So Brian was sent packing with a slip of paper in his pocket that indicated he was being recommended for an Article 15. The punishments on the table were any combination—including the possibility of all—of the following:
- Extra duty: When everyone else goes home at the end of the duty day, you stay until 11 p.m. Every day, every weekend. 45 straight days of extra duty were on the table.
- Loss of wages: Usually half of them, for a given amount of time.
- Loss of rank: Being stripped back to PFC—Private, First Class.
- Discharge from the Army altogether was also a possibility. With the drawdown, there is less need for so many Non-Commissioned Officers, and a discharge through Article 15 is one way to unload dead weight.
But my son isn't dead weight, and when he was handed his pink slip, he asked to speak the next in command. He was granted time with the Sergeant Major, who approved the Article 15. Brian then asked to talk to the Colonel, but was turned down. He stood his ground and reminded his commanding officer that he knew his rights, and according to protocol, his request couldn't be denied.
He was then granted time with the Colonel, accompanied by the two men who were recommending the punishment. "Do you expect me not to punish you for disobeying your orders?" the Colonel asked him. And Brian responded, "I don't expect you not to punish me. I am only asking you not to destroy my career over a misunderstanding. Please, look at my records. Really look at them."
After he'd said his piece, the Colonel told him he appreciated his candor and his insisting that they talk. He said he wasn't in the business of destroying careers, and would take it under consideration. At that point, Brian was supposed to salute and leave the room. He did, but only after he reached across his desk, shook the Colonel's hand, and thanked him. He turned and did the same to the two men that wrote up his Article 15, and then took his leave.
The first reading was a couple of days later, in which Brian appeared before everyone in his direct chain of command: His Platoon Sergeant, Captain, First Sergeant, Sergeant Major, and the Colonel. The charges and the possible repercussions were read to him, along with an explanation of how the "trial" would pan out: He would have a chance to plead his case at the second reading. There would then be a deliberation, followed by information of his punishment. Brian asked if the Colonel would take a phone call from the First Sergeant he served in Fort Hood, TX, and the phone conference was granted.
Once this procedure was finished, Brian was once again in limbo: No job, no school, no role but to check in every day to find out when his next reading would be. While he could have wandered, he opted to show up at 6 a.m. every day and go through P.T. with the new platoon. He was initially ostracized and jeered at like he was on a childhood playground. He kept his cool, and offered to stick around and help score P.T. tests. He didn't cut out early, kept working alongside of, and getting to know the same guys that had written him up. It wasn't long—a week, two, maybe—before he was approached and told "we can see that this was a terrible mistake, and we're going to put in a word for you."
It was 3 more weeks—December 17, before he finally had an appointment for his hearing. By then, his Colonel had gone over his records and touched base with Brian's former commanding officers.
During the trial he asked Brian about his career, and his time in Iraq. He asked him why he wanted to be an EOD tech. He asked him how many times he'd deployed, where he was, and what his routes were. He asked him how he got his combat action badge. To that one, Brian said "Not to be disrespectful sir, but I've been in multiple firefights and have been hit by several IEDs. Pick one and I'll tell you about it." He also told his Colonel that he loves his job. He loves leading and training his soldiers. He cares for his guys, and he asked him once again not to destroy that for him.
It turned out that the Colonel had served in Iraq when Brian did. Not together, but he'd driven the same routes, and he knew where Brian had been, and when. He knew my kid wasn't talking smack.
Brian was then excused for deliberation, 2 hours after what was supposed to have been a 30-minute reading. It was Friday afternoon. We were here, nervous wrecks, waiting for his phone call to tell us what was happening. The call should have come 90 minutes ago but it was 4:30, now 4:45. He finally called me at 5:00.
He had been called back into the hearing room and read his punishment:
- $3000.00 in wages, over a 10-week period.
- No extra duty.
That would be it. Oh, except for one more thing, the Colonel said:
"Welcome Back to EOD School, Sergeant Jolley"
Reinstated! He kept his rank and was reinstated to the school! Brian said his knees almost went out from underneath when he heard those words, but he managed to say "Thank you sir," and salute before walking out.
My knees almost went out from under me when I heard them too. While I can sum up the entire time so tidily here in one little post, every day was nervewracking and disheartening. I fluctuated between praying that everything would be all right, and being completely pissed off, ranting that his getting out and coming home would, in the end, probably just alleviate a shitload of heartache for all of us, and he'll never have to deploy again and that would be GREAT, and the Army could just...
It was, to say the least, an emotional time for all of us. Daily phone calls, and checking in, disbelief after we'd been doing the same thing since last July just to get where we were again.
Funny, how I say "we," isn't it? But it was "we." Me, his Dad and stepmom, his brother and sister, and all of his friends. We were rallying for him, and ours were here rallying for us, and...all told...we were a bit frayed. The relief we felt when we got the good news was wonderful. Brian told me he felt like he should be tethered to the ground, or he'd float away, after feeling so heavy for the last 3 weeks.
I remain, if you couldn't tell, ridiculously proud of my son. He showed courage by standing his ground when he was denied a meeting with his Colonel. He conducted himself with grace when he shook the hands of the men who were only doing their jobs. He turned a deaf ear to provocation, and showed up to work hard and prove himself worthy of reinstatement.
When Brian entered the second phase of EOD school, on January 11, 2013, his Colonel had $100 bet that he'd have the highest grade point average.
In the next post I'll give you some of the highlights of some of the toughest months of his life, physically and mentally. And there will be photos, of course, of the graduation.