Archive for November, 2010

rambled brain plugs…

November 28, 2010

National Cemetery-Bushnell,Florida

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I find an interesting phenom in my head regarding the VA and my discouraged view of my local veterans hospital,that as I am distanced from the scrutiny of the VA my mind is resting from the anger and disillusioned view I have always had. Saying that does not mean that I am conceding that things have gotten better,it means that the further away from the place the less I can say anything in the dark or light,although I know there is dark.

This ‘blog’ idea was the result of my being a male survivor of sexual trauma which later became identified as ‘military sexual trauma’ by my VA therapist,and as I have learned,the phrase is across the board and is known in every VA. As a ‘victim/survivor’ I had always thought it an isolated singular incident. I had no idea there were so many more and that we are a larger group of veterans than previously recognized.

We are silent,I was silent. Sick and silent.

I had a friend when I lived in Tuckahoe (Virginia) as a teenager. My family had just moved there and the neighborhood was still under construction. Our street wasn’t even finished. Across the way was a vast forest which was swiftly being pushed away for more houses. I explored those woods. I found myself one day standing at the edge of a junk yard which was a standard part of a gas station. I think I was about 13 or 14,and there I am coming out of the woods into this junk yard and there driving a large wrecking truck was a boy my age.

The whole story about Bubba Perkins is too much to try to put into this part of this writing,but we became instant friends…except the initiation of this friendship is what I want to point out!

You have to remember that in those days we lived in a cigarette fancy era…the Marlboro cowboy was as likely a hero as Mickey Mantel was. In that region of Richmond Virginia tobacco was nearly as important as God and parents seemed less restrictive of smoking.

Bubba smoked! Bubba drove his fathers wrecker truck! Bubba was about the best kid I ever met and like those who idolize others,I idolized him.

It was moments of my coming into the edge of the junk yard and seeing this kid smoking a cig and driving this huge truck that I was invited into the garage and offered a Coke and questioned about where I came from. Nobody seemed to care that this kid was smoking,so I acted like I was a big shot and wanted a cigarette too. It would not have been my first.

All of this said to tell you that Bubba and I decided to play the game ‘chicken’ to master out who was the toughest…all of this within minutes of stepping onto the junk yard property. Of course,I acted like I was experienced in the game but had no clue what it took to play it.

Bubba put our arms together on a work bench,our wrists were side by side,and dropped a lit cigarette right in between them. The power of the hot tip of the smoking cig was burning into our arms. The test was to see who was the toughest (why we had to do that so early in meeting??) and we stood there with that thing burning into our arms. It took what seemed forever for the game to end with no losers or no winners except that we decided that being best friends would be the best result…and we were.

I had to explain the burn to explain healing.

My parents never knew that I nursed this burn spot on my wrist for nearly two years. The hole was at least 1/2 inch deep and would not scab up or heal. I still have the scar,my wrists are heavily tattooed but the spot where the scar is has been framed by the ink  because the artist said it would never heal. He noticed it right away and some 45 or 46 years later it still is obvious. That is what the scar from PTSD is like,the same scar that sexual trauma has made.

The tattoo artist said if he cut into the scar it may never heal. I kept silent to my parents about my burn,to this day I have succeeded.

If that burn had attention when I first got it the healing might have been different and perhaps the scar less obvious. I was scared as a teen to tell my folks that I was in pain,but hiding it because of the nature of where it came from.

I feel that the same thing is true about my sexual trauma experience and my post traumatic stress disorder. I believe that if things were dealt with properly when the rape had happened that my lifestyle might have gone much differently,I might have healed.

I find that a part of me has relaxed since the tension of waiting news of the disability claim to end has come. It is no longer an issue for me,the paperwork specifically notes that as a part of the decision that the VA can never require me to go through any further scrutiny and that my disability will never improve. I have no more connection with the Veterans Administration Medical Center,thus my ability to say anymore about them is diminishing. I could always remark about past experiences but would hope that always something is happening to improve but as I am absent then I have no place to focus my disagreements of the place.

I do still have the ability to write about what is wrong in the system concerning the rights other veterans who have suffered from PTSD that is directly related to MST. The issue of the disability should be separate from the usual channels of filing a disability claim. The injury and the result are different from any typical expected injury that combat or any kind of military duty could occur. It is one thing to be on a gurney with a bullet wound and years later be able to share a beer with friends and talk about the war-time wounds. We MST veterans have a black space in our military lives that we can never share openly. Post traumatic stress disorder is as equally as harmful to the ‘silent wounded’ as it is to those who have been up in the front and seen the bloodiest of combat,the fears are that great,the nightmares as terrible. The shame cannot be described as our injury should have been that of what was expected,and not as we got it.

I felt so ashamed five years ago when sitting in private with a retired gunny-sergant now a DVA counselor explaining the effects of my PTSD and how I came to be so! The shame in the fact that he did not get it,that he saw sexual-trauma as a choice in sexual activity and made suggestion that it was a homosexual act and not a case of being beaten up and forced into a urinal and forced,and forced!

I still feel the shame! Believe that the filing for a disability has not improved any of the inner damage…I am still sick from it,it should have had attention from the beginning to help it heal. Instead the tissue of the mental scar is as sensitive as the tissue of my burn scar!

I weep for those who are lost from battle. I weep for the guilt that I did not make it far enough to get there to battle. Last night I watched a documentary about ‘hill 880’ and the film had many faces of kids my age that had the sign of shock in their eyes and they interviewed several survivors through the film who described what terror was happening there. One veteran was able to travel back to the very location of this monster of a battle that lasted 77 days,hour after hour,and finally find peace with it. My eyes flooded hearing the story. The way one veteran explained how many of his best friends,the only friends, ever in his life died there,explaining how they were not child hood pal’s but that friendships so strong began in an instant in a trench at the front by the wire,unlike any friendship formed since.

Every veteran of MST that I have ever spoken to tells me of the same feelings of guilt. It is like a whole part of our life has to be turned off in certain circumstances. I could never be able to tell that I remember my best friend from a fox hole or relate how I went across the battlefield. We have a place where we cannot explain our military service because of the shame it presents for us to tell those who do not understand. I would have welcomed my injury if it came from battle.

I  can still and will fight for the rights of MST survivors.


depression seizes

November 21, 2010

freeze dress for Florida

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

It comes like a rock flying at you by surprise,the intense pain from the way you are hit by it! I had a feeling it was beginning last week and wanted to be mistaken…thinking,hopefully,maybe this year? It won’t go away,I am just a fool to think it. Last weekend I entered a mall while visiting a friend. I really had not thought about all the crixmix decorations or the music,it has been that long since entering a mall it had not been in my memory.

I tried to ignore it! I tried to put my mind on who I was with,but honestly it was hard to ignore.

I got sick earlier in the week. Slight I suppose in terms of other bouts with flu,but then noticed the hard grabbing feeling on my shoulders and on my neck,the feeling that something huge is squeezing me tighter and tighter. All I want to do is die quietly in my bed knowing it is the only cure.

Sleep is all that I can muster up…death ain’t that kind!

I am supposed to be a support for others but confess that I grow so weak during this period of the year. The seclusion isn’t even enough,the invites for “if you’re not doing anything Thanksgiving”….”be sure to come here”!! That part sets off the rest…”do you have a good crixmix planned”? At the bank….”are getting ready for a big crixmix”? It resonates like that violin shrieking in the Bate’s Motel in that old movie where the woman gets stabbed in the shower!

How can a person endure it? What can you say to someone who means well and considers it all cheer? I have no way of saying it to the bank teller or to the post office clerk or to anyone that the reminder hurts and never can I tell you how.

My feet feel like huge ingots of iron that are unable to move. I want to go to the grocery but my feet and my heart won’t let me. It is there too! And the depression is like an anchor that purposely stops any movement,my body reels from the pain. Please know depression is quite painful. Trying to help by saying “think good thoughts” is not a help…wear this pair of iron ingots on your feet and begin to feel the rest of it and you might not speak so loosely. I have tried the happy thoughts.

I cannot shake the memories.

to those who seek help….

November 19, 2010


Originally uploaded by jayfherron

This is me! I am the male person writing this journal about my journey as a survivor of sexual trauma…in my case it is known as Military Sexual Trauma due to my assaults taking place while enlisted in the US Navy.

This entire catalog of my life was once held private within my soul. I lived nearly 35 years with the details of what had happened in 1969 in silence. Who would ever understand? Who would ever listen to me?

I lived with this alone thinking that no one in life has ever had something done to them like this. It took years for me to understand that it was rape…all the time I was thinking of it as forced humiliation,and at 18 years old I had no understanding of what is was,I just knew it as pain.

Pain like this is different from hitting ones thumb with a hammer. Instead of healing it grows. The name for the scab is ‘post traumatic stress disorder’. I have tried to pick it off with drinking and drug abuse…when able to see the daylight the scab is still there.

This time of year is the worse time for me. My life up until age 18 was in a home were holiday celebration was a time of gentle mystic fantasy and I can remember going way back into my head the dreams of all the kids were as mine with the hope of snow so that Christmas lights would look that much more special glittering in its reflection. The tree coming up after the Thanksgiving meal and lasting til the day after New Years. With my mothers artistic skills the elves and dreams seemed so real. I remember as a wee boy going to a hotel lobby next to the Kanawha River in Charleston and singing Christmas Carols with a group of other kids. It was just like out of a Jimmy Stewart movie! Those memories are there dimly.

 I spent this past weekend in another city visiting a friend. With out thinking of it all in its fullness I went along as my friend needed to get something that was in a mall. It wasn’t so bad as we entered on a Sunday and the mass of the building was open,but the shops had not,so it was fairly vacant. The part I had not thought about was crixmix! The mall had santa’s crixmix center….the center of the mall had a towering crixmix tree. The music of crixmix slowly started after the mall began to fill. Gladly it filled around us instead of having to enter it whilst it was jammed. But then the music started.

It will always be…the trigger.The signs of crixmix will always set it off.

I tried to go home that season in 1969. That was all. I just wanted to surprise my family,no big crime there!

The ship I was stationed on divided the seasons up giving a third of the ship’s crew each a holiday. My holiday was new years. I had never been away from my family at this time of year but remember living it on board the USS Vulcan that year. On Thanksgiving the movie special that evening was ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ (to those who do not know the film is a classic anti-war piece) while we were a land at war. I remember the mess deck dressed up in tinsel at the crixmix time…there was a santa for the kids of dad’s served on the boat who lived on base.

It was a mid-week holiday season. I had the entire weekend of for the new year part. My job on ship also permitted me every night off. Essentially I had a full weekend but a snow storm shut down everything and transportation was included. Although I was stranded I was able to clear my absence with the ship. All was clear.

I will never know the real truth of what happened. My brother arrived,sent by the ship…to arrest me. I was stationed with him,I had asked for that during boot camp. He was my big brother who I hardly knew. I had heard snippets of details but the hard fact is that something was manipulated to put me in a detention barracks and there I was raped.

My attack happened around 0200 on New Years Eve some 22 hours before the 1970 crystal ball was lowered in Manhattan.

I have always struggled around this time of year and always will because of it being a timer on a clock ringing at me each time it passes.  Just like the Arlo Guthrie song sets it off….”you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”!

I recall those days in vivid Technicolor.

So all of this has been repeated over and over in the past pages of my journal. I began writing this out of anger and re-abuse by the veterans disability process. I am just a sand hills dweller,a former trucker…no special person,but a survivor. And entering the process of Disabled Veterans of America assisting me in filing a claim for disability I learned how insensitive the DVA advocates were regarding the injury of sexual trauma. I also began to see the numbers of us that endured this type of pain. I began to realize the re-abuse of those who do not understand the crime of sexual assault,and the re-abuse of the system that should be there to help,but is not willing to do so.

The reason why I am writing these pages today is to seek out those who are afraid to come forward and speak about their own trauma…especially with the fear of not knowing if the one they speak to can be trusted.

I know in my own life that if I suppress the pain long enough it festers and boils and bursts and it makes me do things that I seem to control,but my vision see’s me standing off on the side watching while the festering freaks out. I know if anyone reading this has experienced this trauma from MST you know what I am saying.

Yes,I challenged the system that is supposed to help. Almost 6 years the process took,it was years I could honestly have done with out. I met people in the system along the way that had zero business talking with or knowing about my sexual assaults,and that would be the effect on any survivor.

For 35 years I had lived as a lie to my family,I had to live in silence of what had happened. For 35 years I lived alone with this and then it was revived along a hope I might be taken care of. I locked onto that hope like the jaws of a pit bull on an intruders leg.

The Veterans Administration ought to take a deep look at MST and the survivors. They fail to have a proper view.

I spoke with my attorney yesterday. He telephoned to say that my settled disability is what we sought. I will never be questioned by the VA again,this decision is permanent. I never have to enter the Gainesville VA Hospital again,if I so chose. I never have to be questions again about what happened in the detention  barracks. It is over.

As we talked (my attorney and I) I again heard the voice of a true advocate and the compassion of a man who knows that ‘military sexual trauma’ injures those assaulted permanently. Mr.Hill told me they welcome and encourage MST survivors to come forward and to entrust them with the process of finding justice.

Disability compensation is not going to repair the memory. But I will tell you this,to have one person behind you and acting in your good and who believes in you enough to tackle the giant and to do so with your privacy and sensitivity in mind 100% is such a solid feeling.

If you have been living in silence,you should stop and give your trust to this man. To stand up and battle the past has done something to me. I placed my faith in Mr.Hill for the fulfilment of justice and I was correct in my own judgement. I am so thankful that I did.

If anyone was to ask me how to find hope and help in an MST claim,I fully place my trust in


Veterans Day

November 11, 2010

Sir in WW 1

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

My grandfather,we called him ‘Sir’.

I never actually understood my grandfathers silence until my own life has gone further past me than I ever imagined. Sir never spoke much ever that I can recall. He would always seem somewhere in a distance as if he was waiting for something to come to his mind yet it would never seem to arrive.

Sir was my favorite person. To me he is a hero,though unrecognized because his heroics are known to me.

My grandfather worked many jobs before ending up in the iron workers union in Washington DC. In 1962 he was a part of building a wing of the nation’s capital,in 1966 he was buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Only through films about living and dying in the trenches in World War One could I ever learn about why my grandfather never spoke and kept his place to himself. He too had to have suffered great pain from post traumatic stress disorder.

He was a good dedicated man,I know that. I know he came to Washington DC to find the payment of a broken promise made to this country’s veterans back in those days…the unpaid bonus with ended up in a massive encampment of veterans and their families next to the Anacostia River. Many story’s come to mind from my grandmother and my father about those days. MacArthur led the US Calvary into the camps to disband thousands of men and woman who were there to receive a promised reward. It was last use of the mounted calvary of the US Army.

I had my haircut two days ago in a local barbershop that I happened upon. It was in the rear of a building that once was a dentist office. I saw the striped pole while driving past and on impulse I went in,needing a real haircut.

The shop was almost as if it was a nautical gift shop instead of what it was. I was really fascinated with a certain model ship and said something to the lady cutting my hair.

My question inspired her response about her husband,a combat wounded Viet Nam veteran and the more she talked made me feel more guilt about my own disability status but yet opened the door to speak intelligently about her husbands own disability.

He suffers from prostate cancer and heart disease and post traumatic stress disorder and only receives 10% disability from the VA.

Because of my writing this blog for 5 years and doing the research on VA policies that I have it turns out that the knowledge I have gained seemed important for them,this lady barber and her husband,and the other barber that walked out to the breeze-way to smoke. He stopped me as I exited towards my truck. He had questions too.

The man was a purple heart recipient,wounded in Viet Nam. He too was ruined due to Agent Orange. And retired Army. His words about disability compensation from the VA were sad. He showed me his wound area and described how things have been. He said he had never heard some of the policies I was speaking about inside…especially those about the current rules declared by the VA this past July. One such pays a disability to Vietnamese subjected to the chemical responsable for ruining so many lives.

When I drove away I was stopped at the traffic light only two blocks from the shop. The light was a major intersection and standing on the corner were two young men perhaps around age 20 to 25. Both had to hold their pants up with one hand. A huge band of underwear kept showing,for some reason every once in a while the two would pull the pants up like normal,and then they would as quickly drop back down to expose the underwear. The light changed while they were waiting and given the walk signal the pair began crossing six lanes of street all the time holding these pants up….I think they are really short pants,but not yet figured it out. They shuffled as they walked,their shoes were nothing more than slippers a housewife would wear.

The barber that had left the space while I was talking to my barber about her husbands ailments from conflict overseas had told me from the beginning of his conversation with me that he had to leave the room because of the emotion of what the memory does to him. Serving 30 years in the US Army and now discovering the thanks given to him by the Veterans Administration in recognition to his dedication to our country. A man my age looking tearfully as he explains how his life was broken by all of his dedication to serve. He lost a wife and his sons along the way as their lives needed more than just having a Dad living in so many places every two years,or him being deployed for long periods in places the family could not go. The meantime my barber was telling the woes she and her husband go through. It was almost as if this supposed to happen to encourage my own advocacy for veterans to continue and become larger.

I sat in my truck looking at the two men(?) waddle across the street gripping the waist band of the oversize pants they worked so hard to keep from falling down. Young men their age are serving in a conflict overseas as we sit and ponder our day. In my youth the hippie movement came to be to protest the wrong of a war that is still doing wrong. This day it seems the wars we are involved in now have no patriotic following. During the 60’s and 70’s one could not miss the sight military uniforms in public places.  Today we see more young men gripping the waist band of their pants and the view of underwear showing on grown men….?

Remember,it was not the veteran who started the wars!



it all stays the same

November 7, 2010

freeze dress for Florida
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


This is it! The first snap in the low 30’s,already!

It already seems a lifetime but it has only been four weeks since learning my disability for post traumatic stress disorder was elevated to the maximum. I believe to be designated such is a positive moment in many lives of military sexual trauma survivors.

What changed?

I am free of Veterans Administration scrutiny for one. That resulted in almost two weeks of straight exhaustion. Inside me the stress of the entire past five years battle for this disability claim was finally over,the phenomenon of much-needed sleep came over me. Dead sleep! But once the rest was over the erratic returned and the horrible dreams came with  it. Yesterday I had to go to three places in town…the heavy breathing came with the thought of it,the hesitation to go to the truck…the voice telling me not to go kept on and on giving me reasons why I didn’t have to go,except I had to go. That hasn’t changed.

They gave me some money. I have no sense of the money factor…like politicians getting caught with their pants down somewhere,the apology is such bull shit. The money factor is too.

The disability paperwork provides some roadblocks. It is suggested to report to my local VSO (veterans service officer) to receive proper identification to release me from property taxes and vehicle tags. Well…I can’t go there. The same persons that made fun of my claim for sexual assault are still running that office. The person that thought it odd “homosexuals needed a reason to rape each other” (his words) is no longer there,he retired. One of those involved in the “pink marker” joke is. So there is still more to battle for MST suffering veterans.

I am also given free dental care at the VA. I feel I will never again go into the VA finding more outside medical care and more health care through that.

I am afraid to go to our local VA hospital.

So,it all stays the same. I am just glad the ordeal is over. But the truth is that it all stays the same. I still am waking to taking my inventory,what I am and where I am. I still feel the restlessness of my dreams,and will never ever lose the triggers of what happens in the bathroom to me…each and everyday! They are there as living as the cockroach on my bathroom wall. I will never lose the memory of barracks D. The crixmix crap is out in stores and I will never forget what that means to me. It will get worse before that part goes away. The triggers get stronger and stronger as crixmix closes in and the exhortations of crixmix being merry spews from just about everywhere.

To those who do not understand…it was Christmas 1969 which was my first being away from my family. I was on board the USS Vulcan and the size of the crew made it necessary to divide up the holiday season into three groups. My group was free to spend New Years with our family. I was wanting to surprise them and tried to make a fast round trip to get one more night home. A snow storm screwed that idea up. Something else screwed up the rest of it. What that was I will really never know…but I was charged with something criminal and although innocent I was taken to detention barracks D. There I was raped. 18 years old and 120 pounds spending new years eve being beaten up and raped.

!merry crixmix!

Most of what made the reason for my detention has been concluded that my brother was jealous of me…I had asked to be stationed with him as he had left to join the Navy when I was just a kid,we really never knew each other. When I came aboard ship I was given some aptitude tests that rank high on the scores. I was offered a chance to take a GED to finish high school and was offered a chance to re-enlist for an additional 6 years and the Navy was going to send me to college and I was going to come back a junior officer. My brother was jealous. I never realized until now when after the years living with this alone a therapist gets involved.

I never forget that time.  Every step I live seems result of then.

People talk about finding closure. I can’t say what that really is,or if it can happen. I went a few years back and saw my baby brothers grave,and still could the car running over his five-year old body…he’s still dead,laying in his casket in his red coat my mother had made. I’m not sure what closure is. I have a ration of thoughts and doings that are irrational perhaps for a man my age,but I am doing things that seem more like that of a kid than mature. A therapist had told me once that am stuck as a boy because of the trauma of the rapes and my age,especially my age in my mind then,was disturbed and I keep clinging to the gentle simple life I had as a boy before the rapes had happened. I do things with no explanation of common sense…such as ordering toys for myself to put up on a shelf,for me.

I wanted to live on the USS Vulcan for the rest of my life! When the taxi dropped me at her pier that first morning my 18-year-old eyes saw all the lights and how they illuminated the size of the ship I knew this was the life I wanted.

Two months,that was all. We went out to sea once and broke down having to steer towards Guantanamo Bay. All of it was a thrill. We later set off to Montego Bay. God sees the thrill it puts in my heart right now.

I hope to relive that for a longer period. I am proceeding to book as a passenger on a long-term freighter cruise. Not a frills cruise…Dizney kind of booze and gamble and check out the mouth breathers kind of cruise…a limited to a handful of passengers (the brochure says usually five to ten) on a real working freighter ship,cruise. Except…I’m just going to see the sea and sit and allow Gods Spirit to speak to me through it all. Perhaps write a book about all of this…the length of the cruise is 228 days.

For the curious…the trip begins in Long Beach,California and goes down the Pacific coast all along South America. Each port call lasts two to three days,ample enough time to see sights on shore. The trip continues around to the Atlantic and goes to the African coast,and eventually it all ends in Asia. All of this has touched a place in my heart that draws me to it.

Mind you…this is not a deal where you sleep in a bunk bed and shower with the rest of the crew. No,there are individual staterooms with private bath. International law requires english be spoken on all of this type ship. There is in room service. Just no party’s. One is free to roam the ship!

Maybe it could be closure. Who knows? All I know is it becomes a freedom!