When I joined the Navy at 18 years old, right after high school as a wide eyed naïve teenager, I never could have imagined the journey I was about to set out on. My whole moral being was about to be shaken to it's core. It was going to be rebuilt. My sense of self, what I had been taught was going to go out the window for self preservation. You see, I signed on to be a Corpsman in the United States Navy. It was during the time of mass deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I was a sophomore in high school when 9/11 happened. I was a junior when we found Saddam. My first boyfriend joined the Marines in 2003, my cousin joined the Navy in 2003 also. I left in September 2004 for bootcamp under the impression that "females don't deploy over there". I was fine with that. I wasn't ready for college, and I just wanted the G.I. Bill. Once my six years were up I was out. I had no intention of deploying. I wanted to learn a few medical skills and head to college to be a doctor. The Navy was my way in.
Growing up next to a fairly well known Air Force base, the military was familiar to a local in my small Ohio town. I thought it would be easy. Bootcamp flew by, it was a breeze. It was just the Navy. I went to bootcamp in better shape than when I left. My only gripe was that we always lined up for chow in a height line. With the shortest in the back. I was always second to last to eat. I had to scarf down my food. A trait that stays with me to this day. Which does not vote well for eating out with children who peck at food. I stayed quite, which is unusual for my nature, kept my head down, and made it out in eight weeks. I was not staying longer than I had too. I was not giving up my Corpsman billet. They were highly sought after, and I waited a year for the one I had gotten. Corpsmen school was also a breeze with a slight hiccup on one test. A lot of pride in our rating was instilled upon us. We have the most Medal of Honor winners in our rating for the Navy. Why wouldn't we? We are the medical for Marines. Where they go, we go. I however, had no intention of ever going with the Marines. That required a second bootcamp like school. I was not about that life. I would be happy jumping from hospital to hospital my entire career. Working on my college credits, and working towards becoming a doctor and learning from the best. Most of my instructors had their war stories. All of them male. This gave me hope that my dreams could come true.
What I was not prepared for was being a female, that was attractive at a new command, that could out perform her male and female counterparts in almost every aspect of "Sailorization" and be told it wasn't because of my merit and hard work. It was because I obviously had been on my knees, or sleeping with my chain of command to get high marks, and positions. I remember I went up for Blue Jacket of the Quarter, a board much like an employee of the month. I had a surefire package. My Chief came to me and said that I had to wear a skirt on the board. I did not own a skirt because it was not a part of my sea bag. I was never given a skirt for the uniform they wanted me to wear. I was told to find one, or I would be docked points. I had a choice to make, stand up for myself because I was not given a skirt and wear the uniform I was given, because every other person on the board would be wearing pants because they were male and be docked points. Or, find a skirt from a fellow female Sailor who had been given one before they were taken out of the sea bag issue in bootcamp and wear one. I being someone who honestly hates skirts, and refuses to be told I have to do something just because of my gender, told them I would wear pants, and they had no right to tell me other wise and couldn't dock me points for something that was never issued and was not listed as a required item I was supposed to keep. I won. I also won that board. My fellow competition smugly told me afterwards, "the only reason you won was because you were the only female who went up." What a blow to my ego. I had worked hard. I had joined associations and been an active member, I had gone to funerals and taken part in the final burial of Veterans, I had gone to college, I had volunteered in the community. Everything they had done. I was equal on paper, my uniform fit better, my movements were on point, my answers and bearing beyond reproach. Yet, they felt that the only reason they lost was because I was a woman.
Welcome to the real Navy. As a woman, you work harder than the men for recognition. If you do better, you traded sexual favors. It is never based on your merits alone. Your work means nothing. You talk to another male and you are accused of sleeping with them. I felt more high school drama living in the tiny room they provided me in those barracks, than I ever did actually attending high school. This was just the start of the fight to try and maintain who I was. Who I was brought up as. The fight to maintain my moral compass, my moral self. Nights laying awake wondering if what had just happened was right, if I was right. Then the deployments hit.