Cherish Hodge

Military Prison

I am mystified, attracted and moved by the power of one’s energy. I find energy deeply in places I have never been and I am forever reminded by simple tunes, vibrant memories, spoken words and the temperature of air of where I have physically placed energy before.

I recall Korea as if it were a great war, forgotten graveyard and moment in time when all other things melted away leaving me and those I had to survive with alone in a position of space no one else entered. I recall this great and fearful place with harsh feelings and even pleasant memories because of the human impact and cost. Both were great; both left their mark and continue to. So was the place I would come to know well whether I liked it or not.

I left Ventura, CA… as an ego driven, lost, confused, angry, depressed, hopeful, positive, naïve, soft little girl. I had in no way grown into any type of understanding of the world around me. No one at the age of 19 is ready for the undertaking I stepped up for. Still, we all step up on our own accord, as I did too in the beginning summer months of ‘03.

Just a girl… When I came back I’d be even more screwed up and unrecognizable to myself. I’d come back with so much to say and remember. I’d come back with my own maladjustments, misguided judgments, broken marriage and very damaged system. I don’t know what else I was supposed to come back with. I had just gotten out of prison and prison makes for hard times and hard feelings. Still, as sure as the flowers did find reason to grow even where too much blood had been shed, I would find reasons to grow too. Into a better friend, a better daughter, a better wife and even a mother before my own time. Out of the broken pieces and very burnt ash, I had emerged with more materials to construct my own puzzle pieces out of.

This too can be said for my childhood, for my early years in marriage or early years as a mom but there’s a unique flavor to military prison time. You don’t just jump on your battle buddy’s bed when you’re bored, you jump on his body to save it both literally and not. Your hours sometimes are counted by the amount of time you spend checking in on their “mental health” or removing them from the scene of a very bad crime. Whether that crime is against themselves, humanity or another person, you learn to grab the back of the person next to you almost instinctively. There are benefits to this but those benefits were over shadowed too often.

You really did become too afraid to awaken because in those first futile moments of arousal when you can’t move your arms yet, there was no telling if the alarm sounding was real or fake. It’s like your genetic makeup told you that all attempts to fight would be worthless because you knew everyone was incredibly drunk or hung over and wouldn’t even respond to the alarm but you still had to try despite what your molecular structure told you was best. In the responding moments before an attack, after what we were repeatedly exposed to in prison, it made more sense to laugh and sit back and wait to die then fight. That was the primal instinct constructed within us through the military.

I lost friends in prison. Lost them to the drug passed out by our command – alcohol. Lost people I didn’t know and lost people I would’ve liked to have known. Even those that could’ve potentially raped me, I felt a kinship with. I felt moved and full of the life force around me because we all shared the same burden. I loved my brothers and sisters. Thank god I was never fully violated by them because the death of that family would’ve cost my sanity very dearly. I did love them so. Especially the new ones. The new children to be abused. We hated the same things, felt the whip the same way and could still recall what it was like on the outside. The food, the human rights, the personal dignity. We still could remember the taste of the outside whereas the old inmates could not. So we usually could not connect with our elder, more wiser, more abusive “counterparts.” Maybe that was a good thing.

I tend to start these reports with enthusiasm and even happiness towards the military. But once the writing gets deeper, I tend to forget. Real feelings come out. The black and white of these pages reminds me of the black and white life we lead and how it caused too much red. I guess memories might retain their merit if left in one’s head for only that tiny, believing audience to observe.

Parents Of Warriors

In my darkest hour, I wonder at times why we have children anymore. Aside from the biological natural processes, aside from the knee-jerk reaction coming from know-it-all inquisitives, I begin to ask this question daily on a spiritual level.

Why do we raise precious eyes, chubby hands, warm skin, soft, thin, wispy hair and golden laughs if we are to raise them to travel their grown but not forgotten beauty onto a path of death and haunted warring? I’m daunted by the shame we face when we sew socks and build coffins… buy backpacks full of school supplies and finance bombs that shatter schools resembling shacks.

What then do I say to my son when he wanders into the sun with a rifle on his back and a bullet mark on his chest? This is beyond saving our way, saving our values or saving our ass. This is sending our barely grown babies to stand within a machine-made storm that doesn’t have to exist. Are we powerless when they are tiny and some ill willed condition threatens their unbridled face of innocence? Not for a second.

Then why now mothers and fathers are we powerless while receiving flags upon our laps, situated in front of Our Blood, our barely recognizable, cold, hardened, hidden children who lie silently in a standard issue tomb?

As a mother, as a soldier, as an American, I still cannot find substantial reasoning. I question any parent and their professed unconditional love who indeed can. I am not fighting with the rightful notion that you cannot force your child as an adult to avoid military service or military belief. Parents must delicately encourage their child where they can. But then knowing that your son or daughter is now far away, alone and in the hands of bombed fate, you must rise up and be the soldier your child can lean on. Working to end wars, investing in common ground, forcing governments to promote peace and peaceful relations should become the cornerstone of each day. Because each day, the cornerstone for their child is just trying to survive. It is beyond work, beyond just a job and beyond simply trying to do service—to try and survive something they honestly don’t even understand.

My Body

When I was nothing more than a nineteen year old girl, I thought my body was at its best when in the middle of a war machine, when helping to build and create the structure that would deny others the access to health, safety, family, happiness and love. This is only a minute synopsis of the body moving through military time and space.

Fast forward several years and we are at the good part.

Now my frame has not only made, but cradled life within it. My hands are no longer dirty. I use them to steady my son while he sleeps on my lap, occasionally picking up his tiny, pudgy, delicate, gentle little perfect hand. I wonder at times what his beauty will be forced to do. I no longer hate or help to take life. I welcome, enjoy and do truly whatever it takes - even if it takes speaking truth - to protect life. This is something the military, war and public opinion has tried to take away from us all, but I stole it back - my divine right as a human and as a woman.

I stole it back.

Mental Confessions

It never comes out right. All thoughts race to the finish line of my mind to be the first born under a moment of honesty about the reality that faces us day to day. Slapping at us happily like history when we rolled around in the dirt angrily, while someone watched joyously, yelling it out relentlessly, "this will teach you to be a man!" Even for the most poetic of "our kind", I feel within my bones it is all the same. What energy or faith could be placed on words when we don't even speak the same language of the heart?

Go. Simply, just go and see. And I don't mean the bronzed monuments or wall of names or areas of protests in your hometown. Go to where it all starts with the longing cries, itchy standard issued blankets, jimi deans and worn rifles that jam up every time you use them. Go where rounds go popping like cute little noises and annoy the butterflies that don't understand your intent on killing. Go where it smells to fucking high hell, where we purge altered solvency, take up home and make spoiled children of ourselves and our grandfathers' name. It's just a baby crying, a mom lying dead on her own floor, an old man begging you to stop, or a girl running away and being caught by 3 or 4 or 7 of our men. Just a young kid being loaded up, bound and gagged. All through time.... not just then or now but certainly later as well, by god, I promise you that. These moments cross our rivers of valued humanity and pilfer all that's good about life and light and love every moment we turn complacent and forget for even just a second what that military agenda really means.

Or stay. I don't care and I don't think at the end of the day, anyone else will either. There are bigger fish to fry with that goddamned ghost running around in my head.

"Name, date of rank" and so on it blabbers. Fool doesn't even know he's dead. But I do! I feel it in my soul. The words won't come and blood is shunted from my hands and a vein on my forward throbs and my shoulders tingle and my throat goes dry and I feel like crying and I feel like choking someone all at the same time. This.... whaling ghost won't just shut.... up....

"Name, date of rank."

I'll do anything to make it stop. Even go away again if it'll just stop.

See, what would one want me to say? I'm not out to turn your stomach or cop tears or provoke anger. I know nothing really will. Nothing had for me. Not the way it should've, anyway. For all the years and all the ghost still digging fox holes in their minds and sharing a smoke, do they go merrily agreeing while we plan our days blissfully and completely unaware of the fog rolling in on two kids: "Fuckin' A man. Fuckin' A. They ain't coming. No one can hear us and we don't belong anymore anyway, man, you know that. Wha', go home and tell them what you just did to that pig son of a bitch over there? They won't understand, man. This is your home now. We're your family. Just forget about it. You died a long time ago, you know. You're buried and already forgotten. Just forget about it. They won't want your problems anyway. No one wants us back."

We're all pale ghosts of a spirit that became entangled because of good intentions. Farm boys, city girls, and young fathers or struggling moms. I don't think anyone ever emerges the same, let alone better. That's not military agenda despite what their enlistment brochure says.

Again, they're still arguing:

"Don't you see, man? They took us away and shaved off some part of my mind along with my hair. That shit made us real, you know.... You try to be better, and they strike you down before you even get the chance. They just want bodies... Bodies and, you know... a Hometown Recruiter." It feels as though we're not human anymore. We're little mystical broken things to be studied and used to figure out what exactly went wrong. How come we broke so quickly? We pulled away and said no, put down our rifles and spoke out against the wrong, the terrible and the hushed. Broken, too when we first pulled into the driveway of the family home. We didn't belong here either even after the welcome backs and the hugs. Drunk most the time, can't keep a job; humor is sick, I guess no one finds dead animals, fucking drunk girls, or degrading other people funny; Can't be around women; their nothing but pussy to me. Even to other females, we're all equally hated - by each other and ourselves.

Men never grow up really. Men become fools and dangers to society, to their wives and kids. Mal adapted, mentally cracked. This is all too silent so we lay sleeping together to let us never be alone or reminded of that fearful loneliness that is also, "standard issue." This broke hearts the most. Around it goes in my head... "Anything to make the ghost shut up. A six pack, a bus ticket, a bottle of anti-depressants, anything to make it just shut up." And finally, like in most of life's matters, I'm assigned to formally realize there's no poetry to this. Poetry is pretty, rhythmic, lyrical and seductive. Its slightest spoken words will paste blush to your face, making you turn away and say "awe... how beautiful." But that's not what this is meant to be.

Such a sad, terrible thing to try and fit the mass reality into a small, simplistic mental image. This is entirely disrespectful though we try so very hard not to spit on our young fallen. What we did here, what we saw here, what we learned here to do anywhere and what we have now become are only your most vaguely recalled news headlines, brimming mental health facilities, piled VA paperwork and still so utterly alone drug addicts, alcoholics, victims of psychosis and inevitably suicide. Still, to my knowledge, the only poetry that infiltrates our lives is the poetic justice we strive to know about. Indeed, it feels warm to hear it. However, that justice does not, my friend, belong to any soldier or man known of god within the walls of warfare. That justice, our signed away standard issued justice, reeks of dead souls and faceless demons rotting inside my mind every hour of every day. Reaching, continuously, and ever so asking "Why? Why not me? Why, for god sakes, wasn't it me?"

I bow my head in humility when I confess what I have felt. What my ghost has recanted and shared with me. Still, I collapse to floor when I hear a tiny voice inside my heart suggest it's own agenda: "Why not us all, soldier? Why not us all..... We should all have a ghost in our mind. We'll breed the suicide, the festering anger and the phantom pain. We'll help those who wish to truly understand and even those who don't care to. We'll reenact shameful moments, even the ones we'll be seen as evil for. Where we ruined the weak, stole life from the frail and laughed the entire time. We'll remain incoherent, fall down drunk and vomit on open sidewalks. We'll look for a strong necktie or rope or several VA issued bottles of numbness that will make it all go away... We'll share the "sacrifice" we sought after with those good intentions. We'll share it all... Then maybe one day, too, our ill fated poetry will sound the same."

Hum Of War

to the same nights under the same sky when these things come to us individually
where ever we are

laying down a soldier's head that never has been able to escape the battle cry,
the bayonet stabbing, the raping and killing

the scolding pats on the back for doing the same; hushing out what's left of conscious

comes the subconscious and the wars within self and within foreign grounds all
over again and again.

what use is there for a broken toy - with memories like a fish bowl of soft new eyes
being blown to bits or severed limbs blasted into a tree.

what use can be constructed for shoddy knees and unhealed fractures to body and soul.

no use.

still comes rustling, this sweet tune that goes serenading

like the far off distant hum of crickets and mosquitoes and children with napalm
tears still alive in their pointless death

still I can't flush the statement from our brethren's memory nor my own,

"this isn't about our decision to go for you.
This is about your decision to ignore our need of you."

My Body

What I Want

Cherish Hodge

I joined the military, like many, to serve our nation and bring about the change that had been called for by our leaders and members of our society. I joined to promote US relations, bring hope and freedom to those deprived, and to serve a greater good - not to attack another country and level and destroy their way of life. My main goal now is to ensure proper care for veterans and active duty military, to end this on-going war we were doped into fighting, and work for a badly needed, long over-due revamping of our military system - including providing promised rights to military personnel.

I studied at NCTI Paramedic School. I am a proud mother and an EMT living in Ventura, CA.