The Initial Break
Updated: May 17, 2022
While I was in boot camp, I injured myself. But I fought through to not get dropped. I had a fractured fibula, which I chose to “ignore” and while training on it I rolled my left ankle coming back from the crucible (For those that don’t know it’s a field/war simulation, that is like our final test.). I rolled it so bad I couldn’t take it out of my boot. I didn’t care though because it was over. When I went home on leave, I saw my doctor and he gave me a letter stating that I needed to stay off of it for six weeks because it was pretty badly hurt. When I reported to MCT (Marine combat Training) I handed my Doctor’s note over and I was literally laughed at, even though my ankle was wrapped, and I was on crutches and had medical documentation. I was asked, “You wanted to be a Marine right?” I responded “yea”, and I was told, “well you knew it was gonna be hard so suck it up”. So that’s what I did. I you know or are a Marine you know the saying “Change your socks?”. Well, that’s the Marine Corps way, fresh pair of socks will fix anything. So I changed my socks.
I reported in, got my gear issued, and continued with my training on a bad ankle and a fractured fibula. For those that don’t know what MCT is, it’s over twenty days of field training. We literally hump full gear every day, I did it every day in pain and injured for more than two weeks. I was almost done and ready for MOS school. No one seemed to notice my continuous limping until one day on a hump I was so left behind they could barely see me. That day my NCO called me in to see him at the end of our day and asked me to take off my boots. My foot was bruised and so swollen you couldn’t even find my ankle. And all my toes on my left foot were purple. Don’t worry though, I had fresh pair of socks standing by. The next morning I was sent to medical, and to everyone’s surprise, my ankle sprain was worse and to add to it, also I fractured all my toes. Yes! You read that correctly. I FRACTURED ALL MY TOES. Don’t worry though, I got top-notch treatment. (Insert eye roll emoji please).
I was sent to the rehab platoon, which no one told me is an abyss of medical injures and depression. Either you make it out to the fleet or you don’t make it in the military at all. I didn’t know what to expect, but since you’re still considered student status, you get separated into male and female barracks. More like a squad bay where everyone co-habits as opposed to personal or roommate space settings. It was comforting to know there were others struggling like you, but it was not a happy place. There was this negative view of anyone there, no matter how legit your injury was. It’s not a place where people treat you kindly or think highly of you. We kept busy though, we had our weekly medical appointments, physical therapy, and for those of us that were “functional” we worked. Work consisrws of office duties. We weren’t so lucky to always be in the office a lot of the time we had fun jobs. My fave of all was the police calling. You know, parties where we pick up people's crap, more specifically cigarette butts. (Where’s that eye roll emoji when I need it?) Anyway, we kept busy; less time to get into trouble. Which wasn’t a solid solution, I can tell you that much. Anyway, back to my injuries, the Doctor I had was a real delight! It wasn’t bad enough that he was a doctor (which means he’s “smarter” 'than me) He was also an officer, which meant he was higher ranking than I. So, if he said the sky was purple with polka dots, the sky was purple with polka dots. He didn’t care or allow me to express myself, everything I said didn’t matter, in his mind wasn’t true, etc. I was put in a cam walker for my foot injuries and sent to physical therapy in a week. Oh?! And apparently, all those injuries only required naproxen which is literally another form of Motrin, so recovery was painfuly fun. When I went to my first physical therapy appointment, they couldn’t believe the orders, but that’s the name of the game, we all gotta follow Doctors' orders. More specifically officer’s orders. They had me climbing stairs and picking up objects with my fractured toes in ice water. It was terrible and painful, and I just had to suck it up and do it. Clearly, that only increased my pain. Every week during my appointments I would voice my issues and concerns to my Doctor and he would just blow me off. Eventually, I developed hip tendonitis from the compensation of the boot which creates an uneven motion when you walk. Just to make matters worse the roads on base created a greater imbalance because they were paved with rocks. All our formations were across the base at the male barracks. So not only was I walking across base multiple times a day, but everywhere I went I was walking through rocky terrain. When I got diagnosed with Hip tendonitis my doctor was so pissed at me. He was so upset at me, he yelled at me. He said and I quote “This is exactly how it starts, it starts with your feet, then your hips, then your back, and next thing you know you’re unfit for duty!!!”, I kindly reminded him, that I had previously informed him how all that walking in my boot on rocky terrain, was straining. But he stilled yelled at me that “this was my plan”. He was so mean and condescending all the time. And he always made comments like “you females”, like we were some negative category. We didn’t seem to rate in his eyes. As if we were plotting against him and the Corps. At some point my SSGT approached me asking “Vazquez what the hell is going on with you? You look like shit!” And while I felt offended, it was fucking true! Someone finally noticed. I was so grateful for him. The truth was I did feel like shit. I was in constant pain and naproxen wasn’t cutting it. SSGT told me I looked pale and that he didn’t understand how half the Marine there were high off meds that in his opinion weren’t necessary, and I wasn’t getting anything. SSGT Jackson literally confronted my doctor and almost physically fought him for me. He was the only one that really looked out for us. But just like me, he got nowhere. The majority of the time I was there, I was miserable and in pain. The only positive I gained from my time there were the friendships. While that experience was terrible, I made great friendships, friendships that are still alive now. My best friend whom I met in rehab, is now my oldest daughter's Godmother. It turned out we were from the same area in Southern Cali. Our friendship is probably the strongest, but there are many others that are still in my life. The rest of the friends from that stage in my life have been inconvenienced by distance. The Marine Corps creates a closeness that you cannot duplicate. That’s one thing I love about the military, not necessarily the Marines. Any way, I digress. As you can probably Guess, eventually I just kept getting worse and worse. Every weekly appointment turned into a pointless fight with my doctor, he wanted to send me back on full duty, but now I also had the hip issue and although my toes were no longer purple, I didn’t have full movement or function of my toes. For about three consecutive weeks he tried to eventually discharge me, and I refused. I told him and pleaded with him that , “I didn’t fight to get here, go through hell for months to be sent home”. So, in anger, he’d give me another week. Seven days passed and he’d try to discharge me again. “Don’t think you’re getting medical, I’m admin sepping you”. He told me the second time. And I said “No! Fix me! I came here healthy, fix me and send me back to full duty!” Mad as hell, he sent me back to the rehab platoon. Next week, he told me to go full duty or go home. We argued back and forth, while he insulted me and put me under the category of “You’re all the same, this is what you want but you’re not getting it” Whatever that meant. To me that was just empty talk, because I whole heartedly wanted to stay. I just knew that my body wasn’t 100% and I would end up worse. Every time he threw shots at me I knew what he meant, he meant us “Females”. I let him know that I refused to continue to damage my body more than it was and that I expected him to do his job so that I could do my job. And right then and there, he filled out the paper, stamped it, and sent me to admin separations. While I was internally disappointed, I was so angry, I behaved as if I didn’t care. But I cared too much, this was my dream. What was I supposed to do now? I was injured, I had nothing waiting for me back home. This was it for me, I fought so hard for this. And now it was ending so soon and so badly. This is where I learned that leaving the military so abruptly wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. Within this transition, I was a victim of MST (Military Sexual Trauma). I was sexually assaulted by a fellow Marine. And while I plan to get in-depth with this subject soon. I will leave it at that for now. That was the true break for me, while the Marine Corps let me down in other ways and caused its own damage. This violation of my mind, body, and soul, was beyond repair or redemption. This unforeseen event was the culprit of my reckless and impulsive behavior that led my life to go downhill, it became a non-stop spiral of darkness. This is where the story truly begins to get dark and dangerous. I think this is where I truly broke. I eventually found the power within myself to glue myself back together. I had no one. Not the Corps, not anyone with any real power to help me, or guide me. I shattered piece by piece, and with each piece that shattered, I lost a piece of myself. One broken piece at a time I continued to fall apart. It took a long time to pull myself together. I had to realize where it began in order to fix myself. I was buried alive under piles and piles of trauma, damage, and fear. Follow me through my story of failure, loss and despair. And allow me to take you even further, to the side of success, redemption and happiness.