I was 20, had already worked 3 years as a secretary at a major corporation in my hometown, and was impatient to 'grow.' I'd come in to the company all starry-eyed and within months had absorbed the tasks of two co-workers who'd been laid off, folks with years at the company and most with two-year degrees.
I didn't get far, because I was 20...and a 'girl.' Perhaps an immature, impatient girl as I look back on it, but I knew that a high school diploma was going to get me nowhere – unless I was happy staying a secretary, and I wasn't.
Decision to EnlistA few years earlier I'd considered the military as an alternative to a career in the business world. The recruiters all focused on education in their pitches, so I took some tests which revealed I was very qualified for a program that the Marines had – photojournalist. They offered a special one-year program: candidates would live as 'civilians' and attend one of the country's top journalism school as part of their education. All I had to do is sign. And a few months later I did.
Boot camp was rough (9 weeks for the gals), and other than some minor back issues that developed from the daily PT (physical training), I did just fine. During this time, I took additional testing and earned a perfect score for 'Morse Code Intercept' and languages, which meant they really wanted me to learn Morse Code, and then Russian. Even though I'd passed all the tests for photojournalist, I caved to their daily badgering, and signed away my first option.
'Normal' ConversationsI was sent to my first 'duty station' at the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, FL, where all 5 services were sent to learn Morse Code. A few months into service, my back problems got worse, and I developed daily headaches and migraines. The base doctor, a youngish Navy captain from Puerto Rico, assigned some physical therapy and then had me follow-up with him.
In our meetings, we'd chat – and I knew I had to be 'appropriate' in my conversations because he was an officer and I was enlisted. However, I believed that he was reaching out to me, glad to have a 'normal' conversation with someone who had interests outside of the base and the bars that ringed the base.
He invited me out to dinner one evening 'as friend.' Nothing romantic was implied, he assured me, and I mentioned that I did have a boyfriend back home, a young man I'd met just before I left. He said that he enjoyed our talks about old movies and old music, because everyone else on the base wanted to talk about 'getting drunk' or 'war.'
Dinner and MoviesHe also assured me that it would be after hours, off the base, and that the officer/enlisted thing wouldn't be an issue. I hesitated, but I found him pleasant and believed what he said. We agreed to go to an 'old movie festival' (I actually think it was Bogart films) that was running that evening nearby, and he arranged to pick me up.
I dressed casually, which back then (and with my lack of fashion sense) was jeans, a jean vest, and some sort of shiny blue polyester shirt – a bit on the boyish side, as I think back, but as we were to grab a burger and then watch old movies in a darkened theater, fashion was the least of my concerns.
"Why Don't We Eat Here First?"He was prompt. He drove a black Trans-Am Firebird. The car actually surprised me because he hadn't struck me as one of 'those kinds' of guys. Nevertheless, I climbed and we left to go to dinner.
But then he stopped at his off-base apartment, saying he needed to pick something up, and I could certainly join him for a few minutes. Okay, I thought – naively. As I noticed a package of chicken on the counter, and spices, and potatoes, he casually suggested, "Why don't we eat here first?" We had a few hours before the movies started, and besides, they ran continuously through the night.
I agreed, but with hesitation. He poured me a drink (the legal drinking age was at 18 at the time) and I consumed it, too quickly, which has always been my style. As he prepared dinner, I had another drink, and then a third. They were strong, and I hadn't eaten anything since lunch 6 hours earlier.
The chicken went into the oven, and we sat on the couch to chat. I remember asking why he joined the service, as he'd indicated he wasn't 'like' the other military types on base. He said he just that he wanted to get out of Puerto Rico.
An Officer, Not a GentlemanHe poured me another drink and I hesitated, feeling buzzed and growing uncomfortable. I asked when dinner would be ready, and could we get to the movie festival in time. That's when he leaned over to kiss me. I recoiled. I mean, he was an officer, I was enlisted, and I had a boyfriend. My mind raced. I didn't know what to do. I said I had to use the bathroom and he pointed to a door in the hallway. I headed in that direction, my face red, feeling really uncomfortable.
When I opened the bathroom door to exit he was standing there with his pants off. He grabbed me in a huge bear hug and pushed me into the adjacent bedroom. I stiffened and said I wasn't interested – that I had a boyfriend, that I really felt sick to my stomach, that I didn't know about sex (all true).
Please, I thought we were going to see old movies. Please let me go, I feel nauseous. Please stop. Please don't do this. Please – please – please. Please.