My name is Aliya Fitz-El. I joined the United States Marine Corps in August 2001 and entered boot camp October 31, 2001. I loved everything about being a Marine. I was following in my father and grandfather’s footsteps of becoming a Marine. I was so proud to be 1 of 12 children to be the first melanated indigenous female Marine in my family. All my life I was told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, but my dad taught me I can do anything I set my mind to. I mastered every knowledge and physical test put in front of me in the Marine Corps. I was promoted from Private to Lance Corporal within 6 months. That is 3 promotions in 6 months because of my dedication and service to the Marine Corps. All of my hard work and dedication stopped the day I checked into my first duty station.
From the time my husband and I checked into my unit I was being racially discriminated against and being sexually harassed by marines with more rank than me. I ignored and rejected sexual offers until I became a target of a rape in the locker room after PT. I reported my mistreatment to a mandated reporter which was my physician on base. The physician reported to my command and 2 of the physicians started drugging me with antidepressants. At that age I didn’t know what antidepressants were, I knew I was suffering a trauma and I trusted my physician in treating me humanely. The effects of the medicine were altering my mind and my unit took advantage of that. My husband and I were held against our will on base. When I sought help from the chaplain, that made it worse because after that, we began to be followed by Military Police and they kept pulling me and my husband over on made up violations to give us traffic violations. I was kidnapped, drugged and held captive by my own unit. The Marines I was supposed to trust and go to war with. I was the only black woman in the office, which there were only 5 total. The other female married marine in my office was forced to leave her husband and was being forced into a relationship with a marine from the office. The other Hispanic marine that checked in after me was forced with a Marine in the office as well. My friend, another married marine, was being hazed and she reported it and the next thing they got rid of her for not complying.
I was charged, sentenced, and confined by court martial with no legal representation and not given the opportunity under due process of the law. My husband and I would not be alive today if my dad did not come personally to ensure my safe passage off the installation. I didn’t receive a DD214 until a year and a half later which was incorrect. I had to make a congressional inquiry by Virgil Goode. It didn’t even have my correct full legal name and it was not my wet ink signature. All of my leave balance was taken and I never received any of my medical or dental treatments but was documented that I did. I was being deferred from any and all surgeries, laboratory, radiology, and women’s healthcare that was scheduled by my command. I was being denied my human right to health and safety. While I was protecting my country no one protected me.
Those Marines were threatening physical harm to me and my husband. I never in my life thought I would be terrorized, raped, drugged, tortured at Camp Lejeune for 8 hours, then locked up in Craven County jail for 30 days on lockdown 23 hours a day. I couldn’t contact my family and my family had no idea where I was. I am a survivor of MST, which is a huge problem in the military. I was raped, hazed, discriminated and retaliated against by numerous Marines while being held captive on MCAS Cherry Point NC by my Unit and Commanding General.
I checked in MACG-28, MTACS-28, CAC PLT, 2DMAW, Cherry Point, NC May 18, 2002. After my husband and I checked into the CAC, the body language and whispers we heard was the beginning. I started to get questioned by male Marines in my unit asking if my husband was a thug and gang banger because he was Hispanic with tattoos and looked like one. This continued until my supervising officer called me into her office and told me that my husband didn’t look like he belonged. He looked like a thug and gave me an ultimatum to leave him and find a Marine to marry. I told her no disrespect, but my personal life and marriage is personal and a private matter. That just made matters worse, after that incident she made it her mission to make my life difficult.
I was currently residing off base at the time with my husband. My supervising officer approached me several times to move on base. When I informed her I was in a lease, she assured me, she would help me get out of the lease. I declined at the time. I was called in a few days later in front of the Sergeant Major. He informed me if I were late or did not report to duty I would be charged with going AWOL, so he highly suggested that I move on base with my husband. He then drafted a letter to my property management company to get me out of the lease. My property management company released me from my lease and I was forced to move to 520 Nash Rd, Cherry Point NC in June 2002. Which ended up triggering an overpayment for moving that I had to pay back. This was because I was already issued funds to relocate my family less than 30 days before.
After my husband and I moved onto base, Marines started harassing my husband. My supervising officer started putting me out duty in the barracks and squadron several times a month. Going back to this every day created a toxic work environment and it started to affect my work performance. My work day consisted of PT at 0600, working a full work day until 1630, then duty until 0700 the next morning. I was then ordered to come directly to work afterwards and work until 1200, then allowed to go home for the rest of the day. With doing this several days a week and a lack of sleep, my health and mental health started to decline further.
I was deferred from attending any dental and health treatments that were scheduled. Including any orthopedic consult and images for my knee, and hip pain I was being treated for. I also was scheduled for oral surgery at Camp Lejeune to remove erupted wisdom teeth around October 2002. I was also referred to dental for extensive dental work that was to take place once I got to Cherry Point, which was deferred treatment by my command. I was also due for my annual women’s health breast and gynecological exam around November 2002.
It was like I was being restricted from going off base, being at home with my husband, and away from medical professionals. I was also being followed by a few Marines in my unit. One Marine in my unit even knew and made a mention of knowing where I showered after PT in the locker room of the CAC building. He approached me about a week after I checked in and said, ”I didn’t have to shower in the locker room of the office, I could come to his room and take a shower with him.” I rejected the offer and got away from him immediately. He did not take that rejection well. After that our office was moved around and he positioned himself to sit right behind me. He was always looking over my shoulder and making inappropriate sexual advances in a low tone of voice so I could hear him.
This member of my unit crossed the line and forced himself onto me in the women’s locker room of the CAC. This was right before I was ordered to move my family on base housing by my command. The perpetrator threatened physical harm to me and my husband if we got out of line and always found some work excuse for me to assist him with. He would have me ride in his White Jeep Cherokee and stop on some deserted side road. I had no idea where I was and no one was in sight. When I ask why we are here, he said, “you know what to do.” When I said I did not know what he was talking about, he unzipped his pants down and took his penis out. He grabbed the back of my neck and told me to kiss it. When I refused, he grabbed my neck harder and squeezed until I opened my mouth in pain. When my mouth was open, he pushed my head in his lap and forced me to suck his penis. He forced me to have sex with him on the side of the road and even made me get out of the jeep on the dirt road so he could penetrate me. When he was done, I was told to keep my mouth shut or what I was getting would be worse.
While on barracks duty another Marine from my unit needed me to go to one of the barracks rooms to report what was going on. I arrived and went into the room and the Marine who had raped me was in there. He told me to shut the door. I informed him I was on duty and had to finish patrolling. He then closed the door, unzipped his pants and ordered me to take my pants down. When I told him no, he bent me over and forced himself onto me. He forced me to have sex with him after the sexual harassment started up until my discharge. I was also forced to have sex with his roommate, who began with inappropriate sexual comments that I ignored. Then, the member of my unit who had raped me ordered me to hook his roommate up and when I refused, he threatened to tell my husband I willingly was having sex with him.
I went to a Warrant Officer, then reported the inappropriate behavior by my command and sexual comments and requested a transfer and was sent temporarily to the MP unit on Cherry Point on gate guard duty while a hurricane was hitting our area. While on duty with the MP, while on duty change over I was raped while coming to take my post by a Marine, I don’t know his name. I was sent right back to the CAC after a week or two. At this point, I was in a mental health crisis from constant duty, being singled out and humiliated in front of other Marines. I went to GAS and told my doctor the treatment and hostile environment by my fellow Marines and Staff NCOs in my unit on Cherry Point. I was prescribed some medicine to calm me down and sent back to the CAC. I also went to seek spiritual guidance by talking to the Chaplain about my treatment and asked for help. I told him I did not feel safe and begged to help.
I was mandated to go to unit functions off duty, including meals, where the food was prepared by others. The weekend before I took my urinalysis test there was a family cookout by the CAC and food was prepared by members of the CAC. Myself and my husband attended briefly, ate and left. We were very uncomfortable, and these same Marines were trying to be friends with my husband and be nice to me all of a sudden. Following that day, things got even worse.
With no mental health treatment and the medicine Zoloft that was given by GAS physicians was making me feel weird due to having side effects. I suffered a mental breakdown and do not remember how I failed a urinalysis. The day I took the urinalysis test, right before I went to take my urinalysis a member of my unit stopped me and said, “Fitz did you and your husband puff puff pass?” I looked at him funny and walked to take my urinalysis.
When my supervising officer called me in her office to inform me of my results, I was baffled. With my mental state the way it was, I just couldn’t explain why I tested positive. I was then taken to NCIS and was interrogated without an attorney after requesting one. I was exercising my right to remain silent, then was yelled and threatened to be locked up unless I tell them what they want to hear. They kept asking if I got it from my husband and if he was a drug dealer. I was coerced into a confession for smoking marijuana because I was suffering a mental health crisis and breakdown. They told me once I tell them what they want to hear, they will let me go home. I told those people whatever they wanted to hear to let me go so I could go home to my husband because I was terrified and exhausted from the lack of sleep. I was suffering daily headaches, trouble sleeping or was on duty so much that I didn’t sleep. I had not slept a full night in months since moving on base abroad to MCAS Cherry Point.
A Charge sheet was taken out on me and was going to be tried by summary court-martial. During preparation I was assigned a JAG. She just gave me advice on the case and said she could not represent me during the trial. I was welcome to get a civilian attorney at my own expense. I had no legal representation and was forced to represent myself at 20 years old, with no legal expertise at all. I then put in a request to get a job off base, so I could afford to hire an attorney since I was told my assigned JAG could not represent me.
I was approved, and on my approval letter was a remark “is husband helping support the household.” I was getting off duty employment to be able to afford an attorney. I then was put on duty several times a week, where I could not work the job off base. Therefore, without the extra money I couldn’t pay for an attorney. I was told by my JAG attorney they could give me advice.
While on Squadron duty at the MACG 28 MTACS 28 on or around October 2002, while patrolling the supply area, a sergeant called me over to speak to me about something. During the conversation he made a sexual comment to me and I immediately started to leave. He then closed the door to his office and began to unzip his pants and ordered me to come over to him. I rejected the offer then he forced himself on me on the table in the supply room.
During My Summary Court-Martial, I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t understand why I was being charged, what was going to happen, all I know is I wanted away from the mistreatment going on in that unit. With no representation, my supervising officer testified during my trial, in which she closed the door in my face so I could not hear her testimony. She hand chose Marines from my unit to testify at my court martial. I was not able to be a part of any of it. I only had one Marine that I personally asked to come and testify on my behalf on my character and what type of Marine I am. I did not trust anyone else. The only other Marine I trusted was my friend who had also experience hazing and retaliation. We checked in together from the personnel administration clerk school. She was forced out of the Marine Corps within 4 months by my supervising officer. The other Marine and I trained and lived with me since bootcamp.
After everyone testified, I was called back in front of the officer. I was stripped from LCPL to PVT, forfeiture of 3/4 months pay, and 30 days in the brig. Right after being found guilty, I was told I could request for the sentence to be deferred if I put it in writing. I put it in writing and was immediately denied within 10 minutes. I was then taken in our duty van with my supervising officer and another Marine was the driver. The whole time my supervising officer was staring at me with a big smile on her face. She then allowed me to go home, inform my husband of the verdict and had to leave immediately after saying goodbye.
I left my home at 520 Nash Rd and was taken to Camp Lejeune to be given an exam. Once getting there, I was immediately met with several hostile Marines that surrounded me and was yelling and screaming in my face. They forced me to strip my clothes off in front of them. My medical provider from GAS, Cherry Point was there to perform my brig exam incorrectly. She put I had no injuries which I was being treated by her for plantar fasciitis, PFS, ITBS, and a mental health condition. She noted on the exam I had no mental health issues and put the incorrect medicine and neglected to add the Zoloft she prescribed, Allegra, and Naproxen. On list of current medications. She found me fit for the brig in a mental health crisis and I was then transported to Craven County Jail hours later after hours of screaming and yelling and other torture by Marines at Camp Lejeune. I was tortured from 1400 to about 2200.
I was stripped again and put in a cell with 3 other women, 23 hours a day on rations of bread and water. One of the women in the cell with me was recently convicted of murder. I was in Craven County Jail from December 09, 2002 until on or about January 3, 2003. During this time my supervising officer came on a few occasions and coerced me to sign documents under duress. Once to sign something because the MPs impounded my vehicle on base while my husband was driving. I had no means of paying an impound fee with no access to my bank accounts and phone. I had no mental capacity to think rationally, without being given my medication. So my new car was impounded and never got it back when I came home. She also coerced me to sign a NJP on the same offense I was tried for Summary Court Martial. When I refused to sign, she told me she would come get me a few days earlier if I signed the NJP. With no representation or was not informed of my rights of legal representation in a NJP proceeding.
On the day of my release, my supervising officer picked me up. I was dropped off at home with my husband and was ordered to report to work the next day. When I got back to work, I was completely being humiliated by the male Marines in the CAC for being in the Brig. The atmosphere was absolutely toxic, where I dread coming in there. I was then ordered to go to a separations meeting. I was confused on why I was getting separated. While at the separation meeting I was told what to enter in each line by one of the instructors and when I told the person it was incorrect, or something applied to me, I was told to put this and sign. I then went back to work the following day and was given a check out paper. Me and my husband were ordered to start checking out of each part of the base. I was given an EAS date of January 16, 2003.
I was in the Brig about 7 days when they drew up papers to do a pre inspection to vacate my base housing. They forced my husband into signing the pre-inspection report. Move out inspection was done the day before I was released from the brig. All this was done without my knowledge.
I had less than 10 days to pack my house, find a place to live, and a job to make income after being separated, and still report to work and duty. I called my parents to help pack the last night I was there. My supervising officer and another Marine showed up to my house and forced their way into me and my husband’s house and ordered me to come to the office. I got a ride from my next door neighbor and reported to the CAC office where I worked. I was called to the separation side and was given an installation bar notice and was then ordered to surrender my military ID badge. I was upset afterwards and went outside for some air. A member of my unit came out and said, “I wanted to let you know that [your supervising officer] is headed to your house after your husband.” I then got a ride from my neighbor back to my house. When I arrived my moving truck was gone, my husband was not at the house and my doors were locked and I couldn’t enter my residence.
When I asked my neighbor’s husband if he saw my husband. He informed me that the supervising officer from my office came back and made him pack the dog in the car and leave. He said she got loud with him. He was unsure where he went. I had no car and was stuck on base. I finally got in touch with my husband. He informed me that my supervisor personally escorted him off base and forced him to surrender his military ID and gave him a Military Installation Bar Notice.
After getting back to Virginia. My father took me to the VA because I was having medical issues and needed refills on my psychiatric medicine prescribed by the medical provider at Cherry Point. While trying to fill out an application for health care, I was informed at the Salem VA Medical Center I needed to give them a copy of my DD214. I did not have one nor was given one upon discharge. I was told without it I could not get any benefits because I couldn’t prove my service. I was turned away. My father helped me draft a letter to Congressman Virgil Goode in Rocky Mount, VA. Virgil Goode contacted the Headquarters Marine Corps to retrieve my DD214, so I could get healthcare for injuries caused during training and active duty service.
I was discharged January 16, 2003 and I didn’t receive a DD214 until March of 2004. I noticed many errors on it immediately. That is not my original signature on that document because I never signed a DD214. My name was changed when I got married in February 2002. My legal name was changed to Aliya Fitz-Vasquez. The document was incorrectly drafted, forged, and signed.
The traumatic experiences I endured at Cherry Point forever changed my life. I lost my career, pension, healthcare, educational benefits, marriage, family, health and wellness. I will forever wear the scar as my badge of surviving the most horrifying experience in my life. I joined the Marine Corps to protect and defend the United States against foreign and domestic terrorism. I experienced domestic terrorism in my own country serving within my own unit at MACG 28 MTACS 28 2DMAW CAC PLT CHERRY POINT NC from May 18, 2002- January 16, 2003. The Marines I was supposed to trust with my life were the ones harassing, abusing, assaulting, torturing, and treating me inhumanely. I am a human being created by the almighty creator of the universe and my human rights, civil rights, constitutional rights were all violated and continued to be violated by the very government I sacrificed my life for.
My service has caused me a great deal of suffering. I joined the Marine Corps to get the educational benefits to become a Cardiologist. With the derogatory remarks and separation code and discharge I received a year and half later I don’t qualify for the GI Bill, no healthcare for the numerous injuries sustained during training and active duty, numerous disability denials, housing loan anything I was promised and entitled was taken. It barred me from federal, state, and any employment where I could take care of my family financially up to this day. I can’t even get Social Security Disability or SSI, loans, anything that gives me basic indigenous human rights under the Declaration of Human Rights.
As a result of the domestic terrorism I experience while serving active duty in a time of war, I suffer from a lot of debilitating injuries as a result. I suffer from nightmares and disturbing memories of my trauma and attackers. I cannot be around people due to trust issues caused by the Marines I was supposed to trust with my life. I can’t even be around my family. I suffer from Chronic anxiety and panic attacks. I never feel safe because I know they are always watching for my name or social security number to trigger any type of denial to anything I want in this life. I know once I come forward they will all be after me to keep me quiet. I always fear for my life because they have the access to find me, my family and harm us. I now suffer from depression and am always irritable. I am always angry at what they did to me and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE opened their mouth to help me. I have not slept a full night in 18 years.
In my medical records I noticed conditions and injuries that I never was aware of. The injuries I abstained in training and while serving active duty and being denied access to the proper healthcare that I was referred to has caused me to have more physical health problems.
The numerous injuries I suffered in training and active duty, I have been denied access to healthcare even to this day. That will never give back what I lost. If I could go back in time, I would have never joined the United States Marine Corps. I would take my service back because then I would be the doctor I dreamed of being since I was 6 years old. My mind would be healthy and I would be able to provide for my family without outside forces dictating my future. While I served my country to protect the United States of America, no one protected me or my husband then and even now. Why would they? We were minorities that never meant anything to this Country since Christopher Columbus invaded this country in 1492 from my ancestors. The deep-rooted evil of discrimination and sexual assault in this country and Military branches are the reason why so many veterans are homeless, unemployed, disabled and are no longer with us.
If it were not for my dad who was a Vietnam Marine Veteran that came to the base twice when I told him what was going on, and making sure I had safe exit off the base with him, I would not be here today to tell my story.
You can also watch an interview I recently did with Breaking Barriers here.