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I’m in Chicago now. It’s August 1975. Great Lakes isn’t so great. I’m out with friends when a classmate's boyfriend sexually assaults me. I know she knows, and worst of all, she and the rest of our "friends" think it’s funny.
Now, I live recklessly. I spend every evening at the base bar and last night awoke in a car and was being raped by the bartender. I get involved with a corpsman from the hospital who is using drugs but steer clear. That’s not for me. Like being drunk is!?
I don’t know how I’ve made it through these sixteen weeks of school. Somehow I pass and receive my new orders.
December 10, 1975, 10p.m. I report aboard my permanent duty station, Naval Hospital Memphis, Millington, Tennessee. The duty corpsman shows me to my room in the barracks. Neither of my roommates are here. He sexually assaults me right there. I talk my way out of a full blown rape and he leaves.
It’s the next morning and the director of nursing assigns me to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. My first thought is, "You can’t do that. I’ll kill someone!" Orientation and on the job training is six weeks but help is always available. I ask questions and learn so much.
I request permission, respectfully, to live off-base and it’s approved. A friend, Carole, and I rent a trailer and life gets a little better. I actually drink less away from the barracks crowd. And having a roommate who can show up at any time curbs other behaviors. Until Carole is transferred to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, CA.
The third letter I wrote to Dad was returned today. I call Grandma to see if she knows where he is. The family had moved to Kansas without telling me. They didn’t take any of my stuff. All I have to my name are the few things I had brought with me.
After a year I’m transferring to the Branch Clinic at the Naval Air Station, Memphis. My training begins by rotating through the laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, treatment room, orthopedic room and the immunization clinic for several months. I’ve been officially inaugurated into the "shot clinic" when a six year old kicks me in the gut and knocks me down and a six five, two hundred and fifty pound marine passes out at the site of a one half inch needle.
Sick Call is my niche. I see patients--active duty enlisted personnel. It’s my responsibility to assess, diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. I examine, observe, listen and order tests. And I’m good. I do, however, have physicians and physicians' assistants available at any time.
Now I work in Aviation Medicine. I’m part of a team of doctor’s and corpsmen who do physical examinations for every type of government assignment. We see FBI and Secret Service agents, pilots, air traffic controllers, search and rescue, air crewmen, discharge and even dishonorable discharges-in hand cuffs.
The chief I work with has us do officer-lever continuing education and always says, "You don’t have to know all the answers. You just have to know where to find them," and he taps the manual with all the requirements for any and every military physical needed.
I've been following your stories too and they amaze me. You've been through so many challenges and overcome so much. You should have quite a life story to tell when you get all the memories written down and assembled into chapters. Keep writing!