop me off to live there-the isolation is so welcome (however-gallons  of mosquito repellant will be required)…and yet-isolation is so uncanny for what I have in my heart.

I spent yesterday visiting a friend who vacations at Siesta Key-a posh resort town next to Sarasota,an island,but not quite like the island our Catfish Hotel has been built.

Siesta Key runs with the Gulf of Mexico to the west. I remember when I first drove Midnight Pass Road which runs parallel to the beach-this was in 1970…you could see the waters for as long as Midnight Pass lasted. Not today. It is nothing but condominium after condominium. It gives me a sad feeling to remember 1970.

I have dealing with depression again-usually it becomes compounded with the hints of the crixmix season (christmas-for those who do not know). 1970 pry’s at my mind most all of the time but it becomes more pronounced as this time of years comes close-my rape happened in this season.

I’ve been asked a certain question about myself-twice in the past few years. I about to be interviewed in regards to ‘military sexual trauma’ and that I am a male survivor…the journalist asked it exactly the same way as my attorney once asked…”what is your sexual preference”?

“I don’t know”! This is my answer. I never had the chance to find out.

Shocking to some – dumbfounding  to them too. According to the Bible-it is only supposed to be one way. Oddly,I have no comprehension…how could I?

I am a father. I always say my sons and I grew up together-that because it is so. To be a father I had to be with a woman…and may I say-I am sure to be a father of children that I do not know. No matter what the mental capacity of a man or a woman-as long as they get together in some form of sexual moment a child is likely to come of it.

I am attracted to woman-that is why Siesta Key had an impact on me yesterday. European tourists seem to flock there. European people seem to be less inhibited by their bodies than Americans-they dress more freely closer to nude,at least at Siesta Key. I do admit-my eyes tried to drink in as much as they could,the closest I had been to a naked woman (or,nearly naked) in years and years.

My drive home is 3 hours long. I thought about the day as I drove along…more honestly,I thought about the young woman my eyes were longing for. Not  longing for them sensually….longing for the experience I had missed as a teenager-and as an adult,never having the fun and laughs these young people were having. I had never had a date (my first date ever was disturbed by my brother being killed) except some ordeal my parents arranged to help out a cousin of ours. My wives were not products of courting and dates and normal engagements. My first marriage was a true shotgun wedding (less violent then it sounds) and my second was two six packs too many and a blindness only a fool can have…but no dates.

More so-I drove along and thought a lot about what is wrong with me. I am broken because of what happened to me in barracks D.

The insanity of the sickness of what happened there is something I have never been able to walk away from. Some years ago I would do something that I have always known in myself as ‘damage control’ , which is my way of being like a battered wife who keeps returning to her battering husband. I tried to control it but it controled me-I needed to return to what it was that was given to me. The abuse became the only form of touch I could have-because the gentil touch of I love you was not something I could understand…it never was mine.

Through the years I have had many encounters with woman. Beautiful woman…and sometimes not so beautiful. I tried to find someone I could love and accept love from…but the results of the punished life I received at barracks D always stood steadfast in the very moments a moment of intimacy were to begin. I became so afraid-the discoveries…the need to explain-the wish none of it ever existed,but now seems to have existed forever.

Am I attracted to men? Am I a ‘homosexual’ as many have asked? I really and honestly have no idea…I do not know what is normal or is not,I had no other choice but to learn it that way-what was given to me at barracks D. Drunk I could be blasted enough to fall for a woman like my last wife-long gone 12 years now and the last time I was sexually active with someone-ANYONE!. Like a deer with its eyes in the headlights I would have to re-do the marriage I had with my first wife…I only did it because I was scared to death of her dad.

I hated ‘damage control’ too. I did it to abuse myself…plain and simple-my body wants to vomit from the memory of it, but like the Bible says-“a dog returns to its vomit”. Sometimes the urge to return is so over powering, I wish to be dead to be free of it.

The choices would be easier if one could dwell in a place like Catfish Hotel.

The incredible thing about yesterday at Siesta Key…I wanted to be with someone-I wanted to hold a hand and feel loving breath on my neck. I wanted to be 18 to find out what it really was supposed to be…not like it ended up-and what it is. I missed something.

the gift….(part two)

November 2, 2009

up the Econ River-Florida

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I want to finish what I began telling yesterday-I was interrupted and after that I could not focus.

I am a grown man-nearly 59. The previous days I had spent in Pearl Harbor found me exploring the USS Missouri and if ones eyes could focus on me in a way peculiar enough to see…they would have seen me as a kid-in parts of the ship my mind was at play like a 10 year old kid,in other parts of the ship-those that brought back memories of my time on the USS Vulcan-I was myself at age 18.

The asian girls that approached me in the Maui airport reminded me of an experience I had in Norfolk one night…all of the trip to the Hawaiian islands was sending me back to before the time got bad. The way being swooned into a jewelry store brought back my crying with the jewelry salesman that sold my ‘mothers pin’.

The sales girls told me how unusual it was to find a black pearl-and it came to me that this was the gift I was trying to find.

As it happened-in connection with the promotion of selecting a colorful slip of paper printed with discounted-or even free-pearls,there was a pendant the clerks showed me (saying it was the most popular in the islands) a small sterling silver whales tail. The pendant had a small post attached and it was meant to hold a pearl. Along with the pendant came a gift card. The card explain the spiritual meaning of the symbol of a whales tail. Strength.

The black pearl fit to make a wonderful combination. This was the gift for Charlotte.

I’m not a gift giver. It’s myriad reasons-but mostly because I’m afraid of giving the wrong impression of the gesture. But for this occasion and for these four friends it was as if like all things-spiritually guided. That day-it was not what was on my mind,but yet-the gifts came on their own. One,for my artist friend Bill-a statuette of a praying Chinese man,was as if it was carved for him specially. My friends had all given me gifts-gifts that can only come from within…not available for purchase or expecting exchange. I know trinkets are not expected-but from my heart I wanted to give something.

It was one year ago exactly that I received the paperwork from the VA signed by their judge stating “no wrongdoing”….in relation to my time spent in barracks D. They admitted there was no reason for my being there-and agreed that I had been permanently hurt. I can’t yet explain what that feels like. After 35 plus years of this and how many more yet to come?

I havent seen Charlotte since this time last year. I took my papers to her new office and we read them in awe of what had just happened…the truth was told.

My gift was given through a friend who gave it to a friend who gave it to Charlotte for me. I wasn’t certain if  gifts could be accepted and wanted it to be somewhat legitimate…after all,a client didn’t give it-did they?

Last week I had a routine look see by the physician I am assigned to at the VA. I am a reluctant sceptic returning to VA care because my new status as a ‘service connected’ disabled veteran say I deserve it…I still can’t see how,but now my health is troubled-I guess so.

As the doctor was putting everything into the computer I saw a pendant hanging on her neck…a wooden hand carved whales tail.

I could not help commenting-she responded back that a patient had made it for her…a symbol of strength.

I miss Charlotte. It is hard to walk away from seeing her again.  These days I could use her power of listening and the comfort of knowing she cared.

It has been a full year. It has been a year that has spoken loudly to me-the VA disability is still swirling inside of me. I cannot comprehend it how it has all come to be. Pearl Harbor? The visit was one of great emotional strains-seeing my son in his Navy uniform,to walk the base every morning and look out at the ships in rows,to be able to visit a variety of ships. All pulled at my heart. I am in awe of the majesty of it-how huge this really is. And-how sad it still makes me.

Forty years ago during this season my life was still innocent. I was in the Navy and had just a month before joined the crew of the USS Vulcan. The education officer on board ship had remarked that I had potential-my test scores showed I did too…my thrill of the news that I could exchange some of my life to give to the Navy as an officer was busted by my brother. Little did I know that my time in the US Navy was coming to a close and the rest of my life would be spent remembering how.

Just like there is no way I can ever regain what was taken away from me 40 years ago there is no way I can ever explain to my four friends who I found gifts for how much they mean to me and that the gifts would be for them to remember me as I will always remember them-and nothing else.

the gift…

November 1, 2009

sunset at Possum Bluff,located on the St.Johns River,Florida

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The last time I wrote I mentioned how depression starts bothering me around this time of year. My body and life has moved into an older man but my feet are stuck where I was at age 18.

It was this season in 1969 that I became a member of the crew of the USS Vulcan ( AR-5) .

Like I said-I was 18,and like many young military man at that time,it was my first time away from my family.

The division I worked in-the galley-allowed me everynight off and every other weekend. I took advantage of my new found freedom-no mom and dad to apply a curfue-I’d take the liberty bus into Norfolk and walk Granby Street.

Granby Street was lined with shops to attract the sailor. There where ‘champaign lounges’ where the sailor might go and be conned to buy champaign for the ladies who blew in your ear and whispered nothings. Six dollars a glass made my visit to a champaign lounge really short-we were only paid 79 dollars a month.

There was another shop on Granby that sold jewelry.

It was once upon a time that shops had hawkers-salesmen that stood on the street in front of the shop and would begin the sales process the moment you walked by. One of those hawkers caught me and talked me right in to the counter to show me a pendant. It was called the ‘mothers pendant’…it was designed for all the mothers of sons who were serving,especially the sons in Viet Nam.

He called it the ‘mothers pin’. He had me so convinced to buy this we both were shedding tears-true,he was that convincing. Besides-I was offered credit and UPS shipping…I could’nt have felt more mature.

My brother Frank (we were stationed together) gave me the biggest ration of hell when I told him what I had done. He told me it was the biggest con (and I learned he was right) and demanded I go home to our family home and retrieve the gift. That I wish I had never done….it was’nt that big of a con.

Early this year I managed to travel to Pearl Harbor. My son is stationed there in the US Navy and the timing of his invitation was especially important because my name had been cleared by the Navy and I was awarded disability benefits because of the PTSD from the rapes in barracks D.

The trip to what has to be one the biggest historic Navy event-the attack on Pearl Harbor had so much meaning to me. It was as if evetryday was meant to offer me some strange form of healing to be in the midst of all of this history-and all of the ships.

On the flight over I met an artist-actually,a jeweler. He bopped on to his home island and invited me to take a weekend of my visit to experience his islands attractions,and I accepted.

The flights from island to island are quick-about enough time to drink a beer,but just barely enough. My host met me and we took in some sights and I was able to buy some gifts for a few friends back in Florida-for some very select special friends I was able to find soome very unique and special things. I missed one person-the most important of these friends,Charlotte (my former therapist at the VA). Mostly because there was nothing that fit the special this person was to me.

I mentioned my new friend being a jeweler. I thought of him-maybe I could buy something from him?  His response was such…”you can’t afford what I make”, and once seeing his work , I understood his honesty.

The mystery of things always gives me a sense of of the angels the Bible says encamp around us to protect and guide.

Among all the shops in the airport there was one place where there was a very beautiful young oriental girl standing with a goldfish bowl filled with colored papers…”take and you get great discounts on real pearls right from the oyster”,and along side of her was a huge aquarium filled with water and live oysters.

It reminded me of Granby Street.

“Take a paper and unfold to see your discount” she tells me….”no obligation” she says.

So-I get a free pearl! I’m believing then this is a gimmick,but I took the wand and chose an oyster (or is it a clam?) and it was holding the most beautiful black pearl. All of the clerks were amazed and told me how rare that black pearl was.