A dusting of my past
- My name is Dezarae’. i am originally from Hutchinson, Kansas. i joined the military at 17 served 4 1/2 years. The military itself was not bad, but i delt with alot concerning people in the military. I taught myself to crochet when i was twelve, havent done much until late 2008. When i crochet and knit it makes me feel like i belong to something. Its the one thing in my life that i can fix if i mess it up. I am working on slowly starting up a business which will be called Making Traditions. Making Traditions is a store for all ages and all sexes. You can learn anything from needlepoint, spinning fibers, crochet, knitting, canning, cooking, baking, vegetable gardening tips, sewing, Quilting, preserving, and freezing. Along with being a one stop shop for all these categories. The motto of my business is “making yesterday’s talents, today’s traditions”. My goal is to find a link between the past and the present to bring families of all generations together. while also providing skills which will come in handy for the rest of one’s life.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Frustration flows through my veins as my sister has once again accomplished invading my privacy. “Aggg!” I growled towards my sister to make evident the disappointment I was feeling. I am three and a half years in my sister’s senior. Living in a house which was old enough to participate in the original “little house on the prairie”; I desperately wanted my own bedroom away from my sister’s grubby little fingers.
I would always receive lectures from my mother how I was the “oldest” and that I knew better than to fight with my sister. On the contrary, it was my sister who instigated my arousal of emotions. I remember, while partaking in a past thanksgiving dinner, a conversation that reflected on an incident involving my sister and I. Large family dinners tend to bring about topics about situations in the past; whether the situations at hand were funny, sad, exciting, or embarrassing. This particular situation reflected on, yet paralleled, the emotions I still felt to that day. The story goes as follows, One day when my mother, sister, my new born baby brother, and I were doing some local grocery shopping, I desperately begged my mother for a new pet. My mother replied back to my childish demand by stating the only way we could afford a pet is if we were to get rid of one of us kids. While waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, I noticed an older man dressed in a business suit. At the ripe age of four, I observed my window of opportunity to successfully fulfill the requirements to obtain the pet I desperately wanted. In my mother’s words, [she stated the following] “I turned around to notice Dezi tugging on the man’s jacket. Before I had a chance to bring her back to the shopping cart, I heard her ask the man if he would take her sissy. She told the man that if she found a new home for her sissy then she could have a new pet!”
After my mother apologized to the man she brought me back over to the shopping cart where I waited for my mother to pay for the items that she had selected. While climbing into the car, my mother asked me why I wanted to get rid of my sister, why not my little brother? I replied as the innocent four year old little girl I was, “Because sissy gets into my things, and buba does not.” Little did I know, for the rest of my adolescent years, my feelings would remain the same towards my little sister.
There have been times in which I can reflect on, where I would spend increasingly amount of time cleaning my sister’s and my bedroom. Just to have her drag out all of the toys that I had just spent time placing in their appropriate places. When my mother would come to inspect the cleanliness of the room, I would find myself in an argument with my sister who would claim that I was the one who “trashed” the room she just cleaned. Since I was the older one, I was the one who received the lecture on what is right and what is wrong. Only if I had my own room, I then could relax in the tranquility and the ability to isolate myself from my siblings.
Although I enjoyed the childhood memories this house, in which I shared a room with my sister, offered; I was very excited when my mother gave my siblings and I the news of her finding a new house for us to make a home. After living in our new house for a year, I begged my mom for the approval to transform the playroom in the basement into my bedroom. My argument stressed on the point that my siblings and I, for the most part, have outgrown the uses of a playroom. After giving a persuasive argument after another, my mother finally agreed to allow me to make this transformation.
At last, I have my own room! I can still remember the musty smell to the basement that was actually quite comforting. I have my own domain in which I do not have to share. I constantly allowed the “boom box” I received for my thirteenth birthday to play my favorite radio station. I painted the cement block walls a bright blue; I painted clouds, butterflies, and even painted green blades of grass at the bottom of the walls. Not only did I have my own bedroom, but I had my own childhood utopia. About a year after my transformation of the playroom into my bedroom, I left for my two week visitation with my father. Due to the fact that my father lived over an hour away, when I received news about the flooding in my mother’s neighborhood, I assumed that my mother or siblings would take the incentive to make sure my room stayed in good standing. Unfortunately, when I came home, I found about three inches of water completely swallowing my bedroom, my utopia. Not only was I unable to sleep in my own bedroom, but the violin my grandmother gave me as a sixth-grade graduation gift, would have received the most damage to the point the life of this item would cease to exist any longer. My bedroom was not a great utopia that I had once imagined. It was now a room in which turned into a substitute for my sister. It was now a room I could no longer put faith into keeping my items safe.
Approximately three years of having my own bedroom, I would find myself once again sharing a room with my sister. Thankfully because of my age at this time and my recent enlistment into the United States Army, sharing a room this time around, was very short lived. Excited to be on my own, for the most part, I found myself sharing a room with seven to twenty other strangers. This situation was then followed by me having a roommate in the military barracks in which I lived at my European duty station. Every move that I went on with the military led to multiple people in my living arrangement; along with every deployment I endured as well. So although I hated sharing a room with my sister, she gave me great practice in what I could and would endure in the years to come. Still to this day, I do not have my own room. I share it with my husband of five years, and at times with two toddlers. At least when I was younger I had my own bed!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Excitement is rushing threw my veins as the bus that I am occupying pulls up to an old building of foreign architecture. At last, I have made it to my first duty station. Although I am the youngest on my bus at the ripe age of eighteen, I was ready to prove myself as a worthy soldier. I step off the bus in my freshly shined combat boots in a manner in which might of seemed urgent. “I am doing something with my life,” I confidently reminded myself as I grabbed my luggage from under the bus. I then was instructed to follow the line of soldiers into the building to start in processing.
I, along with thirty other soldiers wait patiently in a room that was similar to a classroom. Within moments of our arrival a civilian enters the room. “Welcome to Ansbach, Germany,” he proclaimed as he passes out a stack of paperwork that seemed to be as thick and heavy as an encyclopedia.
As the never-ending pile of paperwork is coming to completion, a voice pulls itself thru the low roar of casual conversation. “Private Sutton?” a male voice asks hesitantly. I stand up immediately taking a mental note of the rank and name displayed on his freshly pressed battle dress uniform. I immediately snapped my body to attention with my hands locked in the small of my back and my feet shoulder width apart. “Yes sergeant?” I nervously replied.
“My name is Staff Sergeant Cox and I am your sponsor,” He politely yet forcefully introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you sergeant,” I replied.
He then informed me that he is in charge of showing me around the base and introducing me to my chain of command. He then drove me to my barracks. Unfortunately, my roommate was in Kosovo and the key the first sergeant had for my room would not work! So I was informed I would be sharing a room with Specialist Jackson until my superiors can find a way to access my room.
For the rest of the days that I attended the in processing meetings, a different soldier, every day, approached me announcing their responsibility as my sponsor. As the week of countless meetings come to an end, I was finally ready to venture off to the base in which I will be working at.
Upon the arrival of my first day of work, I was greeted with the annoyance of an extremely loud alarm clock. I quickly shower and dress myself in my recently pressed uniform. I look at my reflection in the mirror as I pull my hair back with the Army regulated hair band. I want to make sure I am within all army regulations.
I then hurry to formation and find my place at the end of the squad. Just as our platoon of approximately twenty people gathered to a general location, the chatter of the soldiers was cut by the announcement from the first sergeant, “Fall in!” As the demand was given, myself along with the four different platoons snapped to attention. With my arms erect along the side of my body and my heels touching with my toes slightly pointing different directions, I await the next command. “At ease,” the first sergeant calls out. I then allowed myself to go into the relaxed position along with every person in the formation. After we are given our daily dose of company information, which is then, accompanied by the schedule of events for the day, we are released to our sections.
On many occasions I would find myself sitting in an office with no instructions. With the very minimal introductions made to me, I could not help but to sit dormant as I await my orders. Everyone would be busy at work or sneaking to his or her room for a nap. The seven-hour leap forward in time has left me consumed by exhaustion. After a couple days of sitting in my office with no instruction or guidance I would find myself easily slipping into a slumber while patiently awaiting for an order.
Although I would take out the trash and shred paperwork that needed disposed of, it was not enough. I have found myself guessing in anticipation on what would please my co-workers. Nothing seemed to help. In disregard of my efforts, I would be lectured and sometimes counseled negatively for not being more productive. Each day seemed to bring more and more lectures and ridicule. Although requested, no orders or instructions are given to me. I soon found myself feeling alone and slipping into a depression. Unaware of my depression, I would use my time after work to self medicate by indulging myself with a mixture of drinks that contained high amounts of alcohol.
I soon found myself on every job no one else in the company wanted to do. Although cleaning the first sergeant’s bathroom is not on the list of my favorite things to do, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Along with sweeping and mopping the offices, I was put on twenty-four hour duties and cleaning the rocks off of the sidewalk. Upon completion of my duties, I am told to report back to my section.
I returned to my section with an optimistic outlook. Unfortunately the more time went on the more difficult it became to keep a smile on my face. Over a few short weeks, my optimistic smile became a timid frown. Hesitant, due to my daily harassment and put downs, I pull myself out of bed in the mornings to anticipate the unwelcome greeting of my section.
As time went by, my detail duties continued to exist in my every day schedule. I am approached at times by my NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) to inform me of any uniform changes or re location of the company formation. Although I was not at all a favorite in my section, I was determined to make myself worthy of their acceptance. Regretfully, the negative counseling statements made my name a permanent fixation upon the form. I constantly rewind every situation that ended up in disapproval in my mind. I am putting every effort forward to comply with the demands my NCOIC gives me. Unfortunately for some unknown reason, I am informed that I am wanted in the storage room and to wait until my NCOIC comes in to release me.
I sit in the storage room waiting with dreaded anticipation for the arrival of my NCOIC . Once again I am in disarray with my higher chain of command. I showed up to formation in the uniform instructed by my NCOIC. Unfortunately, I was the only one in that particular uniform. At last the opening and slamming of the door broke the anticipation.
“Private Sutton, You are a worthless soldier and will never amount to anything,” proclaimed my sergeant while she looks me over in disgust. “Your drill sergeants were idiots for letting you get this far,” she continued. She walks to a table that sat stationary against the wall and slammed down freshly printed negative counseling statements in front of me. Statements... Plural, for she had three of them for me to sign. When I sign these papers, it represents my acceptance of the accusations. Whether it is completely true or not.
“You gave me the wrong information sergeant!” I rebelled.
“I did no such thing! Specialist Hardial was present when you were told the information,” she replied with a shriek of anger in her voice.
Specialist Hardial? I thought to myself. She had the day off! I knew that in this dictatorship called the United States Army, my word meant nothing compared to a superior. I was just a young soldier who just has to accept any unjust accusations thrown at me.
“I will do everything in my power to put you out of the army,” announced my sergeant right before she excused herself from the room.
I sat there in disbelief, tears running down my face. I am ashamed but do not know why! I am doing everything I was instructed to do. I raised myself from my chair and looked at the signed negative counseling statements. This makes my twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth, and twenty-seventh negative counseling statements for the month.
“ When will this nightmare end?” I murmured under my breath as I exited the room.
The next day while I was taking out the trash, I was approached by my NCOIC along with my platoon sergeant. “Private Sutton, You need to come with us,” they informed me with a surprisingly happy tone in their voice. I followed my superiors to the commander’s office. As I enter the room I realize that my uniform is not as pressed as it should be and my enthusiasm for being a soldier has slowly diminished. I step into the office and see my First Sergeant and my Commander eagerly awaiting my arrival. “Private Sutton!” first sergeant announced in a joking manner. At which time they proceeded to tell me that I have been chosen to deploy to Bravo Company 2-1 Aviation regiment and help with missions in Kosovo. I have twenty-four hours before I am on the plane. I feel an urge of excitement swim through my body. I am getting away from these people. I went to my barracks room and immediately packed my bags. At last, I have a chance for a new start.
“Tag! Your it!” a neighbor boy yelped as he slapped my arm. I proceed by running at my body’s top speed to catch up with my brother. Running threw our yard held many obstacles; jumping over branches, running thru un-manicured grass, whizzing in and out of the trees, just to name a few.
“Gotcha!” I proclaimed as I successfully tagged my brother while he struggled to make his way thru the tall grass.
“That’s not fair,” he protested, “you cheated!”
My brother did not play very well when the thought he was losing at a game. Although, these games were not really games to the neighborhood children, my siblings, and I, these games were more of an obligation to prove our abilities to one another. We would run relays up and down the loose asphalt road. We would pretend to rule a kingdom in the cluster of trees, which their habitation is the spare lot next to my house. At times, my siblings and I would acquire our mother’s kitchen utensils to dig holes. My sister and I would fill a hole with water and take some twigs from a tree to make little trees around the newly dug lake for our Barbie dolls to swim. Each day, our imaginations and the freedom provided the perfect ingredients to infinite playtime scenarios’.
Out of all of the trees, hiding spots, and the unlimited toys provided by mother nature to accompany my time with, there was one place in particular that brought a sense of tranquility.
Most of the trees in my yard were clustered together, but on one side of the yard, all by itself, stood “the” apple tree. This apple tree forked in different directions at the perfect height. I am not very tall, but I am able to stretch my body just enough for my shoe to grip the smooth trunk of the tree. I grunt as I hold my breath to pull myself to a more balanced place of the tree. As I look up, I spot the board I nailed to two of the branches; just enough space on the board to fit one person on. As I sit on my airborne chair, I take a couple moments to soak in my surroundings.
The leaves on the branches rub together as if it is natures own wind chime. “purrrtybird,” a bird sings. As the chirping and singing continues, I search the branches to see a glimpse of this “pretty bird”. I take a deep breath, feeling the cold twinge to the air fill my lungs; I blow out the air as if I am releasing all of my problems. The smell of the freshly stopped rain lingers in my nose. This is my place, this is my tree, although I have no legal ownership of this particular asset, I wanted it to be mine, forever.
A few weeks later, my brother reveled his bad day at school. How he felt that no one likes him. I thought it was time to share my special place with him. I told him he wasn’t to speak of this place to anyone, for it will be ours. As we approach the tree I see his eyes widen, his face started to glow with excitement.
“When did you do this sis?” he questioned.
“A while a go, I come here to get away from everything,” I answered with delight.
Due to there not being enough room for both of us to sit on my seat, we decided it was time to put a board up there for him as well. Since it was nice out, we didn’t think our dog would miss a couple of nails out of his house, I mean, he does have a lot of nails in his doghouse. We snuck into our stepfather’s toolbox and acquired a hammer; we also acquired a piece of wood lying lifeless under a pile of branches. It was then time to make the tree for one, a tree for two.
As time went buy, we used a branch as a pulley to pull a bright orange toy bucket up and down the tree with ease. The rope held on to the bucket while we pulled the other end. This allowed us to bring drinks and snacks up to us faster.
One day, I invited my friend Shanay to come over. Because she was my best friend, I wanted to share something that brings such great peace to me, with her. I am so excited to share my secret area with her. As we get closer to the tree her face showed no expression. I climb the tree; she looked at me as if I was crazy.
“You want me to go up there?” Shanay asked as she reluctantly stepped back.
“Come on, its fun!” I answered hoping to give her the encouragement to comply with my demand.
Shanay struggled slightly as she clinched the branches with her pale white hands. She reaches for the board where my brother usually would be occupying. At last, she took a seat upon my secret area. After a few minuets Shanay started looking bored.
“I love this place, I can get away from everyone and everything up here,” I preached as if I was trying to sell her my place.
“What’s so special about it?” Shanay questioned.
At that moment, I realized she did not see the same tranquil place as I did. She did not see what I see. She seen some boards nailed in a tree, which in no way were within safety regulations. She just seen a tree, whereas I seen a place of safety and happiness.
“Do you want to go to the park?” she questioned as her reaction to my tree sent a shiver of disappointment through my body.
“Yeah, Let me go ask my mom if we can go,” I quietly replied. I then climb out of my tree and helped Shanay down from the tree. After successfully obtaining my mother’s approval to venture off to the city park, which lay less than a block away, we quickly scurried off. As we step towards the park, I looked back to the tree. Noticing how lonely it looked I whispered,” I will see you when I get back, I promise.”
Thursday, December 3, 2009
by: Dezarae' Haley
“One more sweep of the perimeter,” a sergeant stated over the radio. The lights of the base entrance illuminated the dark horizon. “Almost done, then we get chow,” I mumbled to myself. A flash of light came out of nowhere that left me momentarily stunned. “What the hell was…” My thoughts were interrupted due to a loud explosion. Flames swallowed the detailed image of the humvee behind me. The explosion was documented on October 6, 2004 at approximately 2145 hours. This was an explosion that will forever change the person I was known to be. Although this life-changing event has awarded me with disability compensation, it is not recognized as a wound resulting from war. One who is diagnosed with a mental scar will not wear the metal or receive the recognition of someone who has a physical wound or even a wound that has healed completely, leaving no trace of existence. Although PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is still undergoing intensive research, and does not fit under the stipulations to receive a purple heart, I feel these soldiers who live with this disorder deserve the same recognition as someone with a physical injury. The mental scar left behind from a traumatic event never heals, but on the contrary, gets worse with time.
From the United States Army Regulation on awards, it states that “the purple heart is awarded in the name of the president of the United States… is limited to members of the armed forces of the United States who, while serving… with one of the U.S. armed services… has been wounded or killed, or has died after being wounded.” A wound could be argued over what would be classified as such.
“In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have three different types of symptoms: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance and numbing systems, and arousal symptoms” (qtd. In Hamblen 1-2). As stated by the American Psychiatric association, “Patients with PTSD suffer from flashbacks, nightmares and other sleep problems, emotional numbness or outbursts, loss of pleasure, an inappropriate startle reflex and problems with memory and concentration” (qtd. in Sapolsky). These symptoms affect just about every aspect of one’s life. According to the United States Army Regulation on awards, “a wound is defined as an injury to any part of the body from an outside force… a physical lesion is not required, however, the wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by medical personnel and records… must have been a matter of official record.” One may think that PTSD would fit this criterion; unfortunately PTSD is on the list that does not justify the award.
“Donna Young was a marine…the marine barracks in Beirut was bombed on October 23… by the following April… [She states the following] I was having a hard time in crowds, because a face would remind me of a face I put in a body bag… she was dealing with survivors guilt… she was hospitalized for nearly three years” (qtd. In Walsh 28)
One suffering from PTSD may have never received a laceration or lose a limb, but the effects of the traumatic event are just as devastating.
According to Hamblen, “In the entire population, an estimated 6.8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women (9.7%) are more than two and a half times as likely as men (3.6%) to develop PTSD” (qtd. In Hamblen 2)
After declining several sexual advances my NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer in Charge) made towards me in Iraq, my last weekend at that particular base in Germany, he used the seeking of information on a soldier who was missing to enter my barracks room. The next thing I know, I am pushing and struggling to get away from him. After a half an hour of struggling, he finally exited my barracks room. I then wanted to run, get as far away as possible. After my enlistment in the United States army, I received a job to work at Wal-mart in the produce section. The environment was great and the people were friendly. Even though the environment in which I worked in exceeded all expectations I had for the job, I would find that when I would get called into the manager’s office, and when the door shut behind me, I started to sweat, my skin would get clammy, It will start to feel as if there was a five-hundred pound man sitting on my chest as I struggled to retrieve a breath. In this situation along with any similar situation, tears immediately start to stream down my face, my mind having no control on my actions; my body takes a personality of its own. Due to my NCOIC sexually assaulting me in the military, I find myself not being able to be enclosed into a room with anyone I feel that outranks me in superiority. No matter the sex, race, or age of the person. As soon as that door closes, my anxiety and panic attacks kick in to high gear. This will forever affect my capability to receive and keep jobs.
“People with PTSD often have problems functioning… have more unemployment, divorce and separation, spouse abuse and chance of being fired than people without PTSD” (qtd. In Hamblen 4). Unlike a physical disability, PTSD affects every aspect of your body and the way you function, not just one aspect of your daily routine.
“Patricia Resick… [says] In general, whether in the military or out, sexual trauma is a more significant risk factor for PTSD than combat or types of trauma that men generally experience” (qtd. In Walsh 29). In my experience, while in Iraq, many women soldiers received harassment and unwanted touching, often. When such incidents get reported, the higher authorities in the chain of command try to ignore the seriousness of the issue. I have had several fellow soldiers that felt that they were the ones being punished even though they were the ones assaulted. “Victoria Muse…says her supervisor began to harass her in late 1983… returning from a movie on the base, a noncommissioned officer… sexually assaulted her… she reported the incident, but had to continue working with her attacker… Muse was grilled about what she was wearing… fueling the shame she already felt” (qtd. In Walsh 30).
“Of the 1.6 million service members who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, at least one in six is at risk of developing PTSD” (qtd. In Walsh 31). With PTSD being a fairly new disorder, many people do not want to see it as a serious issue; they would rather see the situation as a man or woman not having a backbone or as he or she receives a label for being an inadequate soldier for not coping with the events at hand. “[According to] John Fortunato, chief of a Fort Bliss, Texas, PTSD treatment center…[he states that] these guys have paid at least as high a price, some of them, as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with a shrapnel wound” (qtd. In McMichael). It is a high price to pay to come home from war and not even being able to relate to your own children or spouse.
With each passing day, researchers pursue the challenge to understanding Post-traumatic stress disorder and what causes it or what physical effects it may have on a person’s brain. “Researchers… reported that in afflicted individuals an important region of the brain called the hippocampus is smaller than average” (qtd. In Sapolsky). As many of us have learned in our college psychology course, the hippocampus is used to form long-term memories, retrieve old ones, and manage your day-to-day memory.
I do agree to the fact that a physical wound and a mental wound are completely different, but at times go hand in hand. Researchers and scientists are trying to dissect every possible cause and solution to the disorder. I know that there are many other soldiers out there that have the disorder a lot worse than I do. It is something we wake up to every day; the thoughts of the assault, the explosions, the torture someone held captive received, and or mental abuse one has endured in the military. In some cases they relive the events at night as well as the flashbacks during the day. One may compare living with PTSD to living with hell on earth. We may not fall into the category for a purple heart, but why not a blue heart or green heart, just to acknowledge the loss we have endured and the battle we are still reliving after the danger of the war zone has faded into the past.
Hamblen, Jessica. “What is PTSD?” A handout from the National Center for PTSD
McMichael, William H. “Pentagon: PTSD does not warrant Purple Heart.” Army Times 18 Jan. 2009
Sapolsky, Robert. “Stress and Your Brain.” Discover Magazine 01 March 1999
United States. Army Regulation. Awards. AR 600-8-22. Last updated 11 December 2006 Print
Walsh, Barbi. “When Mommy Comes Marching Home.” Bostonia Fall 2008: 26-31