Poetry to Help Sooth the Soul (Original Poem called: The Box)

It is finally here. My poem that I promised y'all so long ago. This is also the longer version (and blunter) of my Ms. Veteran America audition. So, here it is my poem and I hope y'all appreciate it. It is a rare occasion that I show my artistic side.

The popular belief is that women in the military are raped all the time.
Raped by men and women that they trust.
Raped by a system of patriarchy that will continually hold them down.
But I was never raped.
I got a few names thrown my way; bitch, slut, bossy, controlling, crazy, cunt.
But never raped.
I don’t fit the box of a victim that the public wants me to be stuffed in.

This military “rape culture” is plagued with women with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Reliving their attacks again and again. Wondering what could have been changed.
But what about the women like me who have all these problems?
The psychiatrist and social workers try to pry out some semblance of rape and misconduct from these women who sit across from them.
Thinking that we will finally break down because we are not being watched by our commanders and friends.

I battle all these things on a daily basis and not because I was raped.
It is because of getting the report that a colonel who commands the area I look after got his legs blown off two hours prior to me getting onto shift.
It is having my base attacked by exploding vehicles and mortar rounds and having your soldiers scarred for life because they had sniper fire wiz past them and grenades explode close to them, while you could do nothing about it.
It is the guilt that so many of my friends and co-workers died and will never get to see their families again and I am still here.

But that doesn’t fit your narrative.
I do not fit in your box and I never will.
I refuse to fit in that tiny, dank, and constricting box.
This person you see before you is a badass woman who fought for her rights and yours.
I am a woman who refuses to be your stereotype of what a veteran is.
I am a woman who will fight until her last dying breath.
I will not lie down and be your victim.
               -To be your martyr.
                     -To be your stereotype.

I raised my right hand and swore to protect the United States, next to other men and women.
I am a small percentage of a small percentage who volunteered.
Women in the military receive equal pay for equal work. We are not part of the rest of sisters who do not get paid for doing the best job that they can do. Sometimes even better than their male counterparts.
Our pay is based on experience and time and how we contribute, just like the men that stand next to us.
It’s through Army Major Lisa Jaster, Captain Kristen Griest, and Lt Shaye Haver, that determined women can wear the tab of Ranger.
It is through the actions of women like Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who created the first programming language for computers and Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins, who was the first woman to pilot a space shuttle, that I could be the leader my soldiers saw me as.
And through the countless number of women who disguised themselves as men in order to fight for their country during the Civil War, that the thought of women in the military even was possible.

We have shown our country and the world that we are fierce.
       -That we are warriors
                 -That we cannot be stopped, no matter how many times everyone says we cannot.

If you refuse to change the culture, then I will.
If you continue to be boxed in by their stereotypes, then I will be the exception.
I will be your voice if you are silenced.
Action is the only way to change the culture we were confronted with.
So unless you take up the guide-on and shoot out of the box, then you will always play into their narrative.
I will not be their ideal woman.
I refuse to give them the satisfaction.