Kate Hendricks Thomas, Ph.D., is a Marine Corps veteran and an Assistant Professor of Public Health at Charleston Southern University. She is a board member of the Service Women’s Action Network and is the author of "Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior's Battle for Balance." Visit www.drkatethomas.com to learn more about her military behavioral health research.
I’m a former Marine — I spent five years on active duty and two more in the reserve component before departing for 1st Civilian Division. I love the Marine Corps and always have, partly because military culture was part of my home life from birth.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
As a Marine vet, I love the Corps and I tend to focus on the positives aspects of service. While I was on active duty from 2002–2008, I never talked about harassment and assault nor spent much time contemplating the severity of the problems. The result is guilt I still carry today. My last active-duty billet was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. At 4th Recruit Training Battalion, I was responsible for the training and welfare of women who had just joined the Corps and were attempting to complete boot camp. I spent countless hours offering squad bay classes to my recruits, often taking triple the planned time to talk about important topics like educational benefits and goal setting. I was committed to connecting with them and mentoring where I saw opportunity. Some I heard from once they graduated boot camp, which was often wholly positive, but, in truth, far too many shared stories of harassment and assault that they’d experienced at their new schools and units. I had never talked about it with them in those squad bays.
My story started the way many do, with sparkly attraction that morphed into friendship, then love. Unfortunately, my story also ended the way too many do, with holes in the walls, broken doors, and police knocking at the front door.