In Realizing You’re a “Disabled” Veteran…

It was a sunny California Friday, I was off of school and out of my apartment to go get some coffee, sit down in my ganja dungeon and get to writing. I decided I was going to wear my cutez California skirt ’cause my butt looked nice in it, and I wore a tank top with a nice bra that showed off the girls nicely, but not too much. I was feeling sexy that day, you know, doing my thang. I didn’t live in the best neighborhood but I didn’t mind it, actually, I enjoyed living with all of those crazies, plus there were a lot of veterans that lived there which made me feel safe. Everybody kept to themselves anyway, and I never had any problems until this particular Friday.

I walked out to the mailbox, expecting a book I had ordered online, when I noticed a man about 6’0″, 250 – 300lbs of nasty fat stomping his way towards me in my peripherals. “What’s this guy’s deal?” I thought. He started to blame me for some mishap that happened with his niece who lived across from me. She went around sleeping with the wrong dudes and all I did was share my internet with her, for fuckin’ free at that. She probably used it to be a whore, but anyway, he starts blabbling his mouth and now I’m thinkin’ I’m gonna have to defend myself against this fucker. He grabs my shoulder, and I black out.

When I came to, this sorry excuse for a man was laid out on the ground, I was choking him and slamming his head into the concrete. A fellow veteran and neighbor had to get two other dudes to get me off of him so I didn’t kill the fucker. Now, I stand at 5’7″ 145 – 155lbs of muscle and this dude was twice – 3x my size, yet it took three guys about the same size as the attacker to get me off of him before I got charged with fucking manslaughter. Then, I went about my day and forgot about it completely.

My neighbor knocks on my door later that evening and tells me not to worry about the cops, that he saw the whole thing and the veteran police officers were on my side, especially after seeing the camera footage. They didn’t even believe the guy’s story. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he laughs goes on to explain what happened earlier that day and I didn’t even believe him. “I know,” he said, “I didn’t believe it when I fucking saw it. You’ll remember it someday though, it happens to all of us.” Turns out that fucking guy also had the gal and the audacity to try to file a police report and try to sue me for medical expenses. They had to take him away in a fucking ambulance and he had permanent brain damage. I didn’t see a day in court because no lawyer would take the case, and all of the police were going to testify in my name.

I mean, he shouldn’t have fucked with Cpl. Kerkman.

It’s been hard these last couple months as I’m out of an abusive relationship and am able to accurately assess what I’ve been doing for the past five years — realizing that I have a “mental handicap” which puts me into an unstoppable kill mode any time I’m threatened. It makes me reflect on what it means to actually be a disabled veteran. I almost killed that guy, and if I did, I wouldn’t have even known what happened.

That’s called a Traumatic Brain Injury, and here I thought that TBI’s were caused by being blown up with some kind of blunt force trauma to the head. Part of me thinks that that definition is just some subpar science that keeps veterans from realizing that they may have a serious issue. It’s taken a lot for me to come to the conclusion that I have this serious issue, but it feels good to be able to finally admit it.

The source of this problem stems from the NATO deployment I was assigned to in Africa in 2011. The only Marine from my unit who was also on this assignment was a Captain I’d known since high school. I won’t go into all of the gory details of this deployment (just yet, but I will), but the extremely abridged version is that we (as in, he and I, the only ones who survived the first fire fight) trekked through the fucking African terrain, took heavy fire, defended against wild animals, were taken as Prisoners of War by an unfriendly tribe and had to escape, saw children of this tribe being tortured, tried to save them with no avail, ended up killing everyone at the site, and still had to go on to complete the mission which was saving a high profile target from an impending attack. The only thing that was keeping us alive was a local tribesman we saved who taught us how to survive in the African wilderness.

I didn’t remember doing any of that, but my Captain did. We couldn’t talk about it because we had to be separated by UCMJ law which forbids officers and enlisted from “hanging out” and even fucking having a casual conversation. This was hard for both of us before the deployment, but it was even worse afterward from being surrounded by fucking POGs who didn’t understand the first thing of what we fucking went through. Nobody believed him when he told people what happened, not even me, his fucking Lance Corporal who saved his fucking life and he saved mine. One day he fucking snapped, took off his ribbons, gave them to me, and yelled at me to go put them on. I put them on even though I didn’t want to because, to me, I didn’t deploy and I wasn’t a POW, but he was my Captain and I was his Corporal.

Then about an hour later, this fucking boot Comm Corporal comes into the office and tells me that I’m a disgrace to the Marine Corps, I look down and forgot that my Captain told me to put them on and I start freaking out and crying. My Sergeant said, “KERKMAN! YOU DID DEPLOY KERKMAN! YOU FUCKING WENT TAD!! Go the fuck in the head Kerkman, I got this.” I went to the head to put on my two ribbons, then he started screaming at this fucker about what happened to me in Africa; the guy was scared ’cause you know, Sgt Lucas gives the best ass chewings.

“SEE THIS FUCKING RIBBON?! DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS FUCKING IS?!” he was screaming.
“No Sgt,” the Boot whimpered
“U.S. NATO FORCES IN SOMALIA! EVER BEEN TO FUCKING AFRICA, YOU FUCK!?”
“No Sgt.”

Then he goes on to explain how we were taken as prisoners of war, and everything else I’d mentioned above. My Captain heard my Sgt yelling at this guy, and calls everyone in our company outside, to include all of the officers. Then he chews everyone out for about two hours, explaining what our mission was and what we went through as I sat in oblivion as to what was going on outside. He was a Mustang: a First Sergeant who went commissioned, and former infantryman, so they were really getting it handed to them. I was just doing my Disbo work, that’s what I liked to do. Then everyone came inside looking like hurt Devil Dogs, and I was wondering what everyone was so upset about. Then my Captain calls me outside to the courtyard and I’m thinkin’, “Oh shit, what did I do?”

He grabs my shoulders and says, “We were kidnapped and deployed, Kerkman, I need you to remember, Kerkman…. I really need you to remember.” Then only a portion of the deployment came back: all of the children that died, and the lion that followed us. I started to really weep, yelling about the children, he hugged me, held me, and told me he loved me. I told him I loved him too but then this fucking shit came out of my fucking mouth: “But we can’t be doing this, sir, we’re going to get in trouble.”

“I don’t give a flying FUCK about these fucking POGs Cassandra!”
“Um…. But…. I’m a POG, sir?”
“NO YOU’RE FUCKING NOT! DON’T EVER CALL YOURSELF A FUCKING POG AGAIN!”
Then I started talking in a hushed tone, “Billy, you’re fucking freaking me out. Are you ok?”
His eyes started to water, “No, no I’m not. Nobody believes us, Cassandra. Our deployment was illegal. Regiment doesn’t even have record of it, and if they do, they’re not releasing it. They made fake orders for recruiter’s assistance for you and put me on ‘leave.’ THEY EVEN CHARGED MY LEAVE ACCOUNT!”
“I’m sorry this happened to us… but… Why doesn’t this surprise me?”
“BECAUSE you’re the most INTELLIGENT WOMAN in the whole GODDAMNED FUCKING WORLD!”

He really started to cry and I’d never seen him like that before, not even when we were surrounded by the enemy, about to fucking die. So I touched his face, told him everything was going to be ok, then he kissed me, you know, with the touching and the feeling (in our Charlies, mind you). Haha. Then another part of the deployment came back:

“We didn’t just kill people in Africa, sir.” I smiled.
He started laughing, “Well, at least you remember that!
“Maybe we should just think about that part.”**

Then he was just thinking about that part, and started to feel better. The Platoon Commander, a Major Pog saw us and yelled at Billy to get inside. I went back in to finish my work and everyone was looking at me like a stranger. My Sgt put up a sign on the door saying that there was a POW who didn’t remember she was a POW and that all Marines should be treated with caution. Then I forgot everything…. again. This drove Billy to a breaking point, he beat the shit out of Maj Pog, got demoted, and was PCS’d to a different duty station. They didn’t charge me with fraternization because they claimed he was taking advantage of me, which was farthest from the truth. Now I’m thinking about all of this and can’t help but feel this guilt I shouldn’t feel from not being able to remember and not being able to console my best fucking friend in the way I feel like I should have. I would have stood up for him and taken the demotion too, but unfortunately, I have a TBI which makes me forget…. a lot of important things. I didn’t even know where the bullet wound scars came from…..

But, the longer amount of time I spend away from a war institution, the more I remember, and the better able I am to deal with these issues. I’ve figured out that being in an extreme survival situation where you’re there in the fucking heat of it with nothing but your Captain and a shitty NATO M-16 with no 3-round burst, coupled with torture as training for this event creates a survival mechanism in the brain which is literally impossible for me to shut off when being threatened. You know, being a small woman, this can work to my advantage, but if another small woman threatened me vice a 300lb man, she would be fucking annihilated and I would have no idea what I did.

And what am I to do about this? Take meds? Well, fuck no. We all know what happens to veterans who take medication for this kill mode: they go crazy and shoot VA doctors, then kill themselves. The only thing that helps with the flashbacks, pain, and anxiety is smoking weed — a sativa dominant hybrid strain. But sometimes that makes me forget too much, and I stuff it all in the back of my brain which makes it all come out in one big burst of panic and anger if I don’t medicate. I never take it out on my loved ones, I always take it out on myself by destroying my possessions, or, my favorite, punching a hole in the wall. I have random bursts of anger when I’m treated a certain way, especially being a woman who endured so much time in a combat zone, in the fucking rough of it.

You can see those blues in my eyes, but it often gets misinterpreted as narcotic drug abuse which pisses me off even more (read the beginning of my fucking book). Just give me coffee, weed, mushrooms, and LSD, I’m good. Speaking of LSD, this is also something that has helped me assess my past in an objective way and helps to ease the vivid and uncontrollable emotions that the traumatic experiences inhibit. I never take too much though, that’s just asking for trouble and strange nights. Haha. Just one tab is good. That’s it. Don’t let your nasty friends convince you otherwise either.

In any case, if you’re a civilian reading this, just know that the scars of combat are not always visible and before you go ahead and judge the person to the left and right of you, just know that behind every pretty face could be a stone cold killer just like Cpl Kerkman: pretty skirt, nice boobies, fucking smash your face in. Stay the fuck out of peripheral vision, and stay the fuck back when someone looks over their shoulder because you never know who the fuck you’re messing with. But, only veterans notice these kinds of things, so you’re gonna go on and be complacent, and you’re gonna regret that one day, maybe you already have.

The best thing though is for me to talk to fellow veterans about the shit, especially the men in my unit and the Division. I don’t mean fucking Facebook or text message, I mean a real fucking phone call or a real fucking dinner date. Don’t put off conversations with your buddies because you never know what they’re going through and you might just save their lives just by shooting the shit about the “glory days.” I know MY Marines saved my ass since I’ve been out so many times I can’t even count. They even fucking made me give them the key to my apartment AND my car so they could make duplicates. They call me their Little Liza Jane. All in all, I love you, Grunties. 😉 You don’t gotta worry about that memory loss no more, I got it.

** Side Note: When Billy and I were surrounded by the enemy and they were closing in, we decided to fuck right then and there in the thick of it. We were heavily outnumbered. The sex noises distracted the enemy, and we were able to kill them off one by one as they came to witness the show. Sex makes them complacent. Just remember that. Lol. U no wat i meanz. 🙂

WATCH BOTH GODDAMNIT!

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