I was in the Military for six years. from time to time I will write blog posts about my experiences.
-SPC Winter Olivia
You own everything that ever happened to you.
Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them,
They should have behaved better.
Is this it? This is how I am going to die? In the backseat of a Nissan? Oh my God, I feel myself fading. What? He just called me a ‘Fucking cunt!’ That can’t be the last words I hear on this earth. ‘Fucking cunt’ out of all the words in the English language, those will be the last ones I hear? Fight Winter…Fight… Murder? Why did I even agree to come out tonight? It’s not like I had a choice, I was sick but he pressured me to go out drinking with his friends… He always does that. No, my life will not end at the hands of my husband.
His brown eyes looked black as he watched the light fade out of mine. What is going to happen to your little girls? Why are they not stopping the car? Why won’t they help me? “Chill bro!” I hear the driver say. There was a girl in the front passenger side. Say something! Please! Why are they just sitting there? Stop the car please! The female in the front seat stayed silent. Weak bitch!
Fight back, Soldier…you’re not a weak bitch!
Somewhere buried deep within me a rage arose. I shoved my thumbs into his possessed eyes. He bled and screamed, “How could you do this to me? You fucking bitch!” Bam! I was hit directly in the jaw. I saw stars. My jaw felt like it became unhinged as the side of my face slammed into the car door window. Tinggggggg is the sound I heard. His and the driver’s voices went into a slow-motion muffled sound. I was disoriented, and here came another blow came from this six-foot-two, twice-my-size infantryman. The words started to speed up from slow motion and I could make out the words, “Bro you need to chill, we’re almost at base.” I prayed for a red light but my prayers went unanswered as we neared the highway exit and the street light turned yellow. It’s now or never. You have to get out. I pulled the car door handle. Shit, the door is locked! As the car slowed down I unlocked the door and threw myself out of the moving vehicle and landed on the pavement. I rolled so I wouldn’t get hit by incoming traffic into the grass. I hadn’t noticed while we were driving that there was a thunderstorm going on. Bloody, bruised, and broken I ran towards the Army base.
“Ma’am, are you okay?” the military police on guard at the gate asked me. A group of military police started to gather around me. Everyone’s eyes were wide staring in disbelief. I tried to open my mouth and couldn’t. I can’t open my mouth. I need to tell them to stop that car. No words came out of my broken jaw, just gurgling sounds. Blood was spewing out of my mouth, and I didn’t notice that my peripheral vision on the left side was gone. The sounds that came out of me were hoarse, my vocal chords strained from the strangulation. I pointed to the car. In all the commotion, they had not checked the driver for his military ID, and he had to wait at the gate. They looked at the car and told the driver and passengers to exit the vehicle. The backseat passenger was covered in blood, scratches and bloodshot eyes. They immediately cuffed him and put him in the back seat of a squad car. He looked at me, and the damage he had done to my once symmetrical face did not seem to faze him. He looked angry like this was my fault. “Fuck you, bitch. You see what you do? This is your fault.” People were talking to me, but all I could hear were his insults. “Stupid bitch.” He began beating his own face into the back of the partition in the squad car. Slamming it over and over again. With every slam came an insult, bam-fuck you- Bam- ugly bitch- Bam- you’re going to regret this! I just stared in a daze at this man. Who was he? Why did he do this to me? I don’t know this man. Slowly I watched the realization of his actions creep on to his face as he stopped his self-harm. He began to cry crocodile tears of empty regret. “Tell them to let me go…I’m sorry…I’m sorry… I’m sorry.”
The sound of the ambulance woke me out of my daze. I was whisked away from the crime scene and taken to the hospital. I don’t remember much after that. Pain meds and regret filled me for a while. Why did I agree to go out that night? I should have stayed home that night… Days fused together and time seemed to run like pond water. I couldn’t cry; I did not have it in me. I didn’t want to face my children. I was a soldier, supposed to be strong. However, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a broken woman. Who am I, where did I disappear to? She was strong, I don’t recognize this weak battered woman. Soldiers are supposed to be able to defend themselves against predators. This girl let this predator leave hand print strangle bruise marks on her neck and swell her left eye shut.
“You have to understand your position in this company is very important and has high visibility, we can’t have a soldier who has ‘issues’ running the show downstairs so I think it’s best we move you,” my commander who was only a few years older than myself said. “You mean I am going to lose my position? Sir, I did nothing wrong, this happened to me. It will not happen again,” I pleaded with him. I loved my job. I worked on a base that was strictly for training civilians into soldiers (boot camp). I had my own office working with ‘broke soldiers’- civilians who were injured in training to become soldiers and who are waiting for a medical board to review their medical jacket and determine if they can continue their training. This job gave me the opportunity to mentor young people, and that was the aspect of my job I loved the most. “Sir, you do realize that before I got here this office was a mess, I fixed a lot of the issues within the office, this office runs smoothly now because of all the work I’ve done.”
“I understand that, Olivia, but I need someone that I can count on day in and day out. You taking all that time off left us scrambling.” Taking all that time off? I was on convalescent leave. The doctor put me on convalescent leave so I could heal. I wasn’t on vacation on an island. I was nursing my wounds. “Night IRB volunteered to take you in, so effective immediately you are assigned to them. I need you to go downstairs and pack your things, clean out your desk, email any current work to Carter, and head over to IRB.” Carter is replacing me? She’s an idiot! She’s overweight, she should have been chaptered out of the army years ago! Why am I the one being punished? I didn’t break anyone’s face. Night IRB? Really?
I was assigned to Night IRB, meaning, that I as a single mother of two children under the age of three was put on permanent night shift. The daycare center on base was only open during the day so this meant that I would have to find nighttime child care for my children on a single mom budget.
I had never seen the Night IRB soldiers but I had heard stories. These were the problem children of the battalion, essentially an orphanage for lost boys and I was the first female to be assigned to the unit. The first night I arrived to my shift, I quickly learned that the horror stories were true, this is where they sent Soldiers to die. There were two male soldiers sitting in the windowless, 80s style, fluorescent lit room. Their name tags read Thompson and Bronson. Thompson, a balding blond haired, pale skinned mouth-breather who looked like someone on the sex offender registry spoke to me first. “So you’re Olivia.” Bronson looked up from his work and chuckled to himself. “Nice to meet you Olivia. I’m SPC Bronson.” Bronson was definitely 8 months pregnant, and was sweating through his uniform even though we were in an air-conditioned basement. They both smelled. This was my punishment for getting beat up. Sadly, this was not even the worst aspect of being in Night IRB. “Well I better show you how to work the machine.” Bronson smiled at me. Dear God, please do not let this fat fuck flirt with me. I will lose my shit. I walked over to the back of the room where giant typewriter-like machines were lined up. Thompson smugly said, “Bet you never had to make a dog tag up at Headquarters, huh?” Dog tags… I am going to be making dog tags? I’ve been in the Army for five years, I’ve worked with heavy brass in the army handling classified information. I’ve been the right-hand woman to a Commander of a Military Police Company, God dammit, I worked at Battalion level, what is this? DOG TAGS? They called me Loophole in Korea because I could find the loophole in any Department of the Army Regulation and make the system work the way I wanted. I was that good. Dog tags…I could cry right now. They sent me here to die, my career is dead. I will be doing mindless work for the rest of my tour here. Smelly Thompson showed me how to punch in the names into the keyboard. With every punch of metal I could feel my brain withering away. You don’t belong here, Winter, you should be out there with the troops like you used to before the attack. It became apparent to me that I was being punished. People shunned me. I was banished to night shift never to be seen again. I didn’t deserve this. I was the victim. Yet, I was treated like the monster.
A few weeks later I was called in to speak to the Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM). I did not know why, but naturally I knew it could have not been for anything good. I knocked on the door and was instructed to enter. I pushed the heavy door and there he was, standing at parade rest, my attempted murderer. I knew that I had to stand there next to the real monster at required position of parade rest in front of the CSM. My heart was pounding, the air was hard to catch, Tinnggggggg, the ringing came back to my ears and I began having flashbacks of that horrific night. I could feel my skin shifting between being cold and red hot at the same time underneath my uniform, my combat boots felt like they were filled with lead. But I was a Soldier, strong, resilient so my face remained stoic, and I took my position next to the animal who had tried to take my life a few weeks earlier.
“Well God damn, Olivia, I read this police report. You really got put through the ringer, I saw the pictures. Once I put that blotter report down all I could say to myself was Goooood damnnn.” He smiled, as if this was water under the bridge and something that we could now all laugh about. I stood there at parade rest, knees locked, stomach in knots, heart pounding with anger. I could feel the blood rush into my face. I hate him. How dare he think this was funny. Then again what did I expect from the CSM that called me into his office months ago to tell me that ‘there are two ways to have a family – a right way, and your way.’ He was a misogynist and had the rank to be arrogant about it. “What on earth did you do, Olivia, to make him so mad?” IS HE BEING SERIOUS RIGHT NOW? WHAT DID I DO TO MAKE HIM SO MAD? I froze, my mind was screaming obscenities, and I wanted to cry because I was so furious but I had no words. I knew that if I opened my mouth my thoughts would come flying like daggers out across his overpriced mahogany desk, and I would be in even more trouble. In the Army you cannot speak your mind to someone who outranks you. Everything you do can be perceived as disrespect. Perception is reality here. Disrespect can make you lose rank, money, and time. “Well come on now, what do you have to say for yourself, Olivia?” I specifically remember him saying to me. I desperately tried to gain my composure and decided what to say internally that would not land me in the hot seat. “I don’t know, SGT Major” were the only words that I could put out.
I was waiting for the CSM to begin to interrogate the criminal standing beside me. I wanted him to tear him down, like I have been demeaned for the last few weeks since the attack. I was ready to hear justice be served to this monster. “Alright, SGT, as for you, I feel like you’ve been punished enough, having to sit in jail. Going to court and all. To take your rank or anything like that at this point would just be overkill. I want you two to go to marriage counseling. There is a retreat this weekend for couples in the battalion, you know for morale and such. I want you to be on that bus and go to the retreat and regroup, tighten up your shot group and come back to work on Monday and we will put this whole incident behind us.” His words felt like they were being tattooed on my skin, I was enraged; how dare he?
My husband, the monster, kept his rank, got to keep his job, had heavy brass show up with him at civilian court and was granted Pre-Trial Intervention. He worked the system that was specifically designed for him. But that’s what happens when the system slogan is Boys Will Be Boys.