Today is Disability Day of Mourning. There were lots of posts on Twitter. There was a list of disabled people who were murdered by family members by date, name, and cause of death. I skimmed the list to see if the little girl who lived across the street was on it. She wasn’t. Her name was Rachel, and she was 9. Her mom took her into their basement and shot her, then herself with a shotgun. Rachel was Autistic. My sister, Heather, was her babysitter. Naturally, the whole neighborhood was shocked. Murder is not an acceptable way to cope with disability. There are no excuses. Nobody has the right to steal someone’s life. Especially not that of a child.
Even when I was serving in the Army, I firmly believed that killing someone is wrong. I didn’t claim conscientious objector status, because it wasn’t an issue for me. There was only one incident in which a weapon was fired intending to hit me. That weapon was practically a relic, and it’s shooter was only 15. Of course I didn’t return fire. I told on him, and he got smacked by his grandfather. I got an Article 15, but it was just company grade, and not my first. That Iraqi boy’s life was totally worth 14 days of extra duty and restriction. Other than that, I was what is commonly referred to as a “chairborne ranger”. I spent the majority of my military career in various schools. I enjoyed it. My motivation came from finding out that in the event of chemical or biological warfare, the first person required to remove their protective mask and gear was the person least mission essential.
I didn’t want to be that person, so I made sure I had crucial skills. I eventually became the NBC NCO (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Noncommissioned officer). That alone pretty much guaranteed it wouldn’t be me. The often denied chemical and biological agents used in Desert Stormy by Saddam Hussein caused a lot of people to get sick, and some passed it on to family members. It’s only recently been acknowledged by the VA. They tried to pull a Vietnam/Agent Orange again. Fuckers. It takes 10-20 years for the VA to overcome denial. Unfortunately for Vietnam veterans, it’s apparently a recurring condition, as they’re dumping programs for them left and right of late. Fuckers.
I don’t regret my service, though. I learned some crucial lessons. I learned that maintaining American freedom is not the reason we’ve participated in wars since WWII. That’s just the lie that gets suckers like me to volunteer. It works well when you couple it with the bullshit they teach in public schools. I was 17 when I shipped out for basic training. I was a young, naive 17-year-old with an extremely sheltered childhood and undiagnosed Autism. I bought into the whole “protecting my country’s freedoms” line. This is an embarrassing admission in hindsight, but I joined the Army because I wanted to be a soldier so I could help prevent war. My high school debate training left me thinking that I was good at stating my case, and convincing others to adopt my views. Shut up.
So it was an eye opening experience, but one I needed. I literally grew up in the Army. It was so painful to accept the fact that America isn’t the best country ever. That we have a bloody, horrific past, just like pretty much all other nations. That as a nation, America is a teenager who hasn’t yet figured out where she fits in on the world stage, and has shitty boundaries. I’m sure plenty of other people had this figured out by age 17, but I didn’t. It was like finding out there’s no such thing as Santa Claus all over again. I remember watching CNN, and being floored by the fact that they were lying their asses off. I had assumed if it was on the news, it was true. Shut up. So yeah, I had to grow up.
I also learned how to embrace and love hard, demanding physical labor. The feeling of being completely exhausted, and barely able to walk after a hard day of work is so good. I learned that my capabilities are far greater than I ever imagined. I learned how to cope with incredible fear. I shake, cry, hyperventilate, and emit strange moaning sounds when I’m extremely afraid, and I can still function despite it. The first time I experienced this was when we had to throw 2 live (REAL) grenades over a wall in basic training. We stood inside a bunker with a thick plexiglass window to observe those who went before us. Every time, we’d duck for cover when the shrapnel flew at us and embedded in the plexiglass. It was loud, it smelled badly, and I was terrified. I was in the middle of the line, and when it was my turn and I was handed 2 live grenades to put in my LBE pouches, my legs were like Jello.
I walked so carefully and slowly, trying to make sure I didn’t trip. It was a short distance to where my Drill SGT waited by the wall. We were told to throw them like a shotput, not a baseball. All we had to do was pull the pin, and project the grenade over the top of a wall that was probably around 10′ high. It was a very simple process. However, our Drill SGTS told us the horror stories of the Private who threw the pin and kept the grenade. When I finally made it to the designated spot, I pulled out the first one, pulled it’s pin, and threw it as hard as I could. It probably went about 2 feet beyond the wall. Then my Drill SGT grabbed me and shoved me down against the wall, and lay over me. This was standard procedure. I got back up, and started crying. I asked if it was okay if I just threw the one. It was not okay. So I threw the other one pretty much exactly like the first one, bawling my head off the whole time.
Another important lesson I learned in the Army was how to let go. How to let go of people, stuff, and places. I had friends who got orders to move to other countries. I literally lost everything I owned when moving back to America from Germany. I lived in Texas, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. I went on field problems in 29 Palms, California, and Yuma in AZ. I went to basic in South Carolina. Suffice to say, I’ll never be a hoarder. I don’t allow myself to get overly attached to objects. There are other important things I learned from my Army experience, but these are the ones that remain helpful. There. I’ve managed to refocus in order to prevent my grief over the murders of so many innocent disabled people from crushing me.