Saturday, January 9, 2010

So I was discharged and issued my flight home. I packed my rucksack, cleaned out my wall locker and headed out San Diego bound. One last night of debauchery with the boys before I was sent home.

One night turned into a missed train connection to L.A. and missed flight the next day. Needless to say I made it home the following day worn out from the long trip home.
It was great to be home, but at the same time devastating. I now had to find a new path, somehow manage a disability I know nothing of and really find where I want to head what I want to do.

I took a good month and a half off to readjust to civilian life and to iron out any ideas I had about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. During this one time I turned to a friends and a past time that always help settle and calm me. Fishing.

When I arrived home Salmon season was just kicking into high gear. I packed the truck and left everyday fishing all day and thinking of where I was going. The hardest past of my transition hit me a week later. I was headed to a party with some friends when I got a call from a good Marine friend. He informed me that a close friend had been killed in an IED attack his first week in Iraq. Lance Corporal Stout. KIA. 5 days after his arrival with his unit. His vehicle had been struck while on patrol.

This was a huge blow to my transition back to "normal" life. I wanted to be back so much worse now. I wanted to strike back revenge the same as everyone felt after 9/11. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do. That night and all week I partied hard for Stout.

Its a strange thing to understand this behavior. But as being Marines, it was a feeling that I believe we all felt. If I die, don't cry for me, Don't be sorry I'm gone. Be happy that I died in what I believe in doing, in what I believed in. And in the time remembering me make it joyous, have a party. Be loud and crazy rock out like its your last time. If I was home that's what would happen, so in my absence, do the same. In this behavior, I will be the closest to home that I can come.

Then back to the stream. The rest of my summer consisted of fishing, tubing down the rivers and BBQ's. A nice time to myself. After the summer I had decided I was going to move to Atlanta to work for my Dad. I wanted a new place to start over. Get my degree and I had a job already lined up. So off I went into the unknown.

I left Monday Morning headed east. I was determined to make it a scenic enjoyable venture. I mean how many times do you get to drive coast to coast? I headed to the high plains dessert in East Oregon, from there south through Nevada. What a fun route. Almost ran out of gas 100 mile straight stretches and cacti. I went through Vegas and 110 degree heat. Visited the Hoover damn and the Meteor crater in AZ. I spent the second night in Albuquerque NM. There was an awesome thunderstorm that surrounded me that night. It was spectacular. The next day I went through TX OK and into AK. I stayed the night with a friend who had also just gotten out of the Corps. Me and him took the next 2 days and went to New Orleans to visit the damage a year after Katrina. It was still a mess. The next day I finished my trip and arrived at my Dads at about midnight.

The funny part of my trip was I should have run out of money about the time I hit Arkansas. But a check I had been waiting for for months got deposited into my account. I guess this was a meant to be decision.

Friday, July 31, 2009


Today is a new day. Not the same as the last nor the same as tomorrow, that is if I keep moving forward. To cease to stop striving toward a goal is the end of life, for this begins repetition.

I have have been diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) for 3 1/2 years now. Its only gotten worse and it will only continue down this road unless more research is done. This is not the worst hurdle. The hardest part of this disease is knowing your offspring will only suffer the same as you.

Everyone in my family, on my fathers side, carries this disease. Some show signs, worse than others, others are perfectly able bodied. My uncle gets around in a wheelchair. One of my cousins has said he would never have kids for fear of them having to deal with all he has been dealt.

In Feb 2005 I shipped of to U.S. Marine Corps Boot Camp, San Diego California. The Depot. It was a rainy Tuesday night. We pulled in at 11:35pm to be greeted by some not so cordial individuals. This was the start of a long journey and transformation. One that lead to the onset of my CMT diagnosis, but a decision that will never be regretted.

Training Day 42, Camp Pendelton CA, we stepped off for a 3 mile hump. Not a very large task , as three days prior, having complete a 10 mile hump with full pack. We hadn't even left the blacktop(less than 1000 ft) before I started feeling a burning sensation in my left lower leg. Like shin splints, it just burned hot and deep, more intense with every step. I marched in the back of our formation. 1 mile into our hump the D.I. (Drill Instructor NOT Drill Sergeant) from our following platoon started in on me.
"What's wrong with you boy?" He quipped.
"Nothing sir."
"Bullshit, you can;t walk straight for shit."
By now I showed an obvious limp. But to quit, or fall back is beyond question. You step, you shrug pain aside.
In the words of Vince Lombardi: "If you can walk you can run, Pain is only in your mind."
Now my D.I. notices my limp.
"Whats wrong COX? You turnin' into Suzy on me? out of tampons?"
(Nice wordage ass pops into mind)
"Nothing sir. Just on a walk sir."
"Bullshit, get to the front of the Platoon now. RUN BOY." He demands.
"Aye sir."
I try stepping up the pace to over take the 40 or so in my platoon to reach the front.

For those that don't know about humping (Hiking w/ Full gear pack and weapons), those of us at the rear get treated like an accordion. If someone ahead slows down, they form a gap in the line. Then this can happen to the person, or all persons behind them. Then they tighten the gap, so does the next and by the time the gap reaches the end its very large. So basically we get to run full pack and rifle then walk then run, whereas the front just steps it out. (No complaints we would march to a destination then reverse formation, so the back walked first and we got our revenge.

By the time I finished running to the front of my platoon, my pain scale went from a ignorable 3-4 to a severe pain at a 6-7.

Shortly after making it to the front, I was pulled aside and made to ride in the back of our company GySgt's truck.
Once we arrived to camp the Corpsman came to diagnose my problem. At first thought it was just a case of shin splints. He told me to hop on the tailgate and pull up my BDU pants.

I did as ordered.
He inspected my leg, searching for any abrasions, deformities or contusions. He then did a stress test by placing my leg on the tailgate and forcing down on my knee and ankle.

My leg as a fulcrum, I've never experienced such a pain. I've broken bones but this was worse.

Not only did he do this once,but 3 times in a row. Marines are taught to show no emotion, to be disciplined and unwaiverable.
I laid down in the truck as he pressed down, and let the tears flow. It was everything I could do to not make a sound, but i couldn't help but be a girl and cry.

"Are you kidding me? Are you Freaking crying? Cox are you crying? What the hell? This isn't 4Th Battalion (Female Marine Battalion)." My S.D.I. (Senior Drill Instructor) Yelled.

"No sir, Just allergies sir." I shot back.

"Right allergies." He said sarcastically.

"Yes sir."

"Get up boy, you've got shin splints. Quit limping, walk through it. If you limp it'll just make your other leg worse." He insisted.

"Aye sir." I said.
And off I headed, trying to not look weak, wiping tears en route to my hooch.

The next day I was stopped by a new Corpsman, evaluated and sent to medical for an x-ray.
Here i found out I had a severe stress fracture in my left tibia, 3 1/2 inches below my knee.
Right where it hurt, it made sense, but this was not at all the plan. I had only just 5 weeks of training left, I had to finish and get the hell out of this place.

Against my will, I was sent to medical platoon to recover. After being on crutches for a month my doctor took a re-evaluation x-ray. He was shocked, he said I had broken close to 97-98% of the bone.
"One wrong step, jump, or twist and you would of busted it completely." he said.

So much for shin splints, and "Walk though it," I freaking broke my leg practically.
It would be at least 1 1/2- 2 months before I could train again.

This time was one of the hardest of my life. It was so depressing, being left behind almost. But with that, also came understanding, and great knowledge. I was given a chance to develop a much stronger mental focus with a much greater drive than most marines in boot camp.

I left having been risen through the ranks as a scribe (Paperwork Bitch) to a squad leader(Supervisor), to guide(Leader of the platoon).

By my 2ND month in the medical platoon, we received a new company commander. Word passed that anyone who had been injured for 3 months or longer would be discharged and sent home. This was not an option for me.
While many would jump at a ticket out of hell, for me to go home unaccomplished, a failure would be worse than failing, for I hadn't even tried it all.
I was coming up on my three months still not 100%, but I had to go for it. I'd rather break my leg again and fall flat on my face, than to say I can't or my body won't and go home to people saying I didn't think you could do it.
Instead I lied, told my doctor I was fine, and started training for being back in training.

I left the medical platoon after exactly 3 months. The day I got to my new platoon I had never been so excited to train. While the other recruits were tired and weak and moral drained, I was fresh eager and fast. The first day, Me and another Medical guy (from my original company), we got the whole platoon in trouble because we were faster, and did more side straddle hops than them. We were rewarded with time to stow our gear while the rest of the platoon played in the dirt. Ah the beginning of hated starts.

The 3rd day I was back was the beginning of the Crucible. A 75 mile hump over 2 1/2 days. with only 3 meals for the duration only 2-3 hrs of sleep at night, and a myriad of tasks, obstacles, drills, and yes P.T..

We stepped off, unsure if I my body would finish, but knowing I just had to keep stepping. If I broke again it wasn't meant to be otherwise its just in my head.

3 days later we summited the reaper, and marched home to meet a fleet of Corpsman. Needles prepped for all of our blisters, we assumed the position and they broke open all our blisters, we jumped in the shower and headed to chow.

Four weeks later I graduated, still weak with a barely noticeable limp, a Proud Marine.
I have never been so proud of myself as that moment. I have never told this story to such detail, it has only been with me.

My next stop SOI. (School of Infantry)
I was at first in a rehab platoon, to deal with still having trouble from my broken leg.

This is where I first started to think it was more than what the Doc's were telling me.

Its just ankle instability they'd say.

I tried to explain, it's not just the ankle. I run different, it feels weird when I walk, no one was hearing it.

To me it felt like when I ran I would spin out. My feet would sort of spin when I planted every step. I also noticed when I walked, I walked more on the outside part of my feet. Not a straight heel to toe walk but a heel, side, toe walk. When I ran, this transferred into pain. My run times were horrible from where I had used to be. I went from a 21 minute 3 mile to 26-26.5. It was ridiculous.

Still with no help from my doc, I decided to do what I did in Boot Camp. Tough it out.
I sent off the next Monday for Alpha company SOI. Within a week they sent me back to rehab.

I stayed here for the next 3 months as the Doc's had me do physical therapy trying to strengthen my leg back to normal.

After this time the Doctor suggested that if I didn't get better soon, then he was going to discharge me and send me home. I was devasted, I walked back to my office where I was working turned in my slip.
My Sergeant asked me: "What's up COX?
"Nothing sgt, I'm going home."
"What? Who said that? Your not going home." He shot back.
"The Doc said that, and thats it."

I think I cried harded that day than ever. I had never planned on making a career out of the Corps. But after having become a Semper Fi Jarhead, I knew this was what I wanted.

To be told, your no good we're sending you home just tore it all apart for me.