This week, I’ve been working alongside Drew to fill out the Form DD-293. It’s rehashed so much of our past and will likely headline some of our future. I don’t know that one could call a nightmare ‘calm’… but that’s where we are now. In the deep, shark infested waters. What they don’t know is, we’re predators, too. And they’re in my crosshairs.
How does poverty happen? What causes homelessness? What kind of monster drives our veterans to the safety of the woods and families to the unforgiving pavement outside your local city bus depot? The answer is manifold. There is no single response to these queries, nor is there a ‘quick and easy’ solution. I won’t attempt to list the reasons people are impoverished, but there’s a pastor by the name of Hugh Hollowell in Raleigh, NC who endeavored an example of the process — I like his style. He’s come the closest I’ve heard to getting it right.
There’s almost always a chain of emotionally charged events leading up to one tragic moment. Before that moment, you’re full speed ahead. You work desperately, challenging everything as you bluster forward, ever believing you’ll be victorious — though you likely don’t know what ‘victorious’ even means yet… You may not even know what you’re fighting. So maybe you battle the wrong demons in your struggle. Distraction is a beast and a bully.
I’ve a copy of a Navy “Record of Counseling,” otherwise known as a “counseling chit“ which was issued my husband in early 2012. There are indiscrepancies, lies, and even a rather questionable reference to me — and it’s considered a legal document. During his time in the military, Drew often felt ostracized by his division. It wasn’t until he was officially discharged that we realized just how badly they’d wanted him out. We did what we could where we were to help ourselves… but inevitably, we became homeless, jobless… and because someone had it out for him, a mistake which should have resulted in a slap on the wrist turned into a General Under Honorable discharge with an RE-4 and HKA…General Under Honorable discharges:
- lose ALL their benefits…
- …even their GI Bill [college money]
- are branded pariahs
- often have more difficulty finding jobs than newly released convicts
RE-4 is a re-entry code which tells potential future recruiters what level of re-entry this individual is recommended for should he or she wish to return to any branch of the military. A level 4 is the worst and translates to “we really hate this guy and he’s just not military material, the worthless piece of $#!%…”
HKA is the separation code, which in this case translates to, “discreditable incidents, civilian or military”.
And that’s how it happened. That’s how we became homeless. We had no savings. I didn’t have a job. We were living in military housing… until he called me on the phone and said those horrific words.
The rest of the conversation, slurred snippets…
“…45 days restriction… 1/2 pay… times 2…” [translation: he was restricted aboard ship for 45 days, 2 months of which he received only half his pay.]
“…severance package… bring me my… from home… Babe? You there? Laura…??”
The world blurred back into clarity as my heart somehow came back online. I robotically gathered his requests and tossed them in the back seat of the truck. I painted on a lipstick smile I hoped would shit the pants of anyone who dared cross me further.
So you see how it happens.
Lose job. Lose home. And if you’re not careful, lose yourself. Because it’s not this easy-going responsibility-less walk in the park. It’s waking up tomorrow knowing you don’t have responsibilities because they were stripped from you. And God help you if you found your identity in that job [men, I’m looking at you, in particular].
It’s stupid simple how quickly and easily one can become homeless. Not so much for getting back to ‘normal’.
We were lucky. We were new minimalists — and in the months prior to the discharge and our subsequent move, we began the lengthy process of de-sensitizing our relationships with material goods, making jettisoning things a little gentler… but make no mistake, circumstances like these are never, ever easy.
It’s the slowest, most petrifying freefall one may experience. All you can do… is dive. And pray you’ll still be standing when you land.