rambled brain plugs…


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.

Peace

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8 Responses to “rambled brain plugs…”

  1. Jerry Says:

    Your doing good work with you post and there are thousands of abuse victims that aren’t even aware of our “support” group on line. We can only hope things will get better in the future.

    • jayherron Says:

      I am always encouraged by knowing someone might be helped by what I say. It is just that the years of having to stay silent collided with with these past few years and have created a voice from me that almost wants to scream…and just might go do that! peace

  2. Doodarudi Says:

    Lets have a beer and talk

  3. enemyinthewire@hotmail.com Says:

    Jay,

    That is one of the best explanations I have ever heard! You are absolutely right on target!

    Blessings,

    Joan

  4. laura t. Says:

    strong, jay, and inevitably healing. your writing here is excellent and the feelings palpable. thank you for bearing your heart and soul, brother. xoxoxoxoxo

    • jayherron Says:

      LT,it encourages me that you follow my writings! And I am thankful for your comments! Despite that I have been granted the disability…the reason why is that I am disabled,now having to cover that black spot up….”how did you become a disabled vet?”!! To take the challenge to prove myself against the VA and win,however,is strong powerful medicine! Keep encouraging the fellows at Mr.VETWOW….never give it up!

  5. navygirl Says:

    I feel for you-and I hope your path to healing is enabled through your writing. It is incredibly enlightening to both, those that have and have not experienced the trauma or the process. Be well. You are loved.

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