Sexual Harassment as a Junior Marine: My Personal Experience

I want to start off by saying, I love the Marine Corps.  Honestly, I do.  Some of the information I am sharing today will not convey this message.  I wrote the following journal entry back then in the midst of some degrading situations I encountered.  At times, I was greatly frustrated with my experiences as a Marine.  We are not without our problems as a military service branch, but I know throughout most of my experiences, the mentality of “taking care of one’s own” was drilled into us and I believe I’ve had a fair share of good leaders who valued their junior personnel.

I’ve also seen moments of downright poor leadership that I’ve talked privately about with friends and family through social media sites.  As the single female at my first unit, there were times inappropriate comments were made to or about me that never should have occurred.  Marines know better.  In fact, Americans in general know better.  Sexually harassment may not manifest itself on quite the same level or in quite the same ways as it did for past generations.  I think a significant part of that change involves equal opportunity in the workplace and also improved consequences for individuals who break the rules set in place.

In sharing my story, please pardon my language.  I’ve cut back on swearing, but back in 2006, I swore all the time.  I did leave out parts of my journal entry because the information I discussed was not relevant to the topic of sexual harassment.  I rambled on for a bit about my disappointment in American television shows, so I “cut out” the journal entry to focus more on the subject at hand.


January 22, 2006

January 22, 2006 Continued

The Journey Home: A Decade Later

I’ve chosen the wrong space on campus to sit and reflect on the fact 10 years ago, I left Camp Blue Diamond, Iraq to begin my journey home.  The overhang of the building magnifies the sound of students surrounding me…

Ok, I left my space to find a slightly quieter one outside. I don’t know if the architects of the W.P. Carey building realized the overhang would reverberate sound as bad as it does, but the cacophony is unbearable.  To me, at least.

Getting back on topic, in ten years, so much as changed since I left Blue Diamond.  I got promoted.  I got married.  I went on a second tour to Iraq.  I returned home safely again.  I left active duty.  I started my college education again.   I moved to Wyoming.  I gave birth to my daughter.  I graduated college.  I left Wyoming and moved to Arizona.  I became employed.  I was unemployed.  I resumed employment again.  I became a graduate student.

I sit at this computer today a different woman than who I was ten years ago. Back then, I loved a different person than the man who became my husband.  We were an inseparable part of each other’s existence from basically the day we met.  We didn’t plan on being partners, but we quickly became each other’s best friend.  Before my deployment ended, we made plans on how life would be post-deployment.  Like others before us, we weren’t quite aware of how difficult the transition home could be.  Our respective individual burdens interfered with our ability to sustain that relationship.

In fact, I’ve never been so angry with one person in my entire life as I was with him during this transition.  It’s not entirely his fault.  My support system back home, which I expected him to be a part of, was quite broken. I let go of the relationship at the point where I was tired of living up to everyone else’s expectations of me.  I was tired of feeling like my voice was ignored.  I was sick of feeling like my needs as a person were less important.  The relationship was a casualty of so many other things gone wrong and it took me a long time to realize it was ok to let go.  That first year home, one of my favorite songs to ease my mind was Three Doors Down “Let Me Go.”

The following lines reminded me of how I felt:

I dream ahead to what I hope for

And I turn my back on loving you

How can this love be a good thing

When I know what I’m goin through

It took time to realize that I didn’t know what I was asking him to commit to back then.  In particular, I was asking him to make me a priority and move out to where I was when he had two kids who hadn’t seen him in months.  As a mother now, I cannot imagine someone making the same demands of me.  When my daughter hugs me in the morning after I drop her off at school, I feel like the most important person in the world.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t earn a lot of money, that my husband and I don’t own a home, or that I see her in the few hours of my day that I’m not working.  She loves me because I am her mom.  She doesn’t want anything other than some time with me, a hug and a kiss here and there, and the chance to show me things she finds important.

I don’t regret the short time Nathan was my boyfriend.  I did not seek out someone to share my life with when I was in Iraq.  I worked 10 am to 10 pm on day shift, which later transitioned to 10 pm to 10 am on night shift.  On several occasions on day shift, my crew also was tasked with filling sandbags.  Only near the end of the deployment when I switched to night shift did I have a partial workday once a week.  Sleep was a priority to me.  However, it was nice having simple routines like going to the gym with him or eating dinner together.  Only after hearing Jason Aldean’s “Tattoos on This Town” did I find a song that got to the heart of this experience together; the chorus below is just a small picture of the beauty within the song.

It sure left it’s mark on us, we sure left our mark on it
We let the world know we were here, with everything we did
We laid a lotta memories down, like tattoos on this town
Like tattoos on this town

Post resumed at home———————————————————————–

Originally, I didn’t see the music video.  Most times, I despise watching the videos, which often don’t do the songs justice in my mind.  This one just so happens to mirror in a way our experiences.

The last day I saw him was ten years ago today.  We visited each other four times that day, had dinner together in the chow hall with its newly built pizza oven, and I ran into a friend from MOS (military occupational school).  Below are the two photos from that day; do note as well, selfies weren’t the norm.  I was rocking it ‘old school’ having someone else take my photo. 🙂

Murphy and I outside the chow hall.
Murphy and I outside the chow hall.
Nathan and I outside the "frat house" (his unit's barracks).
Nathan and I outside the “frat house” (his unit’s barracks).

I didn’t write a journal entry that day as I was incredibly exhausted.  Although I was promised a liberal amount of free time to plan for the convoy, I was unfortunately tasked with random things like attending a ceremony.  I cannot recall who it was for because I honestly did not care one bit to be there.  Leaving the base that night via convoy, I was so exhausted that I kept falling asleep periodically even though my weapon was Condition 1.  Note, that’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do.  It’s where you have a magazine inserted and a round in the chamber.  It’s a horrible thing to admit as a Marine as well, but a Sergeant I knew stepped up as a leader and kindly told me it as ok to take my weapon to Condition 4 (chamber empty, magazine removed).  The last thing certainly anyone wants is to accidentally shot themselves with their own weapon or worst still, to shoot someone else by accident.  I can say that after I took my weapon out of Condition 1, it was easier to stay awake.  I was more nervous about something bad happening and not being prepared to respond.

Weapons Conditions

Condition 1-safety on,magazine inserted, round in the chamber, bolt forward, ejection port cover closed

Condition 2-Does not apply to the M-16 Service Rifle

Condition 3-safety on, magazine inserted, chamber empty, bolt forward, ejection port cover closed

Condition 4-safety on, magazine removed, chamber empty, bolt forward, ejection port cover closed

My husband didn’t know me when I returned from Iraq.  We didn’t met until a few months later; I think in May, but we only started to date in October of 2005.  Later this year, we will celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary.  In our 9 years of marriage, I’ve worried at times about how much we can love each other.  When I deployed to Iraq the second time, we were married less than a month.

It’s taken a lot of time to trust that we can work through anything.  I never experienced that commitment before; I didn’t know it would mean loving each other when we hated how each other was acting, or picking each up after setbacks or illness.  He is patient in the times where I am frustrated by a multitude of things, namely technology and my weight.  He reminds me that I am a good mother when I feel that I do not have enough time to devote to my daughter because I work more to provide financially for the future.  In these times, I am reminded that we choose to make a life together, we agreed to make decisions together, we signed up for the miserable and the mundane.  He is a partner I didn’t know would find me and love me for every flaw, every quirk, every bad mood, and every sly smile.  I do not have to be perfect to earn his love.  He makes me feel safe in ways I didn’t expect I would feel.  He will never understand the journey that existed prior to our meeting but in small ways, sharing this experience is important to where I am today.

i Rock the Boots & Lady Brigade: Shirts Celebrating Female Military Service

I promised you all not too long ago, I’d tell you about a special t-shirt company celebrating females in the military.  Turns out there is another company with a similar passion.  The first, i Rock the Boots, was started up by Arizona State University Army ROTC cadre Executive Officer Major Michelle Bravo.

Below are photos from the brand’s website so you get a quick peek at the designs:

i Rock the Boots image
i Rock the Boots image

Boots ShirtI found out about the second company, Lady Brigade, as my former USMC roommate, Sarah, shared it on Facebook.  This company is also established by a female veteran.  Nadine Noky started up her company last year.

Lady Brigade t-shirt (Image taken from their website)
Lady Brigade t-shirt (Image taken from their website)
Lady Brigade t-shirt (image taken from their website)
Lady Brigade t-shirt (image taken from their website)

While I was initially hesitant to look through the designs, I’m glad I did.  I want to create awareness t-shirts, but being aware of what’s out there also serves a purpose in ensuring my designs do not closely resemble other products.

I wish both these women success in their endeavors; being an entrepreneur is certainly not an easy adventure, but the potential to change the world is pretty exciting.  I understand there is negative feedback already brewing over Lady Brigade; you can see some of this animosity in comments listed on Buzzfeed.

Below are just a few of the comments being made; I don’t know if there would be such a negative response for a male veteran owned company.  Perhaps.  But I don’t think so.  And if nothing else, some of these comments only make me more eager to get my own products developed.

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Being a veteran is something to be proud of; I know I didn’t serve my country so I could get a ‘thank you’ at the end of four years.  I served because someone I loved previously was killed and couldn’t finish his dream.  I served because I didn’t want to be $80,000 in debt for college.  I served because my father served in the Navy and I believe in our nation’s military.  I served because I met veterans who impressed me.  I served because I had friends also willing to serve.  I served because there was no reason I couldn’t serve.

I am a veteran and I’m proud of my service.  I talk to people about my service not because I want a ‘kudos’ from people; I talk about my service so people can understand our nation’s military and the gendered experiences in recruitment, training, deployment, and transitioning out of the military.

As such, it’s important to also support women like Major Bravo and veteran Nadine Noky in their efforts to shed light as well on female military service.

Helen Benedict’s The Lonely Soldier–The Painting of Women’s Injustices as the Norm of Military Service

As a female veteran, I found this book to be an insulting representation of what life is like for women in the military in a time of war.
As a female veteran, I found this book to be an insulting representation of what life is like for women in the military in a time of war.

My voice is recovering.  I have laryngitis so it might take a week to fully sound like myself again,but it’s nice to know I’m not contagious.  I went back to work today and had class.  I’m not the kind of person who typically takes sick days.  Call it a bad habit from my Marine Corps service, but I am used to working through pretty much anything.  We [recruits, in general] get what’s dubbed the recruit crud; oddly enough, as I was looking for an explanation of it for you all, I came across this article from the Navy’s website.  I can’t recall ever getting the flu when I served.  I even had the misfortune of getting my smallpox vaccine in Iraq because the girl who was designated my roommate stateside came to Camp Pendleton pregnant from MOS (military occupational specialty) school.  Yes, I wasn’t allowed to get my smallpox vaccine pre-deployment because she was pregnant.  And in case you get the smallpox vaccine during pregnancy or inadvertently become pregnant, you can check

My journal from back then is as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.13.02 PM

Today we were discussing Helen Benedict’s The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq.  Originally, I was ecstatic to have a book all about female service members deployed to Iraq as part of my reading material, but I grew pretty incessantly mad at the author’s repugnant use of ‘soldiers’ to describe all service members.  Time and time again, people refer back to the term, soldier, to describe all service members without taking into account it is not appropriate to call us all soldiers.  Trust me, if you are not a soldier, it gets old.  If you are a Marine, it is downright insulting.  

Here’s something for you to break it down:


Air Force= Airmen


Marine Corps=Marines

Coast Guard=Coasties

I do digress, but I will jump on my soapbox repeatedly to tell people I do not like being called a soldier.  I didn’t join the Army.  I became a United States Marine.

The author dabbles a bit into discussing several poignant soldier (truly soldier) stories with some vignettes tucked in throughout to represent the voices of other service members.  The main characters, however, are as follows:

Mickiela Montoya (Army National Guard)

Jennifer Spranger (Army Reservist)

Eli PaintedCrow (Army Reservist)

Terris Dewalt-Johnson (Army Reservist)

Abbie Pickett (Army National Guard)

Reading their stories was infuriating.  Not because some of what they say might very well be true, but because there was a sheer lack of depth on the author’s part to fully investigate the experiences of female service members.  Her main characters are National Guard and Reservist soldiers.  They are, as is mentioned in the book, part time service members.  They do not live, sleep, and breathe their service as active duty members do.  The disdain active duty members typically feel towards reservists/the National Guard is quite palpable.  However, that’s not to say that active duty members and their part time counterparts are always against one another.  There is a trust that must be built as in any relationship, work, friendship, or otherwise.

In attempting to get through this book, I found myself relying on listening to music to keep my anger in check.  Once again, I haven’t loved everything about my service and the ways I’ve been treated, but this book painted a poor picture that women can essentially expect to be raped, sexually assaulted, harassed, or put in harm’s way because their units don’t give a damn.

Yes, some women are raped.  Yes, some are sexually assaulted.  Yes, some are harassed.  Yes, some are put in harm’s way, but not typically because their units don’t care; typically being put in harm’s way happens because up and down the chain of command (the order of supervisors and their junior personnel) somewhere there are incompetent leaders.  Or sometimes, you are instructed to go into harm’s way.  If you join any branch and serve in any capacity (National Guard, Reservist, or Active Duty) you should have the wherewithal to assume you might serve in a combat zone.  I don’t care what your recruiter told you.  You are serving in a time of war.  

There are, like in the civilian world, bad people in the military.  Men who rape women because they like the power and harm they cause.  There are men who sexually assault women because they attempt to rape women and may not fulfill those attempts.  There are men who harass women because they feel it’s socially acceptable.  There are some men who put women in harm’s way, because there is a certain satisfaction they get from endangering others.  There are recruiters who lie because their careers are on the line and they have quotas to meet.  There are evil women just like these men.  Just remember that statement for a second.

However, there are also many other men [and women] who work as partners, peers, and supervisors that work to prevent such treatment and to empower women to seek justice for the harm they suffer or have suffered.  The women in this book, while they might not have felt comfortable, could have found resources outside their commands to address their concerns.  It is preferable that any service member work within his or her command to resolve issues, but if your command has that many flagrant problems, trust me, there is always a line of defense you can you utilize elsewhere.  There are many great men and women throughout the service branches that would not tolerate many of the behaviors mentioned in this book.

On another day, I will provide my thoughts as a veteran regarding some of the soldiers’ behaviors (unplanned pregnancies, drug use, and insubordination) shared in the book that is worthy of discussion as well.

A Marine’s Life: Deployment Photos

I’m home sick from work today.  I’m not throwing up or anything, but my voice is worn out and I’ve developed chest congestion overnight.  Today I can barely talk and being in a customer service line of work, there are numerous tasks I cannot effectively accomplish without speaking to people, either the VA, students, my peers, or my supervisors.  Days like today are difficult for me because I very much feel my voice is a significant part of who I am.  I’m not a brooding person in the corner who quietly learns and rarely speaks up to ask questions or provide insight for others.  I engage others at all different levels to speak on matters that interest me, to teach our work study students, to walk students through the benefits process, and as a general part of socialization.

To say I love talking is an understatement.  I remember learning the word ‘locqacious’ in the 5th or 6th grade and feeling empowered by this word.  My dad had joked before about me being a Chatty Cathy, but I feel like I can’t help myself.  Talking, for me, is a great way to know my presence is importance and I receive as much satisfaction listening to others, in most circumstances.  There are people I truly love to talk to; we talk about numerous issues we find socially relevant and even our day-to-day analysis of our goals, progress, and achievements is rewarding for me.

And as I’m desperately trying not to talk today to give my barely there voice a rest, I felt compelled to write.  Writing is but another way to talk and so my voice is still shared with others.

On March 1st, my 31st birthday by the way, I will be “celebrating” my ten year anniversary of returning home from my first Iraq deployment.  The cruel irony is that fighting continues to be a problem in that area and the news is reporting unconfirmed information that 45 individuals in Iraq were burned to death. The nearby base, Al Asad, is where I deployed on my second tour.  More information is coming out today that this new wave of violence might involve organ harvesting.

While I wasn’t meaning to delve into the recent horrors, I know it’s important to state the new wave of violence that has taken root in areas like Iraq, Libya, and other nations.  It is this spread of violence that makes me miss my military service.      Particularly, as Marines, we are taught to go out and fight battles.  We are honest in our assessments of hating garrison life and deployments that mimic that existence.  We like being war fighters.  We don’t expect others to understand that mentality.

Anyways, I did promise deployment photos per the subject heading of this blog entry.  It’s not that I’ve intentionally ignored sharing this part of my life, but thinking, when is the best time to invite you into that world.

An acquaintance and I flying to or either back from Qatar, December 2004.
An acquaintance and I flying to or either back from Qatar, December 2004.
I promise I'm not the only Marine who enjoyed getting their photo taken in front of huge piles of Iraq money.
I promise I’m not the only Marine who enjoyed getting their photo taken in front of huge piles of Iraq money.
Getting ready to convoy over to Camp Ramadi.
Getting ready to convoy over to Camp Ramadi.
This photo was taken during my day trip to Camp Ramadi for our Humvee driving test.
This photo was taken during my day trip to Camp Ramadi for our Humvee driving test.
Myself and the rest of the day crew shift.
Myself and the rest of the day crew shift.
Myself and two Marine acquaintances I knew back then; this photo was taken in Qatar.
Myself and two Marine acquaintances I knew back then; this photo was taken in Qatar.


As I look back, there are a lot more smiling photos of me from this time period despite the fact this deployment was more dangerous than the second.
As I look back, there are a lot more smiling photos of me from this time period despite the fact this deployment was more dangerous than the second.
Nathan and myself
Nathan and myself
Myself at the mall in Qatar (December 2004)
Myself at the mall in Qatar (December 2004)

Marisol Salgado: From Enlisted Marine to Marine Corps Officer

It’s almost ten at night here, but I am working through some homework. One of my upcoming objectives is to write a paper on female recruiting for our nation’s military after 9/11. Tonight, I decided to scout around the Marines website and to my shock and pure joy, I found out one of the recruits from my platoon is now a Marine officer.

I highly doubt she would remember me. I was much more timid back then than I am now, but that’s something we can talk about another time. I wouldn’t say I socialized much with many of the women in my platoon; you run through a lot of skill sets during training and my downtime was spent mostly writing letters to family and friends back home. I would also clean my rifle, but there were girls that were more dedicated than I was at their training. They would practice drill and knowledge in their free time and their efforts paid off immensely. Back then, I was not as diligent in my studies as I am now. I was more captivated by the thought of just finishing boot camp. However, it was always interesting to watch how other recruits interacted with each other. There were a couple who just seemed to be a perfect fit for the Marine Corps.

Platoon 4030, Oscar Company...We had some incredible drill instructors!
Platoon 4030, Oscar Company…we had some incredible drill instructors!
Marisol was one of the 12 recruits in our platoon who dared to smile for her boot camp yearbook photo.
Marisol was one of the 12 recruits in our platoon who dared to smile for her boot camp yearbook photo.

Please note that in this photo from the Marine Corps Facebook page, she is wearing a different cover [hat]. I had heard about changes to authorize the formerly male cover and dress blues jacket for women and it’s interesting to see that changes are taking place during my lifetime. I’ve always thought the male version of the cover and jacket looked much better than our “flight attendant” looking uniform items. I found the MARADMIN (Marine Administrative Message) about the cover change, if anyone wants to check it out.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Please check out her story; it’s so exciting to know she made the transition from enlisted to officer. I hope this career path is something she enjoys for many years to come and many others can be inspired by her chosen profession.

National Geographic February 2015: Controversy and Insights

My mother-in-law subscribes to National Geographic and I always try to sneak a peek at what National Geographic is covering when I go to her home. It was quite a surprise recently when I found their February 2015 edition, which showcases a veteran on the cover for their “Healing Our Soldiers” article.

It’s an interesting read about traumatic brain injury. I don’t want to delve too much on the article as I feel everyone who reads this blog should read it for themselves. Each person will have his or her own interpretation regarding what’s presented–shock, disgust regarding this sort of trauma, intrigue,etc. Please read the article. It’s fascinating as everything else I typically find in National Geographic.

What I wish to speak to you all about today is the cover and imagery presented. I’ve already highlighted information I found interesting.

The alterations are mine (made on PicMonkey).
The alterations are mine (made on PicMonkey).

The biggest frustration of mine with the article is the statement: Healing Our Soldiers.

An organization such as National Geographic should be well aware that we are not all soldiers, especially when it takes the time to portray a Marine on the cover. The generic term of ‘soldiers’ is an antiquated way to look at veterans and service members as a homogenous group. We are not all soldiers. I, in particular, get ticked when people call me a soldier. I am a Marine. I earned my title of Marine. I don’t make this statement to downgrade a Soldier’s service. He or she worked to become a Soldier. I worked to become a Marine.

If National Geographic wants to look collectively at us [all persons who have served this nation’s military] as a group, ‘veterans’ works well for those who left the armed forces or ‘service members’ to look at the group including those actively serving.

My coursework reminds me to look at what is being done right in the article as well. National Geographic decided to show two non-Caucasian men, retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Aaron Tam and Army First Sergeant David Griego, and one female, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Tiffany H. I don’t know whether the average American realizes the lack of true front lines exposed female service members and non-infantry males to many of the same dangers typically encountered by infantry service members. Improvised explosive devices, a cheap weapon to manufacture, were a common problem on the supply routes and a frequent danger for individuals on convoy operations. With this information in mind, consider the fact individuals who are motor transport, supply, combat camera, and the band [at least speaking for the Marine Corps, because they are augmented to units or fill security roles] fill roles both on and off base. Some female service members, as well, served at entry control points and or as part of female engagement teams in villages. Much of the press I’ve seen focuses almost exclusively on the experiences of young, Caucasian infantry males, by comparison. The individuals in the article seem to be particularly older, probably mid 30’s to early 40’s guessing based on their appearances and respective ranks.

This article is not without controversy though. When I discussed the article with my peers, I was informed one of the service members has had allegations made against him. This information made me give the magazine a second look. I must admit I’m embarrassed I didn’t realize one of the Marines had a goatee in uniform. I had completely overlooked all the service members’ small photos and instead focused on the ones of them in their masks. Corporal Chris McNair, retired (per the article’s description), is pictured in close up below [picture from National Geographic’s website]:

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However, this controversy is not what my peer was referring to in our discussion. I didn’t see an article with background information but quite an inflammatory response as follows when I typed in search terms looking for further information. Please bear in mind, the language is not mine and I cannot verify the accuracy of the information provided. However, the reaction is worth noting. I don’t think someone would post this sort of response to the ‘Stolen Valor’ Facebook page without there being at least some level of truth based on how disrespectful it is for anyone to claim certain service experiences (Brian Williams’ current debacle comes to mind) or fake military/veteran status.

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Fall 2014 Semester Recap

6 February 2015

I am constantly working to organize my blog and to keep it up-to-date. Imagine my surprise when I realized I never posted how my first semester of graduate school ended!

Below is a much condensed version of my original post that became buried in my mountain of “to do’s”.


p.s. I have about three concrete t-shirt ideas I’m almost ready to move forward with into samples. I didn’t want you all to think that goal fell by the wayside. I needed time to get the creative juices flowing. As part of that planning, I will share with you the story of a local female service member who is tackling the subject of female service in a similar and slightly different fashion. I’ll write a little more about her here soon.

Rocking a 4.0....the discipline paid off!
Rocking a 4.0….the discipline paid off!

The pressure of this semester is finally alleviated! This first semester was exciting, draining, insightful, and amazing. It’s hard to imagine it’s gone by as quickly as it has, but I made it. The month of October made me pretty nervous my grades would be in the dumps; I tried to tack on some extra post work activities, but one day of traveling to Phoenix taught me, I don’t have the energy to “do it all.” At the same time, I also balanced additional work responsibilities so I quickly reached my limitations of sanity. I can only handle so much sleep deprivation before I’m either a sobbing mess or just this side of angry and desperately want to punch someone in the face. (Note: I won’t, but the desire is still there.)

I was hardly a 4.0 student for my undergraduate degrees, so I am excited my hard work paid off. A significant portion of my success happened behind the scenes and I’d like to share that information as well.

1. Do Your Homework

This one probably goes without saying but it’s hard to be successful if you don’t invest the time and energy to know the material. For my graduate program, my work entails a significant amount of reading. One of my courses provided more reading materials than we had to keep up with, but my instructor reminded us to focus on key pieces to get the most out of our experience. As well, there were some days where I had to reread a couple articles several times before the material made sense. The plus side is I was also better prepared to engage in classroom discussions and I do feel more confident as I get older sharing my opinion. The feedback I receive in gauging how well I understand the material and can apply it to my future goals.

2. Utilize Your Support Network

My husband as you may know is a full time undergraduate student and a VA contracted work study. He and his parents helped throw a lot of support my way as I tackled this semester. Our daughter,Avery, enjoyed lots of extra time visiting her grandparents and my husband picked her up almost exclusively this semester. He also did a majority of the cooking, when we weren’t enjoying fast food outings, and kept the house relatively tidy. I also enjoyed the good company of my friend,Jennie, who listened intently to my stories of graduate school. It’s fun that we enjoy discussing human behavior as much as we do. It’s never a dull moment with us.

3. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

This semester was tough. We were short staffed at my work and I took on extra overtime on numerous occasions just to stay on top of my regular responsibilities. However, I stayed up late when necessary to excel in my schoolwork and I cut back on social outings when necessary. I cut myself some slack for those days when I fell behind on eating well, working out, keeping a clean house, and the laundry. The reward for letting go and being persistent in other areas paid off in discovering potential areas of research and ending the semester on a high note.

Couples & Stress: Our Version

Recently, my husband and I volunteered to be participants in a study on couples and how they cope with stress.  Normally, I would suspect it would be difficult to encourage him to participate but there was a $70 cash incentive, which easily paid for some extra dining out this month.  We are such bad foodies…any opportunity to go out to eat makes us happy.  We love our food adventures.

What I wanted to mention though and I hadn’t thought of it at the time of the study, is our military experiences are not a source of stress in our relationship.  We both are there for each other through our health-related issues like our chest pains and other such issues.  We can talk about dealing with indirect fire on our deployments, our thoughts on poor leadership and the consequence it has on military service members (such as the Camp Bastion attack in 2012), and some of the sexual harassment I dealt with during my service.

We are different in a way because for many military couples, there’s the dynamic of the service member, typically a man, and the spouse or partner, typically a civilian woman.   Oftentimes, the civilian spouse/partner has little to no idea what kinds of things the service member encounters.  There are issues of operational security so only certain things can be shared and unfortunately, as well, there are times service members relay information they shouldn’t have.  There’s a reason why there’s a saying “Loose lips sink ships.”

When the civilian partner is also really young in the relationship (18-20 year old group) and the service member leaves for a combat deployment, there is a lot of discourse.  It doesn’t help as well that when you look biologically at people of this age, there is a lot of emotional development still occurring.  There tends to be a lot of emotional chaos at the same time that surrounds deployments.  In some ways, I’ve experienced my own share.  I had a partner who decided to end a relationship prior to my departure to Iraq and it changed our ability to remain friends afterwards.  I was curt in my email responses that he could not talk to me the same way he did while we were dating.  In the duration of that deployment though, he did send me one letter that revealed a side of him I did not experience throughout our courtship.  I had really wanted to know that I was loved and appreciated in our former relationship and he recognized that he lost something when I decided to date again.

It’s even things like I just explained that I continue to learn are safe subjects to have with my husband.  He made the decision to marry me and I equally made the same decision.  I cannot remember the full conversation in detail but we talked freely about marriage not as the entering into of a religious obligation for a longterm partnership, as others see and are taught the institution of marriage to be.

He is Agnostic and I consider myself a Christian although I do not follow an adherence to certain principles and have made my own share of mistakes according to the teachings of the church.  I don’t admonish people for having premarital sex.  I think it’s more important to teach sexual education as a means of overall health and safety.  It bothers me greatly that society still tends to teach a woman’s worth as attached to her sexuality.  There are mixed messages about being a virgin and being prudish.  There is the social positioning that women should be sexually attractive and yet at the same time, she is equally at risk of begin termed a whore, slut, or some other debasing slang term.  I don’t believe in abortion although I will not interfere with another’s right to one.  For example, a woman who is raped is someone I truly feel deserves the right to choose abortion if she feels she cannot deal with the unplanned pregnancy for mental health reasons.  I also believe abortion is acceptable if a woman’s health is at risk and she is interested in her own self-preservation.  She should not be denied the right to live in order to save her unborn child.  However, I also don’t believe people should get abortions because they neglected to use birth control appropriately.  I am friends with people who have gone through this situation and I think it’s important that we equally understand where each other is regarding this issue.

Anyways, I’ve gone incredibly off topic but I felt it was important to share where my views are a mixture of beliefs (part upbringing, part education, partly influenced by religion).  Getting back to what are forms of stress and happiness for us though…

One of the photos I carried with me on my 2004-2005 Iraq deployment.
One of the photos I carried with me on my 2004-2005 Iraq deployment. 

Family issues are #1 a source of stress for me.  I think anyone would agree it’s difficult at times when you have different beliefs compared to your parents, siblings, aunts & uncles, or grandparents.  Everyone was raised in different circumstances according to society’s beliefs at the time of upbringing; influence of friends, families, and other significant persons; specific limitations/abilities of each person; and so on.  We are unique as individuals and our personality types do not always mesh well together.  Trying to keep everyone happy is a big job and I do realize it’s not my responsibility anymore.  When I was younger, I tried really hard to be a kid who got good grades, stayed out of trouble, and overall, worked to meet the expectations of others.

In late June/July of 2005, after coming back from my first deployment, I realized it was a burden I no longer wanted or could carry.  I wasn’t just exhausted from pleasing everyone, but felt downright destroyed.  My relationship with my dad had fallen apart after trusting him to manage one of my student loans, which went to collections.  My relationship with my extended family felt strained because I was eager to serve my country and they were more concerned that I didn’t volunteer again for another deployment.  There were many other issues I encountered, but the most important thing I learned that year was knowing I was hurting myself by putting everyone else first.  I stepped back from a lot of people.  It was a scary thing to do but I knew that I wanted to finally live for myself and find my own path, even if it took years to get there.

In doing this stress survey, the issue “discovered” to be a shared point of stress was our financial attitudes.  It is no shock to me that it’s an issue that bothers us both greatly.  I’m more apt to feel like my money will be gone again if I don’t hoard some of it.  That happens when you’ve been unemployed twice.  I could care less if I am ever independently wealthy; what I don’t ever want to be again is poor.

The survey ends on a good note as we discussed our daughter, our shared joy.  She is soooo eager to one day be a big sister and it’s funny to see this behavior modeled in a small child.  While she enjoys our company, all she wants (for the most part) is a sibling.  We’ve tentatively talked to her about how families come in all shapes and sizes (one parent, two moms or two dads).  I think if we begin to think more seriously about adopting later, she would be thrilled.  We joked that she’d get to pick her sibling and my husband reminded me she really wants a sister.  However, should we choose adoption, Avery’s opinion on the matter is of upmost importance to us.  She is our only child and is old enough to be part of the conversation about the potential expansion of our family, should be have the urge to parent another child.  Neither he or I feels a biological child is a superior option to becoming parents; it’s not a sentiment shared among many people we know, but for us, an adopted child would be 100% ours, the way Avery was the moment we found out I was pregnant.



Two Men, Two Deaths, Two Years Apart

Tonight’s post is a short one.  Ten years ago today, my Watch Officer, Captain Sean Brock, was killed in a mortar attack.  As well, 8 years ago today, my father-in-law passed away, days before I was slated to return stateside from my second deployment.  Their losses were such uniquely different experiences and while I know we die, it’s hard not to think of all the things they’ve missed in the years since.

Captain Brock, USMC

As an enlisted junior Marine, I was not a close acquaintance to Capt. Brock.  Officers and enlisted service members are not to fraternize with one another; however, there are moments where officers and enlisted members work closely with one another that you see more of each other’s personalities, work ethic, and teamwork capabilities.  We worked in close quarters near one another in our Combat Operations Center.  We had two Watch Officers (day and night) and a Senior Watch Officer .  Captain Brock was our Day Watch Officer and I worked with him for several months until my shift changed over to night crew.  He was like us, the NCO and below group, a person who would use the personal computer station to send emails home.  I spent a significant portion of my time writing on my Myspace page, which was popular back in 2004-2005.

His death was quite a shock to me, even though our base had been mortared frequently before.  I was on the phone with my grandmother when I heard the mortar land.  It was one of those situations where you keep the conversation going so as to not frighten the other person on the line.  You say your goodbyes, quite meaningfully and then are thankful “nothing bad happened.”  Until I was informed that something had happened.  I don’t remember at what time we were informed Captain Brock died as a result of his injuries but the environment in the room changed.  We lost one of our own.  Not that the other casualties we covered in activity reports didn’t matter, but this time, the loss was incredibly personal.  The energy changed.  We realized we had been lucky up until this point.  It was frustrating as well to sit behind a screen and see the details we normally posted on our activity reports, as though the screen taunted us with this information.  However, we still had work to do and we had to sit and wait for new activity reports to be generated to stop this one from haunting us.

I was twenty at the time; Captain Brock was only 29.  I am fortunate, as best one could say, to not be among the members of the Quick Reaction Force that saw Captain Brock in his injured state.  I think my heart would have forever been broken had I been there in that moment.  The Marine Corps trains you for so many things, but holding onto that person to keep them alive, comforting them in their last moments, and being with them when they pass over, it’s not something in our job description.  It’s just something we may be asked to do and Marines do it because they love each other.

One of my Corporals, Corporal Vaughn, and I were tasked with burning Capt. Brock’s cover [hat] and holster.  It was a quiet, respectful task assigned to us; I’m not sure why us, but that’s what happened.  Others might find it dreadful but it was also peaceful in a way.  You just watch the material burn away slowly.  It was probably the only time I would say I saw Vaughn exhibit maturity in a way I knew he was capable of and a reverence I’m often told is prevalent to infantrymen.

I know Captain Brock didn’t get a lifetime of marriage to his wife, Heather.  He never became a father.  He never went on to complete his other educational goals.  I think one of the things that made me the most sad about his loss was knowing what impact his death likely had on his twin.  I am a twin myself and when you grow up as a set of children, birthdays are interesting.  You might have those moments where you feel unnoticed because the day isn’t all about you.  Then when you get older, you realize how wonderful it is to always have someone to share this day with and now, his brother doesn’t get to enjoy this privilege.  Maybe they planned a birthday adventure of some sort and Captain Brock never fulfilled that dream.

Jay Rinehart, Father-in-Law, Army Veteran

Two years after Captain Brock’s death, I was faced with the unexpected news my father-in-law, Jay, passed away.  I was on my second deployment, this time to Camp Al Asad, Iraq.  Thomas and I married on June 23, 2006 and I deployed on July 14th, the day I earned my Good Conduct medal.  Jay had not attended our wedding as we had a Justice of the Peace ceremony in San Diego and he lived in Wyoming.  Thomas’ mother and stepfather served as our witnesses; none of my family members could come out on short notice.

I only met Jay once before I deployed.  In many ways, he reminded me of my own father.  Although he divorced Thomas’ mother early in Thomas’ childhood, he still maintained a good relationship with his former mother-in-law and tended to her needs.  I loved that quality about him.  It was also fun for me to see how Thomas interacted with his father.

On my deployment, Jay sent me a box of different Christmas sausage items for the holidays that I shared with my crew.  It was the only present and note he ever sent me.  However, his simple gesture made my Christmas.

I got the news of Jay’s death in an email from my mother-in-law.  It felt like the world stopped.  I was in one of the internet centers, which was incredibly noisy, and was trying to digest this news.  I could barely keep myself from crying and struggled to compose myself all the way to my command’s building.  I kind of lost it there, knowing my husband wherever he was on his own deployment was receiving this same news.

I was home in time for Jay’s funeral service.  MAG-16, the unit I deployed with, made sure of it.  The combined efforts of many people to get me on a flight home was nothing short of incredible.  I appreciated their genuine concern for my loss and diligence to ensure I was by my husband’s side when he needed it most.

Thomas and I are coming up on our 9th wedding anniversary and it’s hard not to think of what Jay has missed.  He never meet his two other granddaughters-our daughter and my newest niece on Thomas’ side of the family born in 2012.  He didn’t get the pleasure of welcoming Thomas back home from his yearlong deployment.  He didn’t go to Crete, as had been one of his goals.  I didn’t get to know him very well to find about all the dreams he had, but I hope if only in some small way, we go to Crete one day to honor his memory.