All good things come to an end. Life is cyclical. Every wave has a crest. In the end, I should have seen it coming. Not EXACTLY what went down…but I should have known that a storm of some sorts was brewing on the horizon.
If you didn’t eat shit every once in a while, you wouldn’t know how sweet candy is. I was a Navy Chief. I was married. Had a nice place, owned a house, and drove some nice new German cars…
I don’t how else to do this, so I’m going to rip the duct tape off and get the hard stuff said first.
My wife was raped by a Senior Chief Petty Officer who got away with it.
I was on the other side of the world. She was in the storeroom of an Aircraft Carrier. I still haven’t read the whole report. My ex wife and I are still cordial and, ultimately, this was about HER and not ME, so I decided to not pressure her to go into detail. She needed to heal, and my closure was irrelevant.
As a Chief you are initiated into a brotherhood. Eight weeks of rigorous physical and mental “training” to prepare you to wear the Anchors and Khakis. I’m not one to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid so readily, but I do believe in loyalty. They thought it prudent to attempt to make it go away. Vanish. Cover up.
So much for having Brothers.
My Command Master Chief, who I won’t name, wasn’t interested in “my personal drama”, which was interesting, considering she was female.
Mad? Oh yes. As the saying goes, “what happens in the Chief’s Mess STAYS in the Chief’s Mess”, and I had some interesting moments down there. I was lashing out, and I didn’t care who was in my way. Looking back on it, I was unfair to a lot of people, especially my departmental leadership.
I was unfair to myself, too: I couldn’t protect her, and I punished myself for it.
On the whole, the Navy is a fantastic organization, and Chiefs are extraordinary senior enlisted leaders. I honestly believe that, and when the Navy was good to me, it was VERY good to me. Every tree has a few bad apples and it is unfortunate how embarrassing they can be for the collective.
Still, I no longer wanted to be a part of the organization, and having to ride out the contract was difficult. I was torn between having a responsibility to my Sailors and having to reconcile what was done to my family. As I’ve said before, people have always been my lifeblood and my priority, but this threw an entirely different variable into the mix.
Home life sucked. PTSD is not fun when a loved one is affected by it. Perhaps I can write about some of my experiences later. But, for now, I’m not ready to.
Work was rough, but I HAD to lead. I had to develop Sailors. It was my job and I had to execute it, as always. This turned out to be one of the hardest times of my life. I couldn’t exactly show weakness around Sailors, so I would lead, train, inspect weapons…and I would find an empty stall in the Chiefs Head and cry. Rinse off. Get back out there and lead. Groundhog day.
My young Sailors kept me going, and, in retrospect, they returned the care I gave to them with dividends. I’m not sure if I would have made it without them. At least one of them (yes, YOU Madison) directly kept me alive (another story I’m not ready to tell quite yet).
And then I was gone. Walking off of the ship for the last time, I felt like I was letting those Sailors down, but I couldn’t stay.
I told myself I wouldn’t look back once I got off of the ship.
But I did. I took a long hard look, standing there in the parking lot.
I took a photo.
I still look at it.
It was all I knew for 12 years. And I had no clue hoe unprepared I was for the real world….because things only got worse.