Unpleasant Justice

The day in 2013 when Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed the order to open combat arms positions to women, Stacy Jones and her associates celebrated. After years of protesting for women’s rights, sometimes in very hostile environments, Stacy would finally get to see her dreams of equality revealed in their full glory. She had certainly fought for this right. It was something she believed in to the very marrow of her soul.

Just over four years later, war spread like wildfire throughout various parts of the world, threatening an ever-growing number of America’s financial interests. As a result, Congress passed legislation authorizing a draft, and Barack Obama’s successor signed this legislation into law. Until now, Stacy hadn’t really stopped to think that equality in the military work force also meant equality in the military draft force. After Mr. Jones was declared unfit for war due to his flat feet, Mrs. Jones and her comrades in women’s rights were now comrades in war.

In the blink of an eye, the United States Army packed Stacy up and shipped her off to Basic Training, where the drill sergeants bullied and disrespected everyone. As a well-educated, somewhat delicate, and elegantly fashionable Echo Boomer, Stacy found the drill sergeants’ behavior appalling. She took great offense to remarks like, “Button your top button! You’re a soldier, not a hooker!” and “Crawl through that mud before I drag you through it, Private. Now! Crawl through that mud, you little turd!” This was much worse than getting arrested at a protest.

Being away from her children was something Private Jones hadn’t planned on, either. How dare the military tear her away from her precious babies and leave them in the care of her flat-footed husband. Being yelled at, pushed physically to her limits, and separated from her family didn’t make her stronger or more willing to kill the enemy. To the contrary, Jones increasingly missed her old way of life — her family, her Human Resources job, and her kitchen, where the worst thing that could happen was a burnt turkey. She started to miss other things, too, like being allowed to cry and laugh mostly as she saw fit, as well as being called by her first name. In the past, to escape stressful situations, Stacy would simply turn on the waterworks, but here, this wasn’t an option. The more upset she became, the more ruthlessly the drill sergeants treated her.

Due to America’s intensifying militarization, Private Jones was rushed into combat. After 6 months of mediocre training, she was sent overseas and stationed in a muddy and bleak forward base of operations far from any semblance of civilized society, and she went to war. Although she had considered herself brave and immovable in her battle for women’s equality, she had become equally whiny and bitter when addressing draft equality. To be taken away from her children against her will just didn’t sit well with her. Terrified and pissed off, she finally decided that such bloody work so far from home should have been a man’s burden, not hers. She began to see the world through the lens of her own misery instead of through the more theoretical perception of the broader cultural injustices that used to bother her so much.

Stacy also hated the disturbing male-to-female ratio. Damn her flat-footed husband! Apparently, most other husbands were fit for war because men here outnumbered women 10 to 1. Where were all the other women who had fought so hard for their right to fight in combat units, she wondered. And as if all the other crap the Army had put her through wasn’t enough, now she was stuck in a foreign country with no running water. Within two months, Jones got her first vaginal infection due to a lack of proper hygienic standards. During one sleepless night, she realized that her irritated, itchy crotch made her more emotionally violent than anything the Army had done in its attempt to turn her into a trained killer.

Despite everyone’s need for intense bonding and free expression in an environment like this, Jones was often bothered by the men’s crude, distasteful, and sexist jokes. She had finally come to terms with the fact that men usually spoke differently when with other guys, but this forced mixed company made boundaries of appropriateness disappear immediately. Although the men in her unit were not behaving any differently than they would have had women not been present, because women were around male soldiers who were saying and doing all sorts of profane things, Stacy wondered if their behavior might be considered a form of sexual harassment. Of course, the men wondered the same thing, which created an uncomfortable gender barrier in the unit. Stacy could see everyone’s morale deteriorate over time, and she thought this was a very sad but inevitable reality.

Stacy noticed another problem that could threaten more than just morale. She knew that a few women could easily run a marathon or carry 100 pounds worth of gear over a great distance, but she wasn’t one of them. In fact, none of the women in her unit were one of them. As everyone found out the hard way, the majority of women couldn’t match the necessary standards that men could handle. This meant, of course, that quite a few of the male soldiers quickly grew resentful over the extra load they had to take on due to their female counterparts’ inability to carry their fair share of the load. Everyone could sense a dangerous tension building between the men and women within the unit. Stacy worried that the more agitated certain male soldiers got, the less safe she would be on the front lines of a firefight.

Nevertheless, with so many lonely soldiers separated from their families or significant others, several intimate relationships did form. Stacy started spending time with Fred Smith, both on and off the cot. Fred was actually a pretty nice guy, and Stacy figured a little male companionship would be good for a while. Some female soldiers had intentionally gotten pregnant in order to go home, but this wasn’t Stacy’s intention. She was just scared, lonely, sad, and in need of some kindness and attention. Moreover, Fred was convinced that he really loved Stacy.

Six months into her tour of duty, Stacy was shot during an ambush. Luckily, her flack vest absorbed the impact of the round, and she just suffered a cracked rib and some bruising from a hard fall, but Fred didn’t know this. He momentarily dropped his guard and sprinted across an open area toward Stacy. An enemy round ripped through his skull, and he was dead before he hit the ground.

Once back in country, Stacy returned to her life of being a mother and Human Resources worker, but only for a little while. She was now a mere shadow of the vibrant girl who once wanted to conquer the chauvinistic society that had held women back for so long, and her PTSD led to ruinous behavior. Her husband finally left her due to her depression, violent mood swings, and admission of her affair with Fred. He also took the children with him, per court order. Eventually, Stacy quit her job and just disappeared. Not even her closest friends and family members ever figured out where she went or what happened to her.