Diana’s Story

Diana’s Story

***Trigger Warning***

I would like to share the most critical chapter of my life. The chapter that formed my inner being forever. The circumstances I’m revealing are traumatic yet somehow empowering. This is my story:

When I graduated Marine Corps Boot Camp August 17, 1982, I started my journey in life with pride I still can’t match. I had tremendous hope for my future career as a female Marine. Those hopes were shattered and I was faced with unspeakable challenges that would change the direction of my life so much that I couldn’t recognize my own face in the mirror. That was the last time I looked at myself with dignity or respect.

My first orders were for MOS training at Camp Lejeune, NC for 4 months. Toxic water became a familiar companion as I drank, bathed, and cooked in it daily. The affects, of the contaminated water, are still being felt.

One night, on my way back to my training barracks, I was confronted by my E6 INSTRUCTOR. He forced himself on me, leaving me no way to escape his overbearing power. I can still remember the smirk on his face as he stared at me as if he were proud of himself.

The wounds of this encounter, weren’t closed when I faced uncharted territory. I was part of an “experiment” to send female Marines to this Navy Base to “see how it goes”.

When I reported to my new permanent duty station I was met with loud whistles and chants. I was humiliated and shocked at it all. My struggles were far from over.

My Commanding Officer, using his authority and influence to subject me to psychological and sexual abuse. I was Isolated and unable to stop the traumatic intrusion on my soul. It had me questioning what I believed in or stood for. Even though I was tormented daily by my peers, I was still honored with a meritorious mass and promotion to E3. While the toxic military environment continued, my sense of self-worth vanished pushing me into a downward spiral of rebellion and self-destructive behaviors. Coping with trauma through alcohol became a desperate strategy, temporarily numbing the pain, but leaving lasting scars. I treasured any sign of hope there was. However, it became difficult to understand anything I was hearing and seeing. I continued to drink more and more alcohol. I began receiving non judicial punishments, having my driving privileges on base suspended, being restricted to my barracks, and fines. It of felt like my life was over.

However, the past continued to haunt me and I was ordered to testify in a Court Martial of my Commanding Officer. I was forced to confront my tormentor in the proceedings. This traumatic experience left me shattered and disillusioned, my career marked by my insubordination and misconduct. I requested a transfer of duty station, and moved off base. A marriage born out of desperation offered me a chance to escape, but the damage was done. I was damaged, something was wrong with me. The traumatic end to my Marine Corps Career haunts me still. I tested positive for marijuana and was discharged administratively with an Other Than Honorable Characterization. As I was driven to the gate on my discharge day, tears began to swell in my eyes. The door of the van swong open and I heard…”have a great life”. Those were the last words I heard from the United States Marine Corps.

I have spent the past 40 years trying to recover from the most pivatal circumstancesI of my life. I learned how to self medicate with alcohol and drugs hoping it would make me feel better, it didn’t. Ive had many jobs, failed marriages, legal matters, suicide attempts, and a family that’s given up hope for me. I continue to search for that 18 year old girl to recapture what was stolen from me at that pivital time in my life.

The dignity and self respect that was stolen from me, has started to return. I now am seeking justice and redemption. Daily I am met with barriers that only intensify my isolation and suffering. The very systems meant to protect and support me have, in many ways, failed me. Yet, I remain diligent in my pursuit of accountability and change. It is time to break free from the cycle of silence and shame. I am not defined by the traumatic experiences that have consumed me.

My story is a testament to my strength, survival, and a journey for justice. Justice for stripping me of not only my career, but my quest for a better life. I am seeking a Discharge Upgrade from the Marine Corps again after being denied aready. I have PTSD from Military Sexual Trauma, anxiety, ADHD, alcohol and drug dependency that has been linked to my military service by the Veterans Administration. Also Kidney Disease from my exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. However, because of my Discharge Characterization I am not eligible for Disability Compensation for my Sevice related disabilities. The process with the Veterans Benefits Administration has further tormented me. I am currently waiting for my claim to go through the Appeals Process. This is an example of how our Countrys Veterans are treated, and why some statistics are so shocking.

Sad story, I know, but it’s mine. Unfortunately I am not alone. To those that share my story, it’s ok and therapeutic to tell your story, in hopes it will finally change the pattern of Sexual Abuse amongst our troops.
Thank you for listening.