Sundown

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SUNDOWN



Bagram Air Base, February 20, 2015.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake, from the skies.
All is well, safely rest.
God is nigh.

The words ran through my head as I played. Popular words, though none were official. It was comforting, of course. Always. Even though, today, I knew that all was very much not well.

The airman who usually played Taps most evenings didn’t give me any trouble when I asked to spell him. I figured even the Air Force higher-ups wouldn’t give me a hard time today. I lowered the instrument and waited until the flag lowering was complete. After the ceremony was over, I walked away, and was unsurprised when Rob fell in with me.

“Heading to the hospital?” I asked him.

“Yeah. When David was awake earlier, I told him I’d come back this evening.” He gave me a look as we continued our walk towards the base hospital. “I don’t suppose you can be persuaded to get some sleep?”

“That bad, huh?”

“You’ll scare the children, and that’s a fact,” he said honestly.

My company had gotten back just a couple hours before – those of us who had not been medevaced out. Lieutenant David Sinclair – my friend and Rob’s – had been one of those who got the free ride in the Black Hawk that everyone would prefer to skip. I’d been too busy since returning to give much of a thought to how completely exhausted I was.

“Well – keep me away from the kids’ ward then,” I said. “I want to see if David’s awake. And the rest of our team. Heath Crawford probably saved four lives today.”

“I heard it was bad. . . . Want to tell me about it?”

I tried to think of words to describe the chaos that had unfolded in that little no-name village we had been passing through. The gunfire and screaming. But Rob had been in similar spots; he didn’t need me to fill in the details. “We brushed up against some of the fundie freaks – the foreign fighters – and they’d had some time to prepare a few surprises. We had to pull back into some shit buildings and hunker down until the cavalry showed up.”

“You got everyone out alive, Kyle,” Rob said quietly, as we reached the hospital and returned the salutes of the detail posted at the entrance. “We’re not always that lucky.”

“Yeah, I know.” It wasn’t much comfort just at that moment, but Rob was right. That was the first, most important thing. It was just harder to remember, when you were in a hospital, seeing, hearing, and smelling what war does to fragile tissue and bones.

David was sitting up when we came to his bed, a bandage wrapped around his head and another running down his left calf. His fine, dark features were shadowed, but he brightened when he saw us. “Damn, Kyle, how can you possibly look worse than I do?”

“‘Cuz my baseline’s ugly, dumbass,” I wisecracked. “You always look better than I do.”

“Point. Definite point.” He clasped my forearm hard. “Still good to see you, bro.”

“Roger that, fo’ sho’.” I gave him a closer look. I’d seen a lot of trauma damage since arriving in the dustbowl and he didn’t look too bad. “What do the doctors say?”

“They’re just holding me overnight because of this,” he said, pointing to his head. “It was enough to knock me out, but they think it’s fine. And the leg looked a lot worse than it was. Just dug out some fragments of rock, I guess.” He looked momentarily embarrassed. “Kyle – I don’t remember anything that happened.”

“You remember being ambushed, right? And retreating back to the houses?”

“Sure’s hell wish I’d forget that part.” He shuddered involuntarily before his eyes refocused on mine. “But that’s about the last thing I remember.”

“Well, they hit the ASV with an RPG. I think the blast knocked you down. Deak Diamond and two ANA guys were down too. Crawford and Stevens got all four of you into the main house while we provided covering fire. Then we called in support while Crawford started patching you all up. But they had one more RPG to send our way, and that’s where your leg injury came from. Threw up a lot of rock and shit.”

“The doctors told me we didn’t lose anyone,” David said, but he almost made it a question.

I nodded. “Diamond’ll be okay, but his shoulder’s going to take some work. The two ANA guys had some serious lacerations and were bleeding bad, but Crawford got them patched up before he went down. He looked the worst when we did the dustoff. Took shrapnel in the back and the ass. I’m going to see him next.”

“Go see him now, would you?” David asked anxiously. “Tell him I said thanks?”

I gave him an ironic salute; he was my senior by a couple weeks, after all. “Yes, sir! But seriously – will do. I’ll catch you tomorrow, okay?”

I left Rob with David and went to find the bed that had been assigned to Pfc Crawford. In contrast to David, he was pretty heavily bandaged, an IV was attached to his arm, and he was lying on his stomach in the bed.

He hadn’t really impressed me before. Compared to most of the other men in my unit, he wasn’t as . . . attentive, maybe? Like his mind wasn’t 100 percent on the job, and given where we were, that was a recipe for going home in a ziplock.

But in the firefight, he’d been as cool as ice. Moved fast to get our people under cover, and seemed quick and confident when it came to all the basic elements of first aid. Total focus. It was like he was a completely different guy.

I expected that he would be sleeping, but he surprised me. “LT? Y’all got back alright?” He sounded kind of spacey from the painkillers, but he was coherent.

“Everyone got back,” I assured him. “Thanks in no small part to you. Lieutenant Sinclair specifically asked me to thank you for saving his ass . . . . You going to be okay?”

He shrugged, then winced at the movement. “They say so. Feel like stone-ground shit, though.”

“You’ve looked better,” I agreed. “You’re breathing, and I wasn’t sure you would be when they loaded you into the bird.”

“Be a shame to check out now, just when I figured out what all I’m doin’ here.”

I sat next to his bed. “You did good, is what you’re doing. There’s some guys that wouldn’t be alive today if you hadn’t been there.”

“That’s what I mean.” His eyes were unfocused and his voice was drifting, dreamy. “Joined up to be a real man, you know? Find out the world don’t revolve around me after all . . . .”

“Near’s I can tell, Crawford, that is the difference between the men and the boys.”

He found some humor in that and chuckled sleepily. “Thanks, LT.” His eyelids blinked, drooped, and finally closed.

With his injuries, he would be airlifted back to the Graf in one of the C-17s that was used as an air ambulance. Tonight, probably. I might not see him again. So I stayed for a while longer, just watching his steady breathing. Reliving those moments in the dark of the house, with the noise and the dust, the blood and the smell and the fear.

But we had made it back, I told myself. Everyone was alive, and with the right care, they would all recover. Live . . . to fight another day? Maybe. It was the job, after all. And just at this precise moment, it looks like we have all the job security in the world.

~o~O~o~

Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Bagram Air Base, July 29, 2017

It was my turn, I guess, for time in a hospital bed. Just a stupid minor leg injury that managed to get infected. By the time I’d been brought in, I’d been delirious.

I don’t like hospitals any better than the next guy, I guess, but I do have a lot of respect for the people who work there. They save a tremendous number of people. Not just our own, but also allies and noncombatants. Regular people.

I was particularly glad to see the medical technician who came over to check on my progress that morning. “Crawford! Now I know I’m gonna be fine!”

And I did know it. He’d spent a long time in Germany recovering from his wounds before rejoining the unit in Fort Drum. But he’d come back infused with a purpose that he hadn’t had before, and devoted himself to studying to be a medical technician. His certification meant more to him than either his sergeant’s stripes or the medals he had received for his conduct in that ghastly firefight.

“Morning, sir.” He smiled dutifully at my praise, but seemed strangely subdued. “How are you feeling?”

“Like an idiot,” I confessed. “I should have taken care of that damned cut a lot sooner.”

He was slowly peeling back the bandages over the wound. “I heard tell you’ve been a bit preoccupied,” he said diplomatically. “Though apart from that . . . I’d have to agree with your assessment. Sir.”

I winced as he applied some foul-smelling liquid to the wound. I stifled the noise that was threatening to escape my lips; instead, I gritted my teeth and ground out, “Yeah, noted. I will definitely not make that mistake again.”

He started the process of putting on a fresh bandage, then looked around, seemingly nervous. “Captain – can I ask you something . . . off the record?”

I was reluctant to say “yes.” When you’re in the military, is anything really off the record? But I owed it to Crawford – for what he’d done two years ago, and for what he’d made of himself since then. So I said yes.

“You heard about the President’s tweet? You know, banning transgender troops?” His voice was low, and he kept his eyes on his work.

Since he wasn’t looking at me, my nod went unnoticed. “Yeah, I heard.”

“What do you think?”

“Above my paygrade, for damned sure.”

He gave me a look and returned to his work.

He wanted something more from me; I wasn’t sure why. “I’ve known good troops who are trans. Tom Ryan, back at Fort Drum. Seth Gordon came out and transitioned, soon as the new policy went into effect.” I stopped and shook my head; that was a couple years ago. “The old new policy, I guess, now.” As gently as I could, I added, “We’re taking the government’s nickel, Sergeant. We don’t get to make these kinds of calls.”

He shot me another look before fussing with my bandage some more. After a moment, he said, “I’m trans, too.”

I wouldn’t have guessed. Certainly, he was tall and well built for someone who’d been born female. I didn’t know what to say. “Listen, I’m sure the CO’s told you, this isn’t policy yet. The SecDef is putting the brakes on. Quiet, like.”

“The CO doesn’t know.”

I shook my head. “How . . . I mean . . . there’s no way your medical records wouldn’t indicate it if you’d been born female.”

He stopped fussing with my bandage and chuckled. “Oh. Ah, no. Sorry. I wasn’t born with a female body. I’m just female inside.”

“You mean you’re a transwoman?” I managed to keep my voice as low as his. Hers?

“Yes, sir. That about sums it up. Wish I weren’t.”

“Who else knows?”

“Just you, sir.”

“Why tell me?”

He raised his hands in a gesture of resignation. “Felt like I had to tell somebody. It’s eating me, you know? Figured I could trust you.”

“So, you haven’t done anything to, ah . . . .” I stopped, trying to figure out how to finish that sentence without looking like an idiot. Even more of an idiot.

“No, sir, I haven’t done anything to transition. Not sure I will, either. If I’m taking care of me, I’m not taking care of you lot.”

Instinctively, I said, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to help anyone else.”

Crawford shrugged. “I get that. But . . . even though we were allowed to serve openly, I just . . . I wasn’t sure I could trust it, you know.”

“And you’re thinking now, maybe you were right?”

“Seems like, don’t it, sir? Anyhow, I don’t know whether I’m ready to transition. I want to, like, but . . . it’s complicated. I got my folks to think about . . . .” Crawford’s voice tapered away.

“If you aren’t planning to transition — or at least, you aren’t thinking about it right now — does anyone need to know? It doesn’t affect your performance.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell, like?”

Ouch. “Yeah . . . sorry about that. I didn’t mean it that way.”

“It is kind of like that, sir. Lots of trans folks don’t transition. Doesn’t mean they aren’t trans. Keeping it bottled up — it’s just hard.”

“And the job’s already hard enough?”

“Ffff . . . uh. Sorry! Roger that, sir.”

I met his troubled eyes. “I understand. But what I said before is absolutely true. You don’t need to do anything right now. This is going to go through internal review, and I’d be pretty surprised if the courts back home don’t get involved. Just . . . hold tight, okay? We need you here.”

He smiled tiredly. “That you do, sir. ‘Specially if you keep letting wounds fester.” He wrote something on the chart at the end of my bed. “Thanks for your time, sir.” And he walked away.

~o~O~o~

Bagram Air Base, January 8, 2019

We were back at Bagram, working our asses off to get everything Army-ready for our redeployment back to the States in a week. I bumped into Sergeant Crawford on my way to grab a much-needed coffee and asked him to join me. I used the male pronoun, even when I was just thinking about Crawford, since as far as I knew he’d never discussed his gender identification with anyone else, and I didn’t want to slip up.

He was agreeable, and we headed down Disney Street to Green Bean (“Honor First, Coffee Second”). Since a Taliban sleeper acting as a maintenance worker killed five Americans with a suicide vest on Veterans’ Day back in ‘16, no-one hung out in the covered walkways anymore, and the little Hajji shops were all gone. But the coffee shop itself was still bustling, a riot of uniforms from different service branches, as well as the more colorful — and often off-color — outfits of numerous contractors from all over.

We ordered our coffees — hot and black for me, cold and white for Crawford — and found a table to ourselves by the bank of windows overlooking the yard. The fire-engine red metal chairs and Formica countertops were as familiar, at this point, as a Starbucks back home.

“I hope you aren’t going to feel deserted when we pull out,” I said before taking my first long sip. The light Colonel in charge of surgery was so impressed with Crawford’s work that he managed to get special orders cut for Crawford to stay at Craig when we deployed back to Fort Drum. The Sergeant, naturally, had been ecstatic.

His smile was lopsided. “Well, sir, I reckon I might just focus better, without having to worry about all y’all when you’re outside the wire.”

“I can see that, for sure. I feel like a mother hen, most days.”

His lopsided grin got toothier, but he didn’t say anything.

“Listen, I was hoping to catch you — informally — before we go. Your time’s up in May, isn’t it?” He nodded, so I went on. “Are you still on-board for re-enlisting? It’s been a few weeks since we talked.”

He looked down at the ghastly concoction that he called coffee — I won’t drink it cold even when it's a buck twenty out — and stirred the milk around, making it ten times worse. “Pretty sure, sir. Colonel Jackson’s been pushing hard, and I know I’m needed here.”

“Getting pressure from back home?”

He shook his head. “No, sir. . . . The folks and me, we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye about things. I think we’re all happier when I’m seven or eight thousand miles away.”

I wondered if they knew, but decided it wasn’t my place to pry. It was a sensitive subject. We were close, but I was still his superior officer. However . . . seeing there was no one who could hear us in the morning bedlam at Green Bean, I asked him if the possibility of the ban going into effect was holding him back.

“I think about it, sir. It bugs me, for sure. Near as I can tell, the Mattis Plan’ll grandfather folks who’ve got the diagnosis and have started treatment. Folks like me, though . . . I wouldn’t be breaking any rules by staying in, but I wouldn’t be allowed to transition.”

“It’s still stuck in the courts. Pretty good bet it never goes into effect.”

He made a noncommittal grunt. “Can’t bring myself to rely on a bunch of lawyers, sir. I’m not counting on that.”

“I suppose not.”

“Still and all . . . this is my place, sir. I belong here, like no place I’ve ever been. Even if it is a hellhole, and they can’t cook gumbo to save their souls.” Crawford shrugged, uncomfortable. “Anyhow . . . I’m still not ready to transition. I might never be.”

I finished my coffee. “Will you do me a favor, Sergeant? Before you make a final decision, will you give me a call? I probably won’t have five minutes before we bug out of here, but if you have any thoughts or concerns, I want to talk to you about them, okay?”

“Even if my final decision is, ‘yee haw, sign me back up?’” His toothy grin was back, but for propriety’s sake he added, “Sir?”

“Yeah even then. Just to tell me the good news, and give me the chance to rib you about it!” I rose and stuck out a hand.

He looked surprised, but stood and gave it a firm shake.

“I’m serious, Heath,” I said quietly, looking him straight in the eye. “Call me.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll surely do that.”

And off we went, back into the maelstrom of work that waited for us both.

~o~O~o~

Fort Drum, New York, April 30, 2019

“Stewart.” I’m afraid my phone voice wasn’t very welcoming. Much as I enjoyed being back in the States, the amount of my time that was spent on administrative matters always skyrocketed and tended to leave me short-tempered.

“Captain, I have an incoming call from a Sergeant Crawford at Craig Hospital in Bagram.”

“Put him through, please.”

After a series of clicks I said, “Sergeant? To what do I owe the pleasure?”

The sound wasn’t particularly crisp, but that didn’t account for the flatness of the Sergeant’s voice. “Good afternoon, sir. I, ah, promised I’d call you on the re-enlisting issue. I’ve decided I can’t do it.”

“Because of the ban?” While the courts were still chewing over the legality of it, the Supreme Court had lifted the stay, and Secretary Mattis’ modified ban had just gone into effect.

“Yes, sir.” He sounded despondent.

“But . . . we talked about this just before I left. I thought you’d decided you weren’t ready to transition. The revised policy shouldn’t affect you.”

“I understand, sir. But that was my decision. Feels different, somehow, now that I don’t have a choice. Besides . . . it affects a whole lot of people like me. I can’t just pretend that’s not happening. Like we’re still part of the team.”

We are the team. You, me, our unit. Even the Air Force guys who back us up. Not a bunch of suits back in D.C.! There isn’t a single person you work with at Bagram — not one soldier or airman you’ve had in your care — that doesn’t want you there. Doesn’t know how much we need you there.”

“Maybe. But maybe that’s just ‘cuz they don’t know what you know. Might be different in officer country, Captain, but ‘round where I live, there are plenty of guys who are good with this.”

“I know people who wouldn’t be alive, but for your help!”

“I hear what you’ve saying, sir, and . . . and I surely do appreciate it. You’re one of the good ones. The best. This place — these people — they’re like family. What we’re doing matters. But I can’t keep quiet. And I can’t stick with a team that doesn’t want ‘my kind.’”

I tried to think of another argument, but before I could come up with anything, he said, “You heard Seth Ryan died four months back?”

“Yeah,” I said heavily. Ryan had been unlucky with an IED. One of many. By giving his life for his country, he had been spared the indignity of seeing this policy go into effect. Of knowing that the institution to which he had dedicated his life didn’t think he was fit to serve. He would have been grandfathered under the watered-down ban — but that wouldn’t have changed the message.

“Well, I just can’t. Know what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, I do. Listen . . . Coming back’s going to be rough. What are your plans?”

“I haven’t gotten that far, to be honest, sir. I haven’t been able to get past today.”

“Will you call me, when you’re back? If there’s anything I can do to help, I’d be happy to.”

He said he would, but I wasn’t sure I believed him. However firm he sounded, however certain, he also sounded completely hollowed out. “Thank you, sir. For listening. For trying to talk me out of it. It means a lot to me.”

“Sergeant — you’ll be out soon. Enough with the ‘sir’s,’ okay? I want you to call me ‘Kyle.’ I owe you the life of a brother and several friends. I won’t ever forget. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.” He stopped, then said, “Ah, shit, sir. I was born to be a lifer, you know? I’ll try, honest. After Friday, though. Not ‘til then. And . . . I’d really appreciate it if, once I’m . . . out? You’d call me ‘Heather?’”

~o~O~o~

Rosslyn, Virginia, February 3, 2020

I ended the call, but somehow couldn’t stop staring at the phone.

David — my old friend and new roommate — came and sat in the chair across from me. “Who did you lose?” He’d only heard my side of the conversation, of course. But it wasn’t the first conversation like that he’d ever heard.

I was staring right through him, seeing a village on a dusty, rocky plain, and a young man calmly treating the wounded, giving no thought to his own safety. I was seeing decorations on his chest, and tears as he was thanked by the many wounded he had saved. I was hearing his voice — her voice, dammit! — telling me that conscience had forced her to break her own heart. Deny her calling.

“It’s ‘we lose,’ this time, brother. Remember that crap village where we got bushwhacked, back in ‘15?”

“I still get nightmares. Who?”

“Crawford.”

He grimaced. “Damn. Damn! He saved my ass that day, pulling me in, patching me up . . . .”

“And catching a shitbucket of shrapnel that was headed right for you,” I agreed. God knows what would have happened to David, if Crawford hadn’t been kneeling over him when the second RPG hit.

David was trying to digest the news, wrap his head around it — and pull free from the memories that were tearing at him, pulling him back. “He was still at Craig when I got out. Wasn’t he planning to stay there?”

I’d never told David about my later conversations with Crawford, both before and after she had left the service. I hadn’t told anyone. As far as I’d known, the things she told me had been said in confidence. Not that any of that mattered now.

I shook my head. “When they put the trans ban in place, she got out.”

David’s eyes narrowed for a moment. I could see his mind going back to each interaction he had with Crawford. David being who he is, it took barely a moment before he nodded slowly. “Of course. How?”

I knew what he was asking. “Suicide.”

“Fuck!” David’s voice was lowered to a hiss.

“She promised she’d contact me when she got back — even told me what she wanted me to call her. When . . . when she didn’t call, I tried to track her down. I knew it was going to be hard for her, and she didn’t have any plans. But she just disappeared. Gone.” I was there, in our apartment, but my mind was thousands of miles away. Thinking about all the other things I could have done. Should have done. Should have tried.

With an effort, I brought myself back to the present moment. Unlike David, who had gotten out after six years and was now working for a think tank, I’d always planned to be a lifer. Like my old man. God, he’d been proud, when they’d pinned the golden oak leaves to my collar two months back. “Shit, David. There are days I don’t know if I can keep doing this.”

He went back to the kitchen, poured us both a shot of something, came back and handed me one before resuming his seat. “What was her name?”

“She asked me to call her Heather . . . but only once she was out. I never got the chance.”

“Heather Crawford,” he said quietly, and drank. I joined him.

We were quiet for a few minutes, lost in our own thoughts . . . and memories. Then David said, “remember when the President first announced the ban? 2017, wasn’t it?”

I nodded, not telling him that I had a very vivid recollection of it.

“You remember how many officers and troops were happy about it, that day?”

I shrugged. “Some, sure. I want to say, mostly guys who hadn’t served with any trans troops, but who knows. There were other things going on.”

He was quiet again. Eventually I looked at him and quirked an eyebrow. “All right, you sneaky bastard. What are you getting at?”

“What would Rob say, do you think?” he deflected.

I snorted. “You mean, after giving us a bit of The Book of Common Prayer?”

“Yeah. After that.”

I sighed. “Okay, yeah. I can hear him now, same as you can. ‘The U.S. Army is the most powerful military force in the history of the world. You can’t leave it to the crazies.’”

“That’s our man. He’s not wrong, though.”

He left,” I objected, futilely.

“Yeah, but he’s a civilian at heart. Like me, I guess. You’re the real deal, Kyle. West Point and everything.”

I closed my eyes. They weren’t seeing the room anyway. I heard her voice, that last time. You’re one of the good ones. The best. I owed her that, didn’t I?

“I know.”

~o~O~o~

Leesburg, Virginia, United States Military Cemetery at Ball’s Bluff, later that day

The ground was hard, ready for frost or snow, and the sky was low and dirty gray. A circle of pale headstones, all but one without a name, around a lonely flagpole. The Potomac was near, the sound of its slow moving water clear in the evening stillness. Sunset was more a matter of feel than sight.

I raised the trumpet to my lips again, and a different set of words ran through my mind as I played. I hadn’t wept since I was a child and I didn’t now, but my heart was molton with grief . . . and with rage.

Soldiers die in war all the time. And the damage war does to the hearts, minds and souls of those who serve is the root cause of far too many suicides even after war is done. But this . . . this was like we’d fragged one of our own, for no good reason at all.

Heather Crawford had dedicated herself to saving lives, to serving those who served. She had deserved better. So much better. I had to hope that somehow, now, she would find it.

Good night.
We must part.
God keep watch over you through the night.
We will meet with the dawn.
Good night.

The end.

~o~O~o~

Author’s note: This is a work of fiction, but it is based on several historical facts. The Department of Defense estimated in 2016 that approximately 9,000 transgender individuals were serving in all service branches. On July 26, 2017, the President of the United States announced on the social media platform then known as Twitter that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military . . . .”

The policy directive apparently caught the military by surprise. At the direction of the President, the Secretary of Defense formulated a revised ban which grandfathered existing personnel who had already begun or completed the process of transitioning. Extensive litigation in federal district courts resulted in the enforcement of the bans being suspended pending full litigation on the merits, but the Supreme Court lifted the injunctions in early 2019. The policy went into effect that April, while litigation continued.

On January 25, 2021, within a week of his inauguration, President Biden reversed the ban by executive order.

I would like to thank Dallas Eden, Persephone, Bouncy, Dee Sylvan and Rachel Moore for reviewing a draft of this story. Any inaccuracies are solely the fault of the author.

For information about my other stories, please check out my author's page.

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Comments

Hardened Hearts

Andrea Lena's picture

The ground was hard, ready for frost or snow, and the sky was low and dirty gray.

It's been said that Christians are the 'only' army that buries their wounded. Not just 'christians' per se, but with many groups who proclaim freedom while denying the same to folks like us. Sad that the service of brave women and men can still be denied by the stroke of a pen. And the rhetoric is even crueler and more misinformed with promises of further restrictions.

Great if painfullt timely story. Thank you!

  

To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L'Engle
Love, Andrea Lena

The ground is hard indeed.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I hadn't heard that quote, so I went looking for it and found a wonderful essay about grace and hypocrisy. https://www.1517.org/articles/out-of-ammo

There are few areas where the President has more authority than in military affairs. That's probably necessary, but as this story suggests, it puts even more importance on the nature of the person who is sitting in that seat.

Thank you, 'Drea, for your comment and your understanding heart.

Emma

A hard.

Sunflowerchan's picture

A heart look at reality. Emma, you are a masterful story teller, any subject you put your mind too, becomes the seed for a wonderful story. This story echo's true to many if not all who servered. In that I mean, those are willing to risk it all, often become mere political ploys in the grand scheme of things. My heart breaks for Heather Crawford who devoted her whole career to saving others, my heart breaks to the members of her squad who held each others life's in the palm of their hand. My soul weeps for all those who feel the only way to escape the long shadow of warefare is to end their own life. Emma, this is another master piece of Internet story telling that you have graced your readership with. Thank you for this, and thank you for all you do. You make this site special by being here and being who you are and doing what you do.

Scary statistics

Emma Anne Tate's picture

My friend Dee Sylvan pointed me to statistics indicating that veterans in the United States commit suicide at rates that are about 50% higher than the population as a whole (27.5 per 100,000 as opposed to 18.2 per 100,000). Meanwhile, a recent study from the Williams Institute suggests that a staggering 40% of the trans population in the U.S. attempts suicide. Put those two at risk groups together? Ouch. As Erin's and Maryanne's recent blog posts attest, we are losing wonderful people every day. Every day.

Thank you, Sunflower. For your comment, but also for your wonderfully light, sweet, and fun stories. Sometimes, the heart needs a break, you know? It just does.

Emma

Love-Hate Relationship

BarbieLee's picture

A million dollar training experience and they paid me ninety seven dollars a month to work on, load, fuel, and fly with aircraft. Your story brought back a plane load of memories. I knew if they ever found out I'd end up with a dishonorable discharge. It's the way they took care of the LGBT military at that time. Some of the stories I have read, they still take care of it that way if they can. We still bleed Red White Blue but that doesn't matter.
Didn't cry as I read your story Emma but I was sure close. Some of those memories hurt too much to cry. I'm a soldier, we push on as there is no alternative.
Hugs Emma, thanks hon.

Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl

One of the longest running jokes on TV

Emma Anne Tate's picture

You and I are old enough to remember when Corporal Klinger was one of the longest running jokes on TV. So desperate to get out of the army that he dressed lavishly in drag to prove he was . . . insane. Insane. It's how the army felt; it's how society felt. The reality, of course, was no joke at all. It was trans men and trans women serving with the constant fear that they would say or do something that would betray their secret truth to their superiors or, maybe worse, their comrades.

Thank you, Barb. I'm glad you're still pushing on.

Emma

Well told, Emma

I served in another time. The senseless loss of people due to indignant authority around homosexuality rankled many. As Viet Nam devolved many were called to involuntary servitude. A privileged youth of my age claimed to be too smart to have to serve. A regular "genius" he said. I knew He wasn't A capable commander-in-chief some fourty five years before his election.

As usual, A good story well told.

Ron (former USMC)

Excuses for bigotry

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I do understand that the military is an institution that is necessarily built on tradition, and therefore it tends to be conservative in many ways. But failure to examine traditions, to periodically review which should be retained and which should be let go, can lead to reflexive stupidity. There were plenty who argued that allowing gay personnel would "affect troop readiness." As would -- pick your time period -- black troops, women troops, trans troops . . . . It's just another way of saying, "if you piss off the more bigoted among us, they won't do their jobs."

Emma

A great story!

I presume it was the one for which asked for editorial assistance a few days ago, which I did not expect to see after such a short time.
I have a expressed my transatlantic concern for your country's institutions, and though the ex-president's measure got reversed by his successor, the way things seem to be going he seems alarmingly likely to get back at the next round and he is quite capable of re-imposing such legislation.
Why do the right-wing have to meddle with situations simply to reinforce their prejudices, situations where there will hardly ever be any impact on these self-important, ranting fossils?
Best wishes, you write as a moderate, do not let yourself be silenced
Dave

Consequences

Emma Anne Tate's picture

There is, unfortunately, a constituency for anti-trans bigotry in the U.S., and one of our two major political parties has decided to make a strong play for that constituency. Whether they actually believe it themselves -- whether they have an iota of anti-trans feeling themselves -- is really beside the point. They need the votes, and they would consider whole trainloads full of Heather Crawfords to be a more than reasonable price to pay for the loyalty and fervor of that particular constituency. While I very much want this to be a story about people -- and, mostly, about good people, dealing with systematic problems -- the political element of it really can't be avoided. In fine: elections have consequences.

Thanks, Dave.

Emma

we've lost a lot of people that way

came close to the edge more than once myself, thankfully found a work-around that worked for me.

beautiful story, even if very sad.

DogSig.png

Yes. Far, far, too many.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Let me just say that I, personally, am very glad that you found a work-around, Dot. The neighborhood is much nicer with you here. Much nicer.

Emma

A Rock And A Hard Place

joannebarbarella's picture

The armed forces have always been a kind of refuge for those who do not conform to the accepted gender norms. Armies and Navies provide an environment where loyalty is the most important factor. Knowing that the person next to you has your back is far more important than whether they are gay or transsexual. To put it bluntly, when somebody is trying to kill you, "who gives a fuck?"

Heather embodied all of those values in caring for her comrades. Who are those smug self-serving politicians to shove their filthy oars into situations that have been working very well? What would a Supreme Court know about the bonds of military service?

They used her and then threw her on the trash heap. Disgusting.

You bring this to life so vividly, Emma Anne, even if it is one of those episodes that the bigots would like to be swept under the carpet. The US president who instigated this abhorrent policy didn't serve because he had "bone spurs" and family influence and called all those who died in the service of his country "losers".

A story worth telling . . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Thank you so much, Joanne. I though that this story was worth telling -- enough that I was willing to overcome my reluctance in writing about the military when I had not personally served. As a nation, we glorify our armed services, but only the the abstract. "Thank you for your service" has become a complete cliche. We wave the flag a lot, and we honor veterans at ball games and give active duty service members priority when boarding airplanes. Neat. But . . . when "the troops" don't conform to the stereotypes, our national reverence goes right out the window. Where was the "thank you for your service" crowd, when the President tweeted out the trans ban? A whole hell of a lot of them were cheering.

Emma

Yikes

Thanks for making me cry. Exceptionally well written

Thank you.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I am glad that Heather's story touched you.

Emma

I thought of staying in once

But after the second tour I just couldn't stand the waste. Thank you Emma for another great story, sad though it was. Seeing as I didn't explore crossdressing until about 5 years after I was out, I can only imagine the heartache of those in-service who had similar desires and lacked the privacy to learn about themselves. While a job in the military can be just as fun and self-fulfilling as one on the outside, it is still not the same as one is just more restrictive. Odd thought that those who live, and die, to maintain our freedom, do not have real freedom themselves. I am so grateful to those brave souls and sad at how the Vietnam veterans were treated and that it took so very long to understand Post Traumatic Stress.
Thanks again.

>>> Kay

Restrictions

Emma Anne Tate's picture

One current front in the culture war is Senator Tubberville’s decision to put a hold on all military promotions to protest the DOD’s policy of paying women troop’s transportation expenses when they decide to get an abortion and it is banned in the state where they are living. However you feel about the abortion question, the Department’s policy strikes me as the only fair one. People on active duty don’t have a choice about where they live. You can’t just say, “oh, I want to be stationed in Fort Drum rather than some-fort-that-was-formerly-named-after-some-oath-breaking-Confederate-traitor.” But, of course, when the Senator from Alabama looks at the military’s highly unusual control over its employees, he sees an opportunity to be exploited rather than a necessary evil which should be mitigated.

Sorry. Got on my soap-box there, Kay! But your comment triggered something I’ve been noodling for a bit.

Emma

I won't

I can't get involved in the political part of this. If I get started the rant would go on and devolve into incoherent screams. I never served, my draft number was 360. I (the male me) was in the foreign draft pool and I don't know anybody that ever got drafted out of our group. I was also 4F (Cystic Fibrosis). Then things changed for me and I disappeared from the records. I became a female and a Norwegian resident with dual citizenship. Both no goes for the army. I did come close to having to serve a year, likely in some government service job, courtesy of Norway's 1 year public service law. But CF got me out of that, yet again. Then a move back to the US solidified my standing as a female US citizen.

But my father served as an aviator and flight instructor during WW2. He was too old for combat, by Navy regs. He was pissed as hell when he found out the highest scoring ace in the Pacific Theater was a Marine, and OLDER than him!

My two oldest brothers also served. Oldest was an ROTC grad and was in the 1st Cav. This was in 67-69. Second oldest volunteered for the draft, and spent 2 years doing "something" in W. Germany, we don't know what, except when he got out he had discharge orders that authorized him to carry a service .45 or the equivilent "until advised further". Those orders were his magic get outta jail card, civilian law enforcement couldn't touch him.

I bring this up mearly to explain that I'm not totally ignorant of the military, but knowledgable to only a small degree. This story proves that my tear ducts still work well. My hats off to anybody that served, especially those that were living two seperate lives. How they could serve their country while their country actively tried to destroy them totally baffles me. Cadet Bonespurs is without a doubt one of the biggest piles of s**t to ever exist in this country.


"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
George Carlin

Thank you, Karen

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Quite the journey you have had! But your final point I agree with completely. I think it is unimaginably cruel to tell people who have laid their lives on the line for their country that they are not fit to serve, not because they can’t do the job, but because their gender identity doesn’t conform to their birth certificate, or because they are attracted to members of the same sex, or because they were born with ovaries, or dark skin . . . . You get the picture.

Thank you for your thoughtful and impassioned comment.

Emma

Conflict...

RachelMnM's picture

Stronger, suffocating, and more demanding / powerful than the throws of war continues to takes lives. The Heather's of the world deserve better, especially in service to their nations. Another great story Emma. Thank you for sharing...

XOXOXO

Rachel M. Moore...

Is it really to much to ask?

Emma Anne Tate's picture

That people should be judged by their character, and that those who serve should be evaluated by the quality of their service? You’d think this would be a no-brained.

Thanks, Rachel!

Emma

A Very Moving Story

There is a very important message in this story. It brought back a lot of memories for me, that’s certain! I served in the U.S. Marines, and I was a closet cross dresser. I don’t think I am trans, but imagine the fear of being found out in one of the more macho branches of the service!

As usual, your writing is superb, and you tell a compelling story.

I can only imagine

Emma Anne Tate's picture

And I expect my imagination comes nowhere close to reality. Damn, that must have been terrifying!

Thank you for commenting.

Emma

The law is an ass . . .

SuziAuchentiber's picture

. . . and so is the man who enforced that edict in 2017. Once trained to serve, you serve - you do your duty to the best of your abilities and then some, inspired by the work of your comrades. Crawford epitomised that perfectly - saving lives, inspiring others and doing their duty to their country and the people whose lives they save, civilian and military alike. Sure there's no mention of LGBTQ in the Constitution but if you wrote it today there would be and there would be no mention of muskets, buffalo and horse & carts. Rule makers need to move with the times and embrace all ! Your story was thought provoking, touching and sad on so many levels. Lets hope Heather's name could be engraved with pride in future generations !
Hugs&Kudos!

Suzi

I can only hope

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I can only hope that our country is actually worthy of the service of people like Heather Crawford. I think it is — but damn, it makes it hard, sometimes!

Thank you, Suzi.

Emma

Major Kyle Stewart..

Lucy Perkins's picture

That man is far more than "one of the good ones", he is an absolute hero.
Not just in your wonderful portrayal of him here, but also, unless I am very much mistaken, he is Camryn's "Paralegal" in "This Honourable Court" which makes "Rob" THE Rob.
Oh goodness Emma, I adore how you have tied this wonderful tribute to all the "Heathers" who have been thrown into the rubbish into your previous writings. Somehow it makes it all the more poignant.
Others have already said all I could about the injustice of what the last President did in his tweet.
All I can add is this is a wonderful reminder of the people whose lives were wrecked. A beautiful piece.
Lucy xxx

"Lately it occurs to me..
what a long strange trip its been."

Gold star for you, Miss Lucy!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Yes indeed, it’s THAT Major Kyle Stewart. I absolutely wanted this story to stand on it’s own; as I said above, it’s a story worth telling. But I also used it as an opportunity to shed a bit of light onto the two dashing young men who capture the hearts of Cami’s wonderful roommates, and the bond they share with Cami’s Rob. They get only a bit of airtime at the end of Aria, but I think they have their own stories to tell.

Thank you for your careful reading, and for enjoying my stories and characters!

Emma

Must be the hormones

Dee Sylvan's picture

For some reason I'm sitting here sobbing even though I've read this story several times.

Reading 'This Honorable Court' takes on a deeper significance when we know how invested everyone is, especially Kyle who is shown as a bodyguard of sorts on assignment from Rob. But we now know that Kyle was on a personal mission and Cami couldn't have been in better hands.

WE have to stop this suicide madness. I can't imagine what Heather went through. She put her life on the line for her team and her fellow comrades in arms. Yet she had to hide who she was. And though we are not told, coming home couldn't have been any picnic for her. Who knows what thought or word or action pushed her into such despair that she saw suicide as the only way out.

Our military needs to reflect and represent our whole society, otherwise who are they really putting their lives on the line for? How difficult is that to understand?

I'll admit I have lived a comfortable middle class life up to this point in my life. But after transitioning and coming out to everyone in my life, all of a sudden, my new friends are sharing these horrifying stories of depression and dark thoughts that break my heart. The story that Maryanne pointed out about her friend Brittini Blaire Summerlin committing suicide after being outed by the Huffington Post is devastating. You'd think that someone in politics would have been conditioned to attacks from their enemies, and it appears as though he had a very supportive wife, but who knows? Another kind hearted soul gone is the bottom line.

How can I help one person in need today, this week, this month? God help us all. :DD

DeeDee

Not the ‘mones

Emma Anne Tate's picture

The fault, dear Dee, lies not in your ‘mones, but in your heart — that it is kind and decent, and so must feel the waste of all of those wonderful, precious lives. If everyone was as kind and decent as you, we wouldn’t have these problems to begin with.

In This Honorable Court, Kyle tells Cami that he knows it’s her fight and she’s doing great, but that it’s his fight, too and she needs to let him do the part that only he can do. This story, I hope, explains a bit about what he meant by that remark.

Thank you for your early review of the story, and as always, for your wonderful and heartfelt comments. Lots of hugs, Sis!

Emma

You Wrote That Backwards...

HuffPost didn't out her. The link was to a story there (after her death) saying that she'd been outed by an Alabama online news source called 1819 News (1819news.com, apparently named for the year Alabama became a state).

FWIW, the original article is still "trending" on 1819 with a link on its front page, along with two follow-ups that allege that she was using names and photos of real Smiths Station people in her erotic fiction, and that the byline was taken from Ansley Summerlin, a hair stylist who moved to Florida from Smiths Station.

Eric

Even so

Dee Sylvan's picture

The result, regardless of the order, is that another trans person committed suicide, which is unacceptable. No one deserves that.

I do appreciate your comment Eric, facts are important. :DD

DeeDee

I'm still crying, in a way that's both bad and good

Athena N's picture

While I haven't seen combat, a lot of this still resonates with experiences from another military. One of my favorite memories is from the early days of my transition: we'd had an exercise followed by a bit of relaxing, after which a couple of us more dutiful types poured the major into a train and asked the conductor to please make sure he got off at the right stop. Watching the train leave, my co-conspirator turned to me and said, 'Please excuse me if I'm over the line, but us boys had a bit of a chat today. Be assured that we have your back – regardless, you are our brother, er, sorry, sister in arms.' It's pretty clear Heather had that too, but she also had an explicitly transphobic system that prevented her from relying on the support she could otherwise have had. There but for the grace of God go I.

Thank you, Athena

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Stories like yours really warm my heart. It means so much that there are good people out there who can see us as people in our own right, and not as “problems” that need to be addressed or solved.

Thank you for sharing your experience, and for your kind comment.

Emma

A double whammy

I've studied a lot about trauma (PTSD, CPTSD) for personal reasons, so I couldn't help thinking about Crawford's story in terms of trauma.

I have not been in the military (1-O), let alone in combat, but from what I've read by people who work with combat veterans and the writings of combat veterans who they quote, the experience of being in combat changes people, even if they don't end up with diagnosable PTSD. Frequently they find that the only people who can really understand them are other people who have been through it. And going back to civilian life is often difficult, because the reflexes one develops to avoid getting killed make it difficult to fit in with people who haven't been through it. A lot of veterans report feeling isolated, cut off from people in their civilian life. This alone is responsible for a lot of the suicide rate.

And that is before the gender issue. Being trans is itself very isolating. You grow up in a world which sees non-standard gender as some sort of rare, freaky, supernatural, satanic phenomenon, something that nobody else on the planet experiences, and you have to hide it and pretend to be something that is alien to you. I have felt isolated my whole life, like I'm in another universe (multiverse?) even when I'm with people, like I'm on a desolate planet and the people and life I see are like mirages. I hold onto the idea that I'm trans because that way I at least feel like I'm human; before I had any idea I was trans, I felt like some sort of weird alien (like ET, but not as cute) or a monster. FWIW, I'm told that some therapists who deal with trans patients say that everyone who is trans has PTSD from the experience. I don't need to tell anyone here about the connection between this and suicide -- I've had suicidal thoughts since before I was 10.

So for a combat veteran who is trans inside, it's a double whammy. I kind of think just staying alive takes enormous courage and strength of spirit, and it's tragic, but no surprise, that some people go under.

I think that’s exactly right.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

A double whammy indeed. I remember Dallas Eden discussing that phenomenon in response to a chapter in Cyclist’s novel A Longer War. It’s brutal.

I’ll confess, Asche, I still think I’m an alien, most days. Living in my head while walking through a completely different reality. I’ve adapted to it. Most days, I think I’ve adapted pretty well. But I am still a stranger in a strange land. I think we all are.

Thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts with all your fellow aliens. I appreciate your honest and thoughtful reflection.

Emma

PTSD is something about which

PTSD is something about which I have frequently written, from 'Uniforms' to 'A Longer War', and it can seem to be a sort of club (I am a member). There are particular parts of ALW in which I stress that, notably during Bob's court martial, but what I am actually thinking of is the way Gerald's father and the rest of his generation open up to the man once he has been to see his own incarnation of that famous elephant. All of the study in the world can only give a superficial understanding of PTSD; it can only really be grasped from the inside.

Nicely done, this story.I was guessing two alternative outcomes, but neither happened. Good fiction engages, then surprises. the reader.

Thank you, Steph

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I am glad the story worked for you. I had written the initial draft in full before I started reading A Longer War; when I had read your story I almost put this one in the circular file. If anyone reading these comments hasn’t read your truly masterful tribute to a tanker from World War II, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I am also pleased that the ending of the story still had elements that could surprise. There was no way — none — that I would have posted this without a suicide warning upfront, but that did telegraph the endpoint to a large degree.

Emma

if you're an alien

at least you're a nice alien !

DogSig.png

For some reason, I was drawn to re-read this today……

D. Eden's picture

And then decided to go through all of the comments - which is something I don’t often do. Yes, I re-read stories that I have liked quite often, and often repeatedly; and sometimes I do peruse the comments left after reading - but often I ignore the comments.

But today, something drew me to not only this story - but more importantly to the comments.

Reading what others had replied - and more importantly, following the link you left regarding Christians shooting and burying their wounded, brought up a lot of memories and emotions for me this morning. Luckily, I am alone in the house this morning so no one saw me weeping.

For those who don’t know my story, I attended college through NROTC. For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology, that is Navy Reserve Officer Training Corp. Upon graduating, I was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy. After serving on ships for some time, achieving both OOW and OOD status for all evolutions, and spending time both in charge of the weapons division and in CIC, I was offered an opportunity to spend time with an ANGLICO unit - Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, a joint Navy and Marine unit attached to ground troops to direct air strikes and naval gunfire in support of the troops - both Marines and Army.

This became my career - I was very, very good at it. I can still compute trajectories in my head, see bomb vectors, project gun lines and attack vectors all without thought or effort. It’s just something that came naturally to me, and over time my team became sought after and we were assigned to some pretty shitty jobs and places because of it.

Reduced to its basics, a team consists of a spotter, several radio operators, and a security team. The spotter is the OIC, but a senior NCO is assigned to handle the security team as the spotter, although nominally in charge, is focused on controlling the assets - air or ship. So there I was, a Naval Lieutenant by that time (that’s equivalent to a Captain in the other services), with a Marine Gunnery Sergeant reporting to me as my NCOIC of the security team - a man who was several years older than me when I was assigned I might add, which is not unusual for those who have served.

It didn’t take long for the Gunny to figure out that “his” officer was in fact transgender. Not sure how he did, but he approached me regarding it after a short time - he didn’t care, but he wanted me to know he knew and that he had my back. Eventually, pretty much the whole team knew it; I was even referred to behind my back as “Mom”, or “the Old Lady” instead of the old man. But never maliciously - always with respect or in good fun.

What I didn’t know for some time though was how much they took care of me. You see, although I was very good at my job, it always took a toll on me emotionally. I have always had a knack for burying my emotions in the heat of the moment - combat in this case, only to have them resurface later when I allowed myself to let go. It was part of what allowed me to do my job, to function in a fucked up world. To kill and maim other humans when it was necessary, and even once to shoot a young man twice with my .45 from about six feet away as he charged into our position. I knew I had no choice - we were being overrun and he had already shot two of my troops - so I pulled my sidearm and put one center mass, and the second round through his throat as the barrel climbed from recoil. It wasn’t until after that I realized he was no more than 15 or 16 years old.

So I did what I usually did - I took care of my troops and I finished the mission. Then when we were pulled out and sent back to camp, I hid in my quarters and cried myself to sleep. It was how I coped with what I was doing. It was about the fourth or fifth time when I realized that one of my Marines was standing outside the door when I finally pulled myself together and opened the door to head to the shower - which was not supposed to happen. As an officer, my quarters were separate from the rest of the team, and he was not really supposed to be there. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me the Gunny had posted him there and that I had to ask the Gunny. When I confronted my Gunnery Sargeant, he admitted that he had been posting a guard on my quarters for some time. He was worried not just that someone would disturb me, but he was worried about what I might do to myself.

My team took care of me even when we were off duty. Eventually, it went so far as that I was provided a guard on my quarters, and an escort whenever I left them. My commanding officer thought it was a bit strange, but after speaking with my NCOIC, he let them continue. We were after all his best team.

Losing several of my troops is something that I still carry with me today, just as I still see the light going out of that young man’s eyes as he lie dying at my feet. My dreams are not as haunted as they once were, but then again the nightmares are like old friends now.

Anyway, the point of this whole diatribe today is that yes, there are many, many in the military who think nothing of their ultra-macho prejudices against women, gays, and transgender people. But there are still others who can look beyond that and see the good in those who serve - irregardless of their gender identity or sexuality. Our military is a microcosm of our society. Yes, it is inevitably skewed toward one side due to the nature of some of the people involved in it, but there are still many who are good people just doing a very difficult job.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Many, many thanks, Dallas

Emma Anne Tate's picture

-- for your reflections, for giving me your thoughts on the earlier draft, and for being such a strong supporter of my writing and the writing of many authors here.

Your experiences are unique, and would have been enough to shatter most people. I don't know if I could have survived them, that's for sure. It is good to know that there are wonderful, caring and accepting people to found in even the most unlikely circumstances. Your Gunny sounds like an absolute gem of a man.

Warmest regards always,

Emma

He truly was……

D. Eden's picture

And someday I hope to give him the dance I promised him when we meet again, whether in Heaven or Hell.

Hold me a seat at the bar Oscar - I’ll be along soon enough.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Understanding

You get what I have tried to say in many of my stories. Enough said.

I mention a 'spotter' in Ride On', and he was a real one, up close and personal with the Germans through Belgium and Germany. 'Guns of Victory' is by George Blackburn, a Canadian FOO, who finally found himself cracking after so long at the very sharp end. For very good reasons the Germans weren't fond of FOOs, mostly down to the volume of fire the very quick-firing 25 pounder batteries could bring down on a position at very short notice. He was lying up behind a stone wall, and the Germans had spotted him. They brought up a PAK (Panzer Abwehr Kanone; anti-tank gun) and started to take the wall apart stone by stone with solid shot.

That moment was so vividly described it has never left me, but Blackburn had a decent CO, who withdrew him from the front line on the basis that if he stayed there any longer, he would end up getting the chop, i.e. killed, due to stress-induced carelessness.

Bless all those who see that so clearly, whatever their rank.

I tried to 'man up' in 1973

I tried to 'man up' in 1973 by joining the Air Force thinking I could join a Red Dog (or was it Horse) team. The idea was I'd get in combat and make my father proud and hopefully die in combat so I didn't have the pain and misery anymore. I went through the first two weeks of basic twice with a week of bed rest between the 2 weeks (couldn't bend over from back pain) and then confessed to a Catholic priest I wanted to be a woman and was subsequently discharged. I have no idea how I could have been anywhere near as strong as those did serve. This story brought tears to my eyes. How many of us have died because of politics and religion? I believe in a God but not in any of the organized religions. I vote Democrat as I consider them the lesser evil. Sorry for the rant.
Wonderful and sad story.

Kathleen

I really like happy endings

Emma Anne Tate's picture

But sometimes, they aren’t to be had. For so many of us, life becomes just too hard to bear. Thank you for reading, and for sharing your very personal experience. I am amazed that you even had the words, back in 1973, to describe what was tearing you apart.

Emma

Wow,

did that one hit hard. I'm an Air Force veteran, long before having transgender people were allowed to be in the military. I hid behind a role, which I'm grateful I was finally able to abandon.

Thank you, Holly

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have tried to imagine how difficult that must have been, in order to make this story work for those of you who had to live it. I’m very glad it connected.

Emma

Heavy

Patricia Marie Allen's picture

I nearly didn't read this one because of the suicide caution. I'm glad I didn't give in to that temptation. I guess it was my trust in the author to handle it tactfully that allowed me to read it.

Emma, didn't disappoint. It was complete and heavy on respect. I, like Kyle and David, wish the Heather had at least survived the transition to civilian life. Unfortunately she had two strikes against her... she was born to be a lifer and she was trans. In civilian life, being trans is a heavy enough burden, but to know that your calling was in the military and as a medical technician couldn't be fulfilled had to more than double the burden.

It was hinted that there was some strife between Heather and her family. I suspect that was the third strike that put her out.

Hugs
Patricia

Happiness is being all dressed up and HAVING some place to go.
Semper in femineo gerunt
Ich bin eine Mann

Thank you.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I’m very glad people read these cautions carefully. It wasn’t an easy story for me to write, and I know it would be much harder for some people to read. I’ve dealt with suicide or suicidal thoughts in several stories; the numbers for our broader community are heartbreaking and I’ll confess they weigh on me. But I promise it’s not a subject I would treat lightly.

Emma

Adding to the cavalcade of comments...

Iolanthe Portmanteaux's picture

Emma, this one is truly excellent. I mean, everything you write is top-notch, but this one deserves a wider reading public, out beyond BCTS, to the military, political, and judicial world that makes so much hay out of the suffering of others.

hugs and thanks,

- iolanthe

Would that it might make a difference.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

But I’m afraid it wouldn’t. The people who most need to read this won’t, and if they did, it would not move them.

But I am very glad it moved you. Thanks for your kind words.

Emma