Military Service, Random Musings, Veteran, Well being

Memories: Part 4 – The Atlantic Ocean

Part 4 – The Atlantic Ocean

March 11, 2022

This time, I was going to my permanent duty base in Dover, Delaware. I was now a new Active-Duty weather observer. I would be working on the flightline and still near the planes. The base I was assigned to not only had the C-5 Galaxy plane (a cargo plane) but at that time it was a hub for other military branches aircraft. I got to see Marine, Army, and Navy aircraft on a weekly basis.

It was also at this time when the United States was in the beginning stages of the conflict called Desert Storm. It was a tremendously stressful time because I had no idea if I would be deployed or not.

This period of my active-duty time was also filled with changes to how I viewed myself. The first real signs of depression and anxiety coupled with self-destructive behavior on my part began to show.

The crucial issues were the result of my interactions and relationships with friends, coworkers, fellow airmen, and the civilians that I worked with or were around.

The first incident involved a civilian worker who forced himself on me, but I was able to get away.

My very first boyfriend had contacted me again after the break from one another once I got to my new base. We had been writing to one another when he broke things off with me again. I was upset and went shopping at our base exchange to get my mind off things.

I thought he was just this kind old man, but he had an ulterior motive for giving me a ride back to the dormitory. I had just walked out of the base exchange when it started raining. He saw me and asked if I wanted a ride. I said “Sure” and got into his car. The civilian worker was in the theater group that I had joined. He oversaw the stage crew and the set people, as well as being one of the actors in the production we were working on.

Set piece I worked on, Presidential Seal

As we were heading back, he asked if it would be okay if we stopped by the workshop to check on the sets we were painting. I was not really paying attention. My mind was preoccupied with the letter I had received earlier that day.

I walked into the workshop with him, still holding my purse and shopping bags. He asked me why I seemed so upset? I told him about the letter. That is when he stepped closer, grabbed me, and forced a kiss on me. He whispered that my boyfriend was an idiot. I froze and it was blurry afterward. I remember kneeing him in the groin and running out into the rain. I remember him calling me a “little bitch.”  I do not know how I got back to my dormitory. I remember running down the hallway when the dorm manager and another airman came out of his office.

They stopped me and told me to calm down. I was crying and soaking wet, still holding my purse and bags. They asked me what happened, and I told them. Another female airman came out of the laundry room to see what was going on and the dorm manager had her take me to my room. I was still crying.

They went and confronted the individual and he never approached me again. It was not reported to the military police or my unit. I never talked about it to anyone, not even my friends. I just wanted to forget about it. I quit the theatre group.

Three months later, the same dormitory manager, who I thought I could trust, began stalking me.

I had always been a very independent person and went to places on my own. I was no longer in a relationship and had only a handful of friends. I began noticing the dorm manager would “coincidently” be at the same places that I was at.

The first incident, when I noticed, was at the base movie theater one evening. I went to watch a Disney movie that had come out. I was getting popcorn and a soda when he said “Hey, are you watching this movie too?”  I looked around and did not see his wife or kids with him. I thought that was odd. I told him yes and went on into the theater.

He sat two rows behind me. After the movie ended, I left in a hurry, and he approached me as I was crossing the parking lot. He asked if I wanted a ride back to the dormitory. I told him no. I did not say anything else and just kept on walking. The dormitory was just past the parking lot and across the street.

A second incident that occurred later was very jarring and made me feel uneasy about going anywhere alone. I had a day off during the week because I switched shifts with another weather observer. There was a shuttle bus that went from the base to the large mall about 45 minutes away. I told a friend where I was going but she was on duty that day. I took the shuttle and spent the day at this mall. I was wandering around and looking at everything. The mall had upscale stores and a huge food court.

After seeing everything, I was coming out of a department store when I heard someone say “Hey!” I looked up and it was the dormitory manager. He was once again alone, still no wife or kids with him. He again asked me if I wanted a ride back to the base and I told him no, that I was catching the shuttle. I did not say anything more and just walked away.

I left the mall and went to the designated pickup area, but the shuttle was not there yet. I lit up a cigarette and stood off to the side smoking and looking around to see if he was there. I was very anxious and just wanted to go home. That is when I noticed this big tan and yellow car parked under a tree in the parking lot by itself. I could see him sitting there, watching me.

I realized that it was the same car that myself and an airman that worked in our base operations building had seen several nights before in our parking lot. We had gone out to smoke a cigarette during our mid shifts when she saw the vehicle. Whoever it was had seen us and drove off. After the third incident, she called the security police who started parking in the lot. We did not see the car again. The security police would stop by on their way back to the dorms after their shift and give us a ride on the nights we worked if we wanted.

I started to feel panicked and was heading back to the entrance when the shuttle bus pulled up. I got on it and watched him pull out of the parking lot and drive slowly away past the bus. That was the longest 45-minute ride back to the base. I kept looking at every car driving past us to see if it was him. As soon as I got back to my dormitory, I went to my room and locked the door. I did not come out until my friend came to get me for dinner that evening. I did not tell her what had happened, I just wanted to forget about it.

The final incident that happened is what started the investigation into him and the subsequent complaint that I filed for stalking and harassment.

My friend and I had walked to the base commissary and base exchange. She had forgotten something, went back into the store to grab it while I stood outside to smoke a cigarette and watch our bags. It looked like it was going to rain, and I wanted to hurry up.

A car pulled to the curb, and I heard someone say, “Do you need a ride back to the dormitory?”  It was him but this time in a different car. I stood there and froze. I felt trapped and I could not get away.

Then I heard my friend’s voice say “Hey, are you giving us a ride?”  He looked at her and said “No!” then drove off in a hurry. She said, “That was weird?”  I just looked at her and she asked if I was okay. I told her “He is weird.”  That is when I told her everything that had happened from the civilian worker incident to the mall day as we walked back to the dorms. She was mad at me for not telling her but also told me I had to tell my station chief.

I went to my station chief the next day.

During the meetings I had with my chain of command and the base personnel is when I found out he had threatened and had a physical altercation with some of the other men in my unit who confronted him. They had seen him following me back to the dormitory that night after the movie and went to his car to ask him what he was doing?

Later he threatened my life.

The day he made the threat on me, to the military police and the base officer investigating the incidents, they were removing him from the base.

That same day they came into our dormitory and added deadbolts and chains to the women’s rooms. They also added a security bar to my window. They found the backup dorm room keys were missing and there were duplicate keys made to the rooms. I was so upset, and it made the anxiety worse. I had to be escorted back and forth to my workplace for a while. I became a prisoner of fear.

He was eventually charged and kicked out of the Air Force. It was during the investigation into what he had been doing that I found out that he already had pending charges of misconduct for doing the same thing to a woman in his former unit. The dorm manager position was a temporary duty assignment until that was resolved.

It was a struggle adjusting to shiftwork and insomnia was prevalent in my life afterwards. I began smoking and was drinking Mt. Dew like it was a never-ending supply. Compulsive behavior was becoming my norm.

I was becoming anorexic as it related to my fitness and weight. I was running, lifting weights, doing an aerobics class twice a day, sitting in the sauna for more than an hour at a time, and using the rowing machines all at the same time, every day. I was also only eating a bowl of rice with tuna, broccoli, and spaghetti sauce for all meals, every day.

I had lost so much weight that a picture of myself that my friend took and later sent to my mother caused her to call with worry, thinking that I had an illness. I weighed around 123 lbs.

That ended abruptly when the aerobics instructor, who also happened to work for the base personnel office, found out about the twice a day fitness classes I was taking as well as the work outs.

She had seen me coming out of the sauna and then heading to the rowing machines. She watched me for a couple of days before reporting it to my station chief and supervisor.

I was counseled and put under restriction with close supervision. I was not allowed to workout at the base gym unless I had someone with me and even then, it was limited to 30 minutes. I had weekly weigh ins to ensure my weight came back up.

I was also going to be sent to the base behavioral health for weekly therapy appointments but opted for weekly visits with the Base Chaplain instead. I did attend a couple of meditation sessions that focused on deep breathing, but it did not last long. I had a confrontation with a retired veteran in the group about my unresolved anger issues and quit going. No one in those groups knew about what I had been going through. I would not be open to anyone or how it made me feel. I was internally self-destructing.

Once my weight got back up to where it was needed, I stopped working out, started chain smoking, and binge drinking on my days off. Also, during this time, I became promiscuous and dated people that did not care about me. All of this started after the stalking incident.

I quit going out binge drinking with my friends after an incident when I became black out drunk, woke up two days later and was sick for three days afterward. I could have died from my self-destructive actions. My friends never reported anything to the unit or my supervisors. They covered up my behavior. I was spiraling out of control.

After that incident, I started working towards bettering my situation. I stopped binge drinking and rarely went out anymore. I started working out again, started eating better, became very proficient in my job then became a trainer, and started volunteering on the base.

It was about 3 months later when my first boyfriend started writing to me once more. We started a long-distance relationship, again. It resulted in an engagement.

During the relationship with him, he was stationed in Japan, and I was in Delaware. We wrote letters to each other every day and sometimes made a long-distance phone call. It was expensive back then and we could not afford too many of them. This was way before the internet, social media, affordable personal computers, or mobile phones.

Everything seemed okay until the day he arrived stateside, and four days away from our appointment with the justice of the peace to get married. Once again, things did not go well or as planned.

He was on leave, and I was going to take two weeks leave after we got married that following Monday morning. The plan was to visit his family for a week and then visit mine for another week. Afterwards, we would apply for a joint assignment somewhere.

Things started falling apart that Friday evening after we obtained the marriage license. We had an appointment that following Monday morning and were going to leave afterwards.

We were having dinner and he got upset over me fixing him a plate of food. I was not sure why he got upset but he mentioned something about his mother always catering to his dad. I knew that his relationship with his dad was not great, and they were always at odds with one another. His father was a retired Marine who had extramarital affairs during their marriage. His mom knew and just put up with it. This started a big discussion about how our marriage was supposed to be.

The first thing he did was reach into his suitcase and he pulled out a bible. I was not a religious person and had decided to not attend church anymore. He knew that and felt it was important for me to go back. I told him we could discuss it, but my answer would always be no. That is when he handed me not just a bible but a children’s bible. It was a baby blue Precious Moments bible. I felt so insulted and belittled. He stated that the reason I struggled with understanding God was because a regular bible was too hard to comprehend. I was livid.

I reminded him that I grew up in the south and attended church from the time I could walk until I was eighteen. I knew what the bible said and was taught by my grandmother. I threw the bible back at him. He seemed embarrassed and put it back in his suitcase.

The next thing he wanted to discuss was finances. He was going to oversee everything to include my paychecks as well. I told him no and we could discuss a joint account in both of our names. He said that was not going to work for him. That discussion ended abruptly.

He then talked about my smoking, the music I listened to, and my friends. He did not like any of it and said that would change after we got married. The anger I felt started to swell in my thoughts. I waited to see what he would say next.

Next, he wanted to discuss my duties as a wife once I finished my enlistment. I started laughing and said, “Why would I only do one enlistment?”  He had assumed that once our first enlistment was up that we would both be done. I said that was not my career path or plan. I told him that I was going to retire from the military.

We stopped talking about it after he mentioned that I would be a stay-at-home wife and would take care of the kids while he worked. His plan was to go onto college and become an engineer.

He told me there would not be any time for me to do the same because my place was in the home. I guess all those months we were together prior to the previous breakups were forgotten by him. I was ambitious and determined to succeed. He had told me that is what attracted him to me.

The final straw that broke everything down was him deciding, in that moment, to be truthful with me.

He told me about the other women he had been seeing while he was in Japan after our engagement. One of the women was the much older, married gymnastics coach that he volunteered for on his base. She was married to a Marine who was always on deployments.

I emotionally lost it and there was nothing but anger in those moments.

I told him, “I guess you turned into your father after all.”  I started throwing his clothes back into his suitcase, told him to call a cab, and get out.

He kept telling me to “Calm down and let’s talk this out.” 

Any woman in her right mind, would never stop to listen to such foolishness nor forgive the other person for the flagrant abuse of their affection.

In that moment, I was tired of dealing with men altogether.

I may have been young and naïve about the world, but I knew in my mind and heart, the difference between right and wrong. He was wrong for me, and I should have left it alone.

I walked him outside to the parking lot when the cab pulled up. He leaned over to kiss me and I turned away. I was so angry and just wanted him to leave. He got in the cab and left.

I went back to my room, packed up a bag, then went and called the airline to get a refund of my ticket. I then called Greyhound and booked a bus ticket back to Oklahoma. I called a cab and left early that morning to the bus station. I spent the next 3 days on a bus thinking over what had happened.

There was an overnight delay and I had to spend it in the Washington DC bus terminal. That was a scary moment, there were homeless people panhandling, and a man who tried to follow me into the women’s bathroom before being stopped by a police officer. I was wide awake after that.

Once I arrived home, I spent two weeks at home sleeping or crying every day. My family tried to console me but there was no point. I had never felt so alone. I just wanted to go away and never come back.

After I came back to my base, I moved on. It was about 3 to 4 months later when I started a new relationship with a new forecaster that I worked with, but we kept it a secret.

He was technically my supervisor when we worked the same shifts together. Then 3 months after that, I received orders to an overseas duty base. The night before I left my friends threw a big going away party. That is when they and our co-workers found out about us.

He was upset that I was leaving and was getting sloppy drunk, angry, and overly sentimental. He had already told me that he did not want anything serious. I believed him, so I signed up for a tour of duty somewhere else. I had been through so much and had to get out of there.

The next plane ride took me to Osan Air Base, South Korea.

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Thank you so much for stopping by!

Have a great week!

Peace, love, happiness, and good vibes, always!

Suzanne