Rape. The act every girl fears from childhood. I’d known that officer for months and liked and respected him. His sudden act of violent aggression had come as a complete surprise. Of course, I couldn’t report it. How could I? A single, twenty-two-year-old blonde living in a man’s world, I’d been to a party, and I’d been drinking. I know it sounds stupid in this day and age, but I felt then as though I were
to blame for the incident, somehow I’d triggered the lust natural to
When he’d finished and left, I sat alone in my room consumed
with guilt, shame and embarrassment. I remembered the biblical expression, “pride
goeth before a fall” and hated myself for my hubris, for thinking I could
call the plays and set the boundaries in a man’s world.
- The horror and violence that was Vietnam had finally found and assaulted her
So much for my last remaining emotion – arrogant self-righteousness. Now,
it was out the window, too, and there was nothing I could do about it. Who
the hell would buy my story? I was a lieutenant and he a major, a high-profile
staff officer with influence and connections. In the air force of 1970,
my complaint wouldn’t even rise to the level of laughable. Nothing
I could do, I kept the incident to myself for decades. I tried never
to think of it again, but forever after, for me sex was tied with drinking
alcohol. I couldn’t have sex without drinking first.
- This violent trauma neurologically paired sex and alcohol in Carol
brain, which influenced subsequent behavioral patterns.
After that, I stopped paying attention to what happened around me. I
really didn’t care. I flew every day. I tended to torn and
mangled young boys – stop the bleeding, clear the airway, that sort of
thing. I did my duty, but it was sleepwalking with a purpose. I
couldn’t physically disconnect from that place, so I did it mentally
Occasionally, I had a vague recollection of myself when
I first arrived in Vietnam – a giggling little girl who laughed and blushed
and was shocked by the most trivial incidents. Clearly, that person was
gone forever. I’d
have to conjure up another set of memories to fit the person I’d become
and just forget altogether about the old Carol Jean, the small town girl who
loved to fish with her father.
The night before I returned to the
States, the VC tunneled under the wire at Cam Rahn and blew the ammo dump. When
that ordinance went off, all hell broke loose. I ran to check on the
female nurse quartered next to me, and just when I opened her door, the concussion
from a huge blast shattered her window, and glass hit me in the face. I
was lucky, a lot of bleeding, but my injuries were hardly more than scratches. No
problem, I thought. I
was going home in the morning. I’d never have to wear a flak jacket
and helmet again.
They threw a party for me the next afternoon. Nice,
but I’d been
to plenty of going-away parties for other people, and I knew them for just
another excuse to get drunk and escape for a few hours. Fine with me,
but I wasn’t deluded enough to believe their conviviality had anything
to do with my departure.
When the wheels of that freedom bird left the runway and we headed out over
the South China Sea, everyone on board erupted in a thunderous roar. That’s
the only thing I remember of the flight home.