Gay... Jewish...Interracial...Military: Inspiring by Overcoming

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
An inspiring story... must read

Submitted: October 16, 2012

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Submitted: October 16, 2012

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It was July 20, 2010. We were being rushed off the charter buses and herded onto the blacktop in front of a row of warehouse looking buildings. For most of us, it was our first time away from home. I had graduated from high school a mere month before I boarded the bus that brought me to this place. I knew where the bus was headed, but I had no idea what was in store for me the moment I stepped off it. We had arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and we were in the first moments of our basic combat training for the US Army.

I cannot properly describe how detached and empty I felt the first week away from home and in basic training. Like everyone else, I was in a foreign land and in a completely different lifestyle. Coming from Michigan, I had never experienced a heat so intense and never had I experienced so many southern accents in the chatter around me. For the first time in my life I was being looked at weird for my northern accent. So for that first week, I was uncharacteristically quiet and passive in everything I did. Laying low was my only goal at that point.

During the first full day there, we were split off into small teams to do sprucing around the headquarters where we were at. Most were ordered to pick pieces of grass out of the rock landscape in front of the main building. Others mowed the crispy lawn and picked up the grass shavings behind the mowers. I was plucked randomly, along with three other trainee soldiers, to wait over by a pole barn for further orders. The four of us stood in the shade of the pole barn for several minutes while we waited for someone to come by and give us our next order. It was an awkward and quiet few minutes, for none of us knew each other and were still in a sort of shock of being fresh at basic training. I stood with my arms crossed and stared blankly over the rolling planes that were visible passed the cluster of warehouses. That’s when I met her.

During my inner moment of peace a girl from my small group strikes up a conversation with me. The only thing I remember of what she said to me was that she was from Oklahoma and only lives a couple hours away from where we were. She oozed with pride to the fact that she hailed from a state so horridly hot. I oozed with disinterest for her cocky attitude. She was a short black girl with an abnormally loud voice and a very confident attitude. When our small group joined back up with everyone else for chow, I had zero interaction with her for the rest of basic training. We wound up in different platoons but in the same graduating class. Her and I were both handpicked honor graduates once basic training came to a close. About a week before we graduated, our entire battery/company were handed their orders for when they leave Fort Sill after graduation. We all would be flying straight to our next leg of our training called Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where we would train for our actual job we signed up for or better known as our MOS. It depended on what you were training for, to determine what place you would be going to for your job training. I being medical was going to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I also learned that day that PFC Minter (girl from before) was going to training for the same exact job as me, Preventive Medicine Specialist (68S). Considering that we were in separate platoons in basic training if figured the odds would be that we wouldn’t have any interaction in AIT either. I was wrong.

October 2, 2010, I was freshly graduated and being flown to Fort Sam Houston to report to my new training company and to start my job training. A couple of females from my platoon in basic training were with me and going to be training for the same job as well. So I didn’t feel as lost this time around. After reporting into my new company and getting put into my room in the barracks, I get to see my AIT platoon for the first time as we form up to meet our platoon sergeant and each other. A normal sized platoon is about 50 people big, and after a quick head count I found out that my platoon was only 16 people small. The girls from my basic training platoon were in it, a couple of females that also graduated with me from basic but from different platoons were in it, and wouldn’t you know it, PFC Minter was in it too. A few males who went to basic training in Georgia made up our platoon too. All together it was 8 females and 8 males.

November of 2010, a month of AIT has gone by and my platoon was getting along pretty well. I made a couple of new friends but a group of 3 girls made a point that they were their own group within a group. The boys pretty much hung out with each other and the rest of us did our own thing during our little free time. Then our platoon sergeant decided that we should all move rooms to become roommates for better team cohesion. He read off the new arrangement in the rooms and my new roommates were SPC Welch, a quiet female and the oldest in our platoon at age 23. My other new roommate was PFC Minter, of course. Minter had been a part of the 3 girl group that sat together at chow and did everything together, I was curious to see how the cohesion would change now that we would all literally be around each other 24/7.

Our platoon’s cohesion skyrocketed by the end of the first week with our new room arrangements. PFC Minter and I were nothing short of best friends by the end of that first week. We both laughed and admitted to not liking each other in basic training and were amazed that we ever disliked each other in the first place. She was incredibly smart and athletic and after we were done with classes for the day she was nothing short of a chill goofball in our barracks room.

December 2010, Minter and I went to a Transiberian Orchestra concert in San Antonio with another girl from our platoon.  I honestly cannot say I remember a whole lot of that concert because majority of the time was texting Minter who sat right next to me. After just a month of being great friends and roommates I had developed strong feelings for her and what betting time to confess those feelings than at a Christmas rock concert right? What made the text conversation last the whole concert was the fact that the feelings were mutual and we made agreements about keeping it between us because DADT was still in effect at that time. So we kept it hush hush but didn’t hesitate to flirt when our other roommate was having a ciggy at the smoke shack. Eventually our entire platoon knew that her and I were a thing, including our platoon sergeant, and they didn’t give two shits. The females in our platoon thought we were adorable and the guys in our platoon thought it was hot, so overall our secret was safe with our platoon.

January 21, 2011, even with the impending date of our graduation and overall separation as a platoon, Minter and I became official. She was already out and proud about being bisexual but I was so deep in the closet that the relationship was all very scary and nerve-wracking. We talked about what we would do after we graduate February 4, 2011. Neither of us were believers in long distance relationships but neither of us were willing to break up. So we agreed to continue the relationship when she went back to school in Seattle, Washington and I went to my first duty station in Hawaii.

After we graduated and said our goodbyes to the platoon I flew back to Michigan to stay with my family for 3 weeks before I reported to my duty station in Hawaii for the first time. During the 3 week visit, Navotni (Minter) came to visit for a week to meet my parents and my siblings. I came out to my parents a couple of days before she arrived in Michigan. Before I came out, they thought she was just an Army friend visiting, then by the time they met her she was my girlfriend. It took a ton of courage for me to come out to my parents but man I felt better after I did. Both my parents were extremely supportive and after they met Navotni they were ecstatic that I had found someone so great for me. Her week in Michigan was nothing short of perfect.

Late February 2011, I flew from Michigan to Hawaii. I was nervous to be starting another journey by myself and sad to be leaving my family and to not know when I would see Navotni again. I reported to Tripler when I arrived and settled into my barracks room. Immediately I felt the pain of emptiness without her. I spent the first weekend curled up on my bed wondering when I would get to see her again. Soon after I settled in Hawaii Navotni called to let me know that she was coming to visit me in Hawaii in April for her birthday week. Needless to say the couple of months crawled by while we waited for April to roll around. All I did was work and go back to my barracks room everyday, I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything more than that. I worked myself into a deep depression as I sufficed with not seeing her by texting all day and calling each other before bed every night. It began to wear on us both. Not even the effort we put in to continue our relationship but the fact that we weren’t together at all. Navotni loved her school and friends in Seattle but even those things weren’t appealing to her anymore.

April finally came and the moment that we saw each other for the first time after those couple of months was a beautiful one. Yet another week was perfect in its entirety because we were together. We stayed in a hotel in downtown Waikiki. During that week Easter and her birthday occurred so it was special to say the least. On April 21st, we were eating breakfast at the Ihop on the first floor of our hotel when I suggested that we take a break from the studying we had been doing and go drive around for some fresh air. We wound up at Bellows Air Force beach and planted ourselves on a part of the beach where not a person was in sight. The sun was beaming and kayakers were steadily paddling through the surf on the horizon. We sat in silence for a few minutes and took in the beautiful scenery and each other’s company. Then with a minute of pure courage I turned to Navotni and knelt before her where she sat in the sand. I pulled out a silver coated box and opened it to reveal a ring. She began to cry before I even got the words out and I let her take it in for a moment before I finally asked, “Will you marry me?” She said yes of course and when we walked back to the car we called our parents and our closest friends to tell them the great news. Most responses were a bit shaky and normally included “haven’t you only been dating for 3 months?” But we didn’t care, we knew we were ready.

Ending that week was one of the hardest things I had to do and after that we knew that we couldn’t go on much longer apart. May comes around and things go back to being painfully empty. Navotni was having a harder and harder time focusing in class and I was sinking lower into my rut. Late in May Navotni surprised me by showing up unexpectedly when I came home from the gym. We spent a few days together before she flew back to Seattle. In June I scrounged up a training I could do for my job that was based in Seattle, it was a week long and we were dying to see each other but had sucked our bank accounts dry to pay for the plane tickets and hotel from prior visits. So we got to see each others in June while I was in Seattle training.

Beginning of June I get a call from Navotni on the weekend. She informs me that she has applied and had already gotten accepted by a small college in Hawaii and already priced the tickets for her to fly out one way. She got the thumbs up from her unit in Washington and they said as long as she was at drill every 3 months that they didn’t mind her moving out to Hawaii. So July 5, she flew out to Hawaii with a few large suitcases full of her most prized possessions, it was the first step in our lives together. We began our life together in a small studio in the busy Waikiki area. We were two blocks away from the beach and could walk to most of the places in the downtown area.

My section that I work in at Tripler okayed it for me to move out of the barracks as long as I paid my bills. So since Navotni was on summer break and wouldn’t start school for another month she job searched and was hired as a shoe expediter at Macy’s in the Ala Moana Mall. It was a tedious job and we nicknamed Macy’s the Whore House to symbolize our loathing of the place. So we lived off of her Macy’s wage and off of my Private First Class pay with no extra help to scrape by. And scrape by we did.

Navotni was not satisfied at the thought of going to a school that was not well thought of so she applied to the University of Hawaii a week before classes began, and was accepted. She was pushed back to being a Sophomore since her credits didn’t transfer completely but continued on with her biology/pre med major. She quickly learned that the atmosphere at UH was much less friendly than Seattle University. So as I said, scraped by on money and lived from paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. All awhile my section at work was in my ear threatening to move me back to the barracks for the smallest of reasons like being to work late one day. A strain quickly showed itself and we pushed through it without a complaint.

November comes around and Navotni needs to report into her unit back in Washington for drill. By this point my work life had become so degrading and hostile to my home life that I decided to go with her. I took a few days of leave but left a day earlier than what my leave said, without telling my bosses. In my head, they didn’t deserve accountability of me. We put our few month old puppy, Cappi, that we adopted in the summer, into a doggy daycare for the week that we were gone. We flew out to Seattle and spent an amazing week there away from the stresses of her school and my work. When we fly back, we are greeted by my entire department from Tripler at the baggage claim. They were all in uniform and my main boss approached us and he was not happy. He raised his voice for all to hear about how I violated Army regulations by leaving a day early so I was considered AWOL and that I lied to NCOs and that we better make plans because he was going to move me back into the barracks. He told me that he was going to demote me which would take a chunk of my pay and that I was being written up for an Article 15 which is legal action in Army words.

What wound up happening was that I wasn’t demoted and my pay wasn’t touched but I did receive an Article 15 for going AWOL which is an ugly bruise on my record for a while. I served 14 days of extra duty where I was forced to live in the barracks for those 14 days and did grunt work everyday after work including the weekends. I swept pebbles out of the hospital parking lots, I raked leaves, I mopped/waxed all the halls in the headquarters building and stuff of that nature. We spent our one year anniversary on the phone instead of together.

We spent the holidays in Hawaii because we couldn’t afford to fly home. Early 2012 Navotni switched from the Reserve unit in Washington to the National Guard unit in Hawaii to trim out the costs of flying back and forth for drill. When she switched over all of her financial benefits were taken away. The 700 a month she got for being in school from the Army, was halted. Her Tuition Assistance was halted. And she was informed that she would have to pay back the entirety of the bonus she received when she enlisted with the reserves. As that all went down her health insurance stopped without any warning just as she began to fall ill was a thing doctors couldn’t solve. She only found out that her insurance was frozen when she went to fill her prescriptions at the pharmacy and they informed her that she was not covered by health insurance and would have to pay hundreds of dollars just to fill one of her 5 prescriptions. She contacted TriCare to figure out the mess and apparently when they went to automatically take the money out of her account for her monthly payment, her bank had frozen her account due to suspicious spending which we found out later was nothing. But TriCare treated it as failure to pay and shut down her insurance and told her it would be 3 months until it could kick back in.

We really began to fall apart. It felt like everything was against us and we were helpless to save ourselves because we were gay. My work continued to pester me over small things and telling me that it was my choice to have my girlfriend move out here. Navotni began to struggle in school since she couldn’t afford her medication and was experiencing severe withdrawal. She continued to drag herself to Macy’s to fulfill her shifts. We saw the end of our 6th month contract with our apartment and had to sign up for 6 more months because we couldn’t afford anything more than our small studio.

May 2012, we both finally snapped. I had been struggling so hard to seem okay during all the crisis that I had begun to lose myself and Navotni saw it. Navotni began to slip with the stresses of work and school and now the loss of her fiancée who was there but not actually there. A weekday morning Navotni informs me that she is leaving for the mainland because we were broke and I wasn’t the person that she agreed to marry anymore. The thought of losing her and that I had made her that unhappy when all I was trying to do was make her happy go to me. I snapped. I didn’t go into work that day, which is pretty unheard of since I’m active duty Army. I held a bottle of my antidepressant pills and stared at a glass of water on the counter. I had never heard Navotni so upset and so sure of something. I had lost her and with that, I had lost everything. I was going to end it all by overdosing. When I didn’t answer her many phone calls Navotni called 911 and said that her fiancée was going to commit suicide. When I wasn’t answering her calls I was on the phone with my dad. I told him that I lost Navotni and that I didn’t know what to do. He settled me down without realizing he talked me out of suicide, I hung up the phone with him when the paramedics knocked on the door.

Navotni sat in the passenger seat of the ambulance as I was taken to Tripler to be admitted to the ER. I felt like a monster and it killed me to look at Navonti’s face, and her face had a look of such hurt upon it. Throughout that day I was kept in a nook in the ER and I slept mostly, I was exhausted. I woke up a time or two to have blood drawn or when my commander came in to talk to me to see how I was. I was angry with the Army, I blamed them for majority of why I was in that hospital gown. Overall, I knew I had lost my grip and let a moment of weakness grow into months of robotic behavior that led to Navotni’s leaving. My Lieutenant drove Navotni back home so she could take care of Cappi and to be alone to digest that day’s event. Finally at the end of the day I was released after talking to a hand full of Army officers about my feelings. When I got back home Navotni and I were worn out emotionally and we just laid together on our bed without speaking a word. Over the next couple of days we talked extensively about how we got to that point and how to prevent it from happening again. From that point, things finally began to look up. My visit to the ER was an extreme wakeup call to my bosses to back off me. Navotni and I’s relationship finally felt rich and warm again. Navotni’s health insurance finally kicked back in and she was back to her medications.

As soon as the insurance was back online Navotni made an appointment with her main doctor about her mysterious consistent nausea she had since January that year. Now that she could afford the tests it would take to diagnose her, we went full speed ahead to figure out the cause to her everyday sickness. After a few radiology tests we learned that her GalBladder was almost completely dysfunctional so she wasn’t able to digest her food and the nausea came from her gallbladder full of bile but not excreting any of it. So a month after she was diagnosed she had surgery to have her gallbladder removed. After a month of recovery and after a few of her pukas (small holes) got infected, she fully healed and now has 4 small scars on her abdomen.

Right after she was finally healed she started work as a busser at Hard Rock Café in Waikiki. She was out of school for the summer and adored the fast paced job and loved the tips even more. She began to bring in more money than we had ever seen since she moved to Hawaii a year before and visions of going home for the holidays became possible and even better was that we were almost done with our 2nd 6 month contract for our tiny studio and could afford to get a bigger place.

August 2012, we had just adopted another dog from the humane society to keep Cappi company while we were gone during the day. Stormi was 3 years old but a perfect calm balance to Cappi’s lively behavior. We then found a one bedroom apartment of almost the same price of the small studio and snagged it in a heartbeat. We finally had a bedroom and a parking spot that wasn’t two blocks away. This place was much quieter and I had just started college in July, so the peace was beneficial to my studies and to our sleep. Navotni then started school after the summer was over and we could already tell that this year would be much better than the last.

Though we still have zero extra dollars after paying our bills and filling our bellies, we are in a much better spot in our minds than before. Navotni now has 3 jobs ontop of school and the National Guard one weekend a month. I’m still in classes myself and taking care of the home any moment I get. We recently decided that we couldn’t afford for the both of us to go home this holiday season either and that I would still go home to Michigan for most of December since I haven’t been home in 2 years now. With a family as close as mine, 2 years is already far too long.

So we still live paycheck to paycheck. A couple of young women getting by in Hawaii. A couple that isn’t treated as such by the Army or by most of society. It isn’t until people hear our story that they realize how very much in love we are and how much we deserve to be recognized since we have done more than most hetero couples every have to think about doing. End of the day, we are married in spirit and know that one day, equality will be at our doorstep.

 


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