I was in the Army from 05-07. I had a 6 year contract, so obviously I didn't finish my entire term. In the summer of 2007 I was going through a lost of stress, and I would ask my chain of command to allow me to talk to a shrink to get some kind of medication, or help. Yet I was told over and over that I was trying to get out of the army by playing the "crazy" card. I even tried going to the military hospital on base to admit myself but they wouldn't accept me unless I told them that I was "suicidal". I wasn't at that time, I was just really stressed, every day. The stress would get so bad that I would wake up in the middle of the night in my barracks room with sleep paralysis. My body would still be sleeping, but my mind would wake up. I couldn't move or anything, and it would make me see things and hear people. One time I heard children laughing outside of my window (there were no children).
Well, time after time I'd talk to my leadership and ask them if I could talk to someone, yet they didn't let me. I went home one weekend to visit my family in October of 2007. I don't remember too much about what happened that night, but I know that my friends and I were going to a party in LA, and we were on the freeway. My friends tell me that I was pale and sweating half way though. Jesse thought I was on drugs or something, but they said when they asked me, I just said "I'm ok". Well we hit gridlock and came to a stop on the 405. Then suddenly I got out of the car and walked the opposite way of traffic saying "I need water, I need water." They managed to get me back into the car and drove back home and admitted me into the hospital. The doctors did a bunch of tests, but couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then they admitted me into the mental part of the hospital because they could tell I was out of it. So I spent 3 days in there and they didn't really do much but give me some medication to calm me down. When I was discharged from the hospital they gave me a refferal to see a psychologist near my city.
I had two choices to make. Either I went back to my unit and didn't get any help, or I stayed home to get the help that I felt like I needed. So, I knowingly stayed home for a month and I was considered AWOL. Before this incident, I had a perfect military record. I knew however that once you were gone for the first 30 days, you were considered Absent Without Leave. After 30 days your unit drops you from the roll sheet and you are considered a deserter. Yet, I had always planned on being gone for 29 days. I knew that when I returned I would be punished, but it just wasn't a big deal at the time. So for 29 days I stayed home and saw the Dr. She was very helpful and she diagnosed me with PTSD and a few other issues. She wrote a letter for me that I was going to bring to my unit, which stated that I had always intended on returning, and that I was getting help. When you go AWOL, or deserter, the military HAS to prove that you intentionally stayed gone, without ever wanting to return in order for them to successfully court marshal you and put you in jail.
So, on the 29th day of being AWOL, I called my Platoon Sgt. I told him that I was going to come back that night to the gates, and turn myself in for my punishment. I let him know why I stayed gone, and pretty much was ready to come back. He said, "No, you're not coming back. I am chaptering you out of the army, your paperwork is 90% finished." I said, "Sgt, I don't think that's possible. And I want to return. I know that I have to physically be present to sign paperwork to be discharged."
He said "No, you don't. There are new rules and regulations since the war. If you don't want to be here, then we have the right to give you an other than honorable discharge. If you do come back tonight, I will have you arrested, sent to a court marshal, and sent to jail for 6 years." Now let me clarify that this is complete and utter CRAP. At the time as a private I didn't know about the laws of the military. In the infantry we aren't told about our rights, or the procedures for getting out of the Army. Why would they ever let us know how to get out? They know we all hated our jobs, so it misinformation = disinformation. So I believed him. I believed that if I was to go back, I would have the book thrown at me. It was either take an early discharge and move on with my life, or go back and face jail time.
So I chose to stay. My Sgt said that he would contact me when I was officially out of the army. He let me know that I wasn't a deserter, and I could go back to school, get a job and do everything that normal people do without having to worry. So, 3 months pass and it's February. I get a text message from him saying simply, "You're out." From that point of time, I spent the last year (2008) trying to get my life back on track. I went to school, designed websites, posted on GC and smoked some weed. I THOUGHT that I was out of the Army. Yet, last Halloween I started trippen out because I never received my DD214 Discharge paperwork which states that I am out of the Army. So, I made a call on halloween night to my unit. I asked one of the Sgt's on 24 hour call to contact my 1SGT (main boss of my company). I told the Sgt about my situation and he got my 1SGT on his cell phone (speakerphone). I heard the SGT tell my 1SGT my story, and he asked him about my paperwork. My 1SGT said "Oh ***** Yeah, he's been out for a long time, we just didn't have a good address on him to send his paperwork.'
Now this was a BIG warning sign to me, because they had my address. On dozens and dozens of documents. So I still gave the benifit of the doubt and awaited them to send them. I gave the SGT my address, and said I'd be checking the mail. Well now it's January 2009, and I still haven't recieved SHIT. Dozens of times last year I would call the Desertion hotline, Orange County Sherrifs department, recruiting stations, JAG offices, MP stations - you name it. None of them had my in the system. So I always thought to myself, "I'm out." Well last week I decided to call back my 1SGT and speak with him one on one.
"Hey 1SGT, this is *****. Sgt ***** told me not to come back, and he said my paperwork would be sent to me. I was just wondering where it is?"
"What paperwork?" he replied.
"My... discharge papers?"
"Why do you think you've been discharged Private?"
"Because uh.... I was told if I returned last year that I would be court marchaled. I was told that I was being chaptered."
"Well, I cannot confirm nor deny what anyone said at any point in time, but as far as I know, you're still in. I sent your paperwork to Texas."
"Uh... what about a few months back when I heard you on the phone and you said that you didn't have a good address?"
"Once again Private. I cannot confirm nor deny what anyone said -"
And then I flipped.
"You're telling me that I've been living a lie for the last year because one of YOUR Sergeants, my fucking platoon Sergeant lied to me?"
"Well, all I know is that you need to come back as soon as possible."
"Uh, I'm out here in mississippi taking care of my grandmother because my grandfather passed away, and I can't leave her alone until someone comes to take my place."
He replied, "That's not my issue, all I know is that you're a deserter and you need to come back."
Then I said, "A deserter? I OFFERED to come back, but you're douche bag NCO told me not to. I have the text message he sent me, I have phone records which will show that he called me and I called him that month, and my letter from my dr, and my fucking medical stats from the hospital stay."
All he said was, "The sooner you get back here, the better. But now that I've spoken with you one on one, and I have voice confirmation, I have to report this." (meaning now there will be a warrant out for me."
I've called lawyers, but they won't give me help unless I drop thousands of dollars. I've called the GI RIGHTS HOTLINE (a free hotline for awol soldiers to get advice) and they said they've NEVER heard of a situation like mine. Whenever an awol solider offers to return, they always always take them back. So now that I've been gone a year, I have to go back to the unit. They will either A) Retain me and keep me in the military but demote me to E-1 and treat me like a sack of shit for a long time. Discharge me, but keep me around to work for about 4-5 months before they do so (with an other than honorable) or C) Send me to trial (Court Marshal) and try to get me imprisoned (Unlikely).
It's fucking stupid because even though I have proof, records, that I was told that I was out, it doesn't matter. I don't think they will punish that E-6 Staff Sgt for lying, but they'll be quick to punish me. Now my ENTIRE LIFE is on hold, I have to face my old friends back there who will look down on me like I ran away, which I didn't. It's going to fucking blow either way this whole thing goes down. And if I ever did go to the press about it, the Army would look bad, but they would punish me 100x harder than if I just shut my mouth and take it up the ass.
So a lesson for those of you who are thinking about signing your life, rights, and soul away to the military because of some cool PR campaign (commercials, pamphlets, video games) think again. Don't be so eager when you get out of highschool to "make something of your life." Give yourself some fucking time to adventure and mature. See if college is something that you'd want to try out. Don't just think that because you don't like college that the military is the only thing for you. As much fun as I did have in the military, I equally had bullshit, bias and unfair treatment along with the majority of my friends who I served with, as well.
Sigh. Well, that's my story.
Edited by Oddyball, 01 February 2009 - 02:24 AM.