Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blog Troll, Part II: Arrested


I revealed in July that I filed a police report against an anonymous troll that has been leaving nasty messages for me and anyone that commented on my blog for the last 6 years. And when I say nasty, I don't mean "your haircut sucks" nasty; I mean, "you should be raped" nasty.

I stopped posting comments to protect others from his wrath, and last Spring I finally shut them off altogether, in an attempt to shut him down for good.

By doing so, I poked a bear. He amped up his game by impersonating me, sending racist and sexist comments to my friends and family, and signing my name. Two of my dearest, instrumental in the repeal of DADT, received this message:

And to one of my best friends, who was instrumental in helping me capture IP addresses to turn into the police:
Lori Stewart has left a new comment on your post "Let's Get A Few Things Cleared Up":

Ad*m S*ndler is a dirty fucking jew that belongs in a cyanide gas chamber.

Control jews, not guns!

You AIDS-infected cunt.
It didn't take long for me to realize that this guy was sending me the very clear message that he was not going away.

When I posted that the police had found this guy through subpoenas to his internet provider, I did not reveal everything I knew, for fear of  hindering a still-ongoing investigation. I did learn that he lived in Urbana when the harassment began, and moved to the St. Louis area in '09. I can reveal now that

My blog troll is an information specialist working for the U.S. Dept. of Defense. He has security clearance in this country. He is 55 years old.

A $250,00 Warrant for his arrest was issued last Friday.You can read the article revealing his identity here.

He was arrested in his workplace on Monday. He has since been in custody of the St. Louis police. (Article here.)

I've been trying to write this post for a week, and I'm finding it difficult to explain how it feels to finally shut him up—and have him locked up. I am relieved. Ecstatic. Gleeful! What goes around comes around, and karma, baby, and all that jazz.

And yet, it also a bit unnerving.

I made every attempt I could to not let this guy have any impact on my life. I did not volley comments, or engage him in any sort of conversation, ever. And here I've spent the last week  contemplating this stranger, and what he must be thinking right now. Based on his past behavior, I doubt very much he's feeling sheepish or remorseful. Probably mad, wouldn't you think?

Each of us named in the complaint have expressed that it's unsettling to think that you've pissed off some monster that has made constant threatening comments wishing rape and death.

Oh, and I'm going to digress for a second, and address the "Well, did he threaten you directly?" question. It is true that he did not say he'd rape me, anally. He said I should be raped, anally, and afterwards that I should lick the shit off the cock that had just raped me.

...He only said I should be raped...over and over and over he said it.

"I'm sorry ma'am, but unless he threatened you directly, there's not much we can do." Whatever law that is should be removed from the books right this instant. Because, fuck that, that's what.

Sigh. I have written to friends that I fluctuate between feeling victorious and scared shitless. Our names are in the paper, and we have a case number, and there will be "stalking no contact orders of protection" issued for all of us. If there's a Not Guilty plea, we face testifying against him.

I'll do it in a heartbeat, of course. I'll put my father's protective U.S. Navy ring on a chain around my neck--it always keeps me brave and safe, and I'll don a red bra of courage, and I'll march my ass into a courtroom with my head held high, if I have to.
  • I hope this turns out just the way we want it to. 
  • I hope he's punished accordingly. 
  • I hope we all sleep more soundly. 
  • I hope there are other people out there that will be left alone now. 
  • I hope the definition of what is considered a direct threat can be revisited. 
  • I hope more people file reports, and don't sit around for 6 years like I did, and 
  • I hope when they do, they're listened to very carefully by law enforcement officials. 
  • I hope these stupid trolls and cyberbullies take note and realize that yes, we really can find you.
  • I hope anyone experiencing anything like this saves every comment, every IP address, and every record, for years and years if they have to, even when it seems like nothing will ever be done about it. 
  • I hope no one else ever kills themselves over dirtbags like this.

Friday, September 13, 2013

EOD School Part IV: Graduation Photos!

 August 23, 2013

Eglin Air Force Base: Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School

Ok, onto the good stuff: The photos! Graduation day was a hot one, but luckily the ceremony was at 8.a.m. I loved that: Beat the heat, and then we were out early enough to have the rest of the day with our graduate.

Brian's father, an EOD tech that works for Homeland Security, had the honor of pinning him. EOD can only be badged by another EOD, and Jeff qualified. It made the day a bit more poignant.

Jeff shortly before the ceremony, practicing not getting teary.

It began with the leaders of each branch of the military arriving:

 And the playing of the National Anthem.

Brian was second in line to graduate.

Jeff  accepted the badge that he'd pin on Brian.

The next photo tears me up a bit. I watched through the lens as Jeff whispered, and Brian took a breath and closed his eyes. I learned later that the words exchanged at that moment were "Let me see if I can do this without crying."

And then Colonel that tried Brian, realized what he was worth and reinstated him back into the school. He took his time to have a few word with each of the graduates. To Brian, he said "You proved us all wrong," and told him to take care of his guys.

And they made time for all of the Mamas to get all of the photos we wanted, before calling the next name.

18 men and 1 woman, representing each branch of the military graduated that morning. It took about 90 minutes, and then we all broke for hugs.

And then, of course, off to the beach!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

EOD School: Mama's Notes

Eglin Air Force Base: Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School

My kid has been wiped out for the last 8 months

Since last January, I've only called him on any weeknight in case of extreme emergency. Admittedly, said extreme emergency could mean something so hilarious that it warranted waking him up, but for the most part, I've left him alone, Monday through Friday.

Because he has left his home at 4:12 a.m. every morning for the last 8 months. How much calculation are you doing to sleep until the moment when you can get out the door, at 4:12 a.m., and not, say, 4:11?

Because study hall began at 5:30 a.m, and school started at 8. Some classes were held outdoors, and required attendance in a Bomb Suit, or, a chemical suit (2 different things, I've learned.) 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Guess what happened at 5 p.m., every day? P.T.. One hour of Physical Training wrapped up the work day. Military physical training.

96 degrees with 88% humidity. Welcome to Florida.
You can take me off in 9 hours, and drop and give me 100.

To boot, on this particular military base, if you're outside and on foot, you're required to run. So, at lunch you have the freedom to go out for chow, but you have to run the 1/2 mile back to your car. Then, when you're full of Burger King, you have to run back out into the woods and put that suit back on until 5:00. When it's then time for P.T., and you take it off and do jumping-jacks for an hour.

A few more tidbits:
  • They test every 2 to 3 days. Pay attention. Know the content. The classes were often compared to "putting a fire hose of information in your mouth." Comprehend or get out.
  • There was no homework because the information is classified and cannot leave the base. (Where someone's crazy mother might blog it.)
  •  No homework might sound Tony-the-Tiger-GREAT, but think about it: You leave the base with what's in your pretty little head...and that is it: PASS or FAIL in the morning. Sweet Dreams.
  • Anything less than 85% is an automatic FAIL. You may or may not get a 2nd chance to test. No 3rd chances. Nice knowin' ya, don't let the door hit you in the ass on ya way out.
  • Second attempt to PASS, if offered, is often conducted with one hand in your pocket. If you blew your arm off in the first test, how you gonna pass the second?  Minus 2 arms = no more school.
The courses:

  • Demolition Division
  • Tools and Methods
  • Core Principles
  • Ground Division--Grenades, Land mines, projectiles and rockets
  • Air—Guided Missiles, Aircraft Bombs and Dispensers
  • IED—Improvised Explosive Devices--live devices!
  • Biological and Chemical Weapons
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction

Brian would call and tell me "I got 100 on my test!" And I'd say "Yayyyy!" And then he'd say "Now  on to Land Mines!" And I'd say "LAND MINES?!! Oh. Yayyyyy!"

Other notes I've taken over the months:
  • IED phase sucked. He had a suit in which the fan stopped working and he thought he'd die. Really. He thought he'd die.
  • Chemical warfare suits are another thing altogether. They don't "let the water out," so you stew in your own sweat.
  • Air/Guided missiles were hard. HARD. My notes from my conversation with him read "guided missiles are smarter than I am. They are ridiculous. They are so fucking smart."

Hilarity ensued, at times:
  • One comrade, when forced to take a test with one hand, commented, confidently, "that's ok, I'm amphibious," while the others rolled around screaming and laughing "you're ambidextrous!" 
  • After one field class, Brian half-yanked his own arm off when he grabbed his rucksack, only to find it had been zip-stripped to the fence post it had been resting against.
  • One day he arrived to class early and put a sliver of a post-it note over the laser of the instructor's mouse. The CO made several attempts to get the program started, clacking and slamming and sliding the mouse around on his desk, until he turned it upside down to read, "Problem?"
  • One Sergeant First Class showed up to work one morning with a 5 o'clock shadow. Luckily, Brian always carries a disposable razor, so he left it, so helpfully, on the SFC's desk, with a note that read "From PFC Little." On the way out to the field, Brian informed PFC Little, in passing, "Sgt. First Class is really going to like that present you gave him." Little responded, "Present?" and then, after a pause, "What. Did. You. Do?" It wasn't long before Little was asked to report to Sgt. First Class's office.
  • Aircraft had everyone feeling disoriented. Left was right and up was down, and they had to learn to think differently to pass that one. Brian told me a story of sitting on the ground while he watched a classmate test. Said testee had his head in the aircraft, so Brian could only see his legs, walking to one end, and pausing for awhile, and then to the other and pausing.... He finally emerged from the craft, and asked, "S'arnt Jolley?" When Brian asked, "yeah?" His soldier asked, calmly, "what the fuck am I doing?"
I am a note-taker, and that's what I have from the last 8 months.

It was harder than all of that. I've observed my kid, from afar, heading to sleep at 6:30 p.m to rest up for the next big day. Relationships can only be precarious; how many women sign up for a guy that has to check out before the nightly news is wrapped up? Weekends? He is 27 years old, and his "wild weekends" have consisted mostly of relaxing at home.

It's been less than 2 weeks since he graduated, with a 96.8 GPA. He remains on leave, stunned that it's over, and secretly proud to have accomplished something that he's worked and fought for, for so long. "I feel like I'm gloating if I say how happy I am," he tells me, and I, of course, respond, "You SHOULD gloat! You should be proud! Wear it! Scream it from the rooftops!"

But, I may be his Mom.

Mom or no Mom, I have remained in the background, awestruck at all this person-that-happens-to-be-my-son has endured and conquered. I am stupid-proud of him, and I vacillate between taking some sort of actual credit for having raised such a fine young man, and dumbstruck wonder that, wimpy as I am, he's even my kid.
Next post: More photos, Less Yappin. I promise.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

EOD Graduation: A long time part 2—Trial

Part 1: Here

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.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

EOD Graduation: A long time coming, part 1.

My son's first tour in Iraq began in 2007, and it lasted 16 months. The things that he saw and did there are still coming to light for me, as time goes by and he reveals more, bit by bit. It was war and it was hell, for him and all of his comrades.

Shortly after settling back into Ft. Benning, GA, another soldier that has served in that ungodly tour with him grabbed a beer out of Brian's refrigerator. It turned out that that young man was only 20 years old, and in the course of the evening, Brian was arrested and hauled off in handcuffs, for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was stripped of his rank, and fined half of his wages for 6 months. He was back to square 1, a private in the Army. Again.

Fast forward to 2012: Another year in Iraq.  Ft. Benning to Ft. Hood, TX, a lot of hard work. Graduation from Air Assault school. Testing back through the ranks to Sergeant. With this under his belt, he applied to and was accepted to one of the toughest physical and academic schools the military has to offer: The Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, located at Eglin AFB, Florida.

The first leg of the school began in Fort Lee, VA. This school established, essentially, "separation of  the men from the boys": Fail a test, leave the school. No second chances. It was bombs and bomb symbols, and fuses and smoke and fire and explosions in different languages. Every test he took left us all holding our breath until we got news of his Pass/Fail status.

He passed. On July 22, 2012 he finished up Phase I, and Phase 2, the EOD school in Florida began July 25. Ready to hit the road to report, at the last minute he was denied his leave papers. For days he waited, missing the beginning of courses in Florida while his classmates moved forward without him. It was soon revealed that the cause of the delay was due to government security clearance: It was under review.

My son's security clearance status was being scrutinized because 4 years earlier, a 20-year-old soldier that had served 16 months in Iraq grabbed a Miller Lite from his refrigerator.

For the next 3 months, Brian walked back and forth almost every day to check in to see what the status of his clearance was, and if his leave papers were coming. Mind you, he was only in Ft. Lee for a class that he had finished. He had no job, no role there, and thus, had only to report every morning for a role call of sorts, then wait around to check on the status of his paperwork.

He was sometimes told to come back in 3 days, and so he wandered, boating or camping until it was time to come back again. While that may sound lovely, it was a frustrating and tense for all of us. What if they didn't grant the clearance? Could he really be kicked out, for such a minor offense that occurred years ago? Where would he go next? Back to Ft. Hood? To a new base?

It was late October before his clearance was finally granted and his leave papers handed over to him. He had 1 month to come home and visit, and was to report to Eglin AFB the day after Thanksgiving, 2012. We had our turkey dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving then, and bid him adieu when he hit the road on Tuesday.

In the interim, he spoke with his commanding officer at Fort Lee. "Report to Eglin on Monday," Brian was told. "There will be no one there to do in-processing over the holiday weekend."

And so, he did, he holed up at the Holiday Inn Express in Niceville, FL, for the weekend, and reported in on the Monday following Thanksgiving...where he was promptly handed an Article 15: A nonjudicial punishment, for being late. AWOL. He was removed from enrollment in the school, and it was recommended that he be stripped, once again, of his rank and wages.

I will never forget his phone call informing me that he may very well be kicked clean out of the Army. Stunned. He was stunned, I was stunned, everyone was downright stunned, and so, so heavy of heart. 

After 4 months, we were back  in a holding pattern, waiting daily for any news of the ongoing investigation, and a trial date.

To be continued.