I’m All Out of Adrenaline

I’m pretty amazed by the day I had today.

I woke up early and went to work to celebrate a first. The company I work for went public! It was an interesting experience, one that was more stressful than I expected it to be. Waiting for that first sale seemed to take days, even though it was only an hour or so.

I Rediscover My People

Later that morning, I took a bus to Tacoma for the Pacific Northwest Student Veteran’s Conference to sit on a panel about working in tech as a veteran.

I introduced myself to a room full of vets by saying that I’d flunked out of DLI. Rather than the blank stares or the “What’s that?” I’m accustomed to even among veterans, half the room laughed! Then someone yelled, “You and everyone else!”

I hung out after my panel to listen to panels on being a veteran student who is a racial minority in the Pacific northwest and on being a veteran and LGBGT+. The range of vets I listened to and spoke covered short 2-4 year stints through a 27 year retiree, including enlisted, warrant officers, and officers.

I’ve been disconnected from this community for a long time. I’ve been around vets a few times, but this was the first time I’ve really felt connected in this way to strangers – it usually only happens with vets I’ve been stationed with or have gotten to know very well.

I’m really amazed by how much the military both has and hasn’t changed. Many of the people on the LGBGT+ panel spent their entire stint as queer folk in the post Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era, which was still in effect when I left. They talked about the changes that came down one at a time, such as the memo that finally gave automatic leave approval for the honeymoons of same sex couples.

I’m Reminded That Not All Vets Are My People

After I got home, I double checked online to make sure it was ok to say in an online forum that I had gone to DLI. In the process of doing so, I happened upon one of my classmates from DLI, one that I’d never looked up because I only knew his last name and it’s one that isn’t easy to search for. This classmate sexually harassed me while I was there, and in fact was the subject of my me, too, story. I was 17 and fresh out of basic training. I hadn’t yet had any sexual harassment training, so I didn’t know how to report anything, who to report things to, what was reportable, or what might happen since he VERY much outranked me and was also in a separate branch of the military. I wasn’t even sure what constituted sexual harassment, because I’d had no training and had come from a place and social situation where such things were not discussed.

I was terrified of getting a dishonorable discharge for complaining and losing my GI Bill. Other students noticed what the harassment and encouraged me to report it. However, when I asked them if something bad might happen to me or who I should talk to about it, none of them had any answers.

Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the person in charge of my class and said that I was concerned that I was falling behind. He asked if I wanted to start over with a new class and I said no. Later, the Air Force made that its idea – I was told that they had decided that I should be reclassified.

I had one chance to take the programming test, so was forced to take it while I had the flu. I failed it by one point. They did not allow me to retest and so reclassified me into a different job. Their loss. I ended up working the rest of my enlistment in a place I hated but with an absolutely fantastic group of people.

20 Years Before Anyone Knew The Word “Ally”

This is especially upsetting since DLI is so very integrated. My fellow classmates, the ones I discussed this with, included men, women, black people, white people, a foreign civilian, Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and a SEAL. They included both enlisted people up through a Chief and officers. It really was a large mix of people. Not a single one of them reported it, even though the training I received much later at my first permanent posting taught me that anyone can report sexual harassment, it doesn’t have to be the subject/intended victim of the harassment.

I’m not going to blame my harassment for my flunking out. There were a number of factors, including my struggle remembering tones and with writing characters, both of which are very limiting with Mandarin. I chose to drop a dream I’d had since I was very young and walk away rather than try again, because I was afraid of what might happen if I stayed. Aside from this one thing, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to learn a foreign language. DLI is like a dream come true for anyone who has a passion for linguistics.

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~ by Liz on April 21, 2018.

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