(I started writing this on Monday night and wrote most of it then, but since beginning to write, I have had two more panic attacks while writing. I feel that I need to write this, but it has been difficult. Military School really screwed with my head)
Last weekend has been absolutely crazy. As I write this, I am incredibly sleep deprived. Since Saturday morning, I have gotten a grand total of 10 hours of sleep. Saturday night, I was finishing up some homework assignments (6000 words of text over the last few days! I counted) when my roommate brought his girlfriend into the room at 1 in the morning (I’m certain that we will be getting a call from security with in the next few days because of that). She was having some serious medical issues, but long story short, we ended up spending the rest of the night at the emergency room. By the time we got out, it was 10 in the morning on Sunday. I decided to try to just stay up for the next few hours and just go to bed really early that night. Unfortunately, I ended up crashing around 2, and I slept for the next 5 hours. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep well that night, and since I only had one 9:00 class on Monday and I still had a ton to write, I decided to pull another all-nighter. This was working fairly well until I decided to take a break at 3:00am. I was reading a thread on Reddit about a Christian re-education camp (http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/q6is0/) that brought back a flood of memories, many of which I had unconsciously suppressed, of a Christian military school that I attended when I was in 7th grade. Combined with lack of sleep and being somewhat high off caffeine, one of the top comments triggered a panic attack, which kept me up the rest of the night. That school did quite a number on me, and I had no idea how bad until these last few days when it all started coming back, particularly certain things that I had unknowingly repressed.
When I was younger I wanted to join the military. Because of this, my parents decided to look for a military academy because my parents and I (being the naive people we were, at least when it came to this sort of thing) thought that it would be a good experience. In our search, we found a military school that was advertised as a place to send your children to learn discipline and responsibility while having lots of fun doing military-esque activities (paintball, marksmanship training, etc.) and to prepare them for West Point. In reality, although we did play paintball one weekend, life is hell there. Of the 200+ cadets there, only one of them was actually planning to go to a military college. There were two others who were there just to try it out like me, and the rest were juvie rejects.
One fun thing that they have is in-school suspension (ISS). There are about 70 acres of woodland behind the school where they send you if you seriously misbehave. While you are out there, they force you to do back-breaking labor for 3-4 days with almost no food or water. This is enough to break many adults, and most of the cadets were in 7-9th grade. This only one example of the screwed up stuff they would do.
While I was at school, I sent 9-10 letters to my parents. Only 2 of them actually got to them. During lunch, they would go through all of the letters and read them in front of us. If they found anything that they found even remotely objectionable (ie. if we said ANYTHING negative about the school), they would make us sprint nearly a mile to the road and back. If they really didn’t like what we wrote they would send us to PT or to the Porch (more on that later)
They made my parents pay a ridiculous amount of money (which is part of why I didn’t stay. It was just too expensive) for food and lodging that rivaled that of our best interment camps. With bare bones dormitories with a thin, ripped up mattress to sleep on (if you look at the website, you will find that they don’t allow visitors in the actual student dorms. I wonder why?) and food that was so cheap and ill prepared that even though you were starving, you still didn’t want to eat it, all of this just added to the hell hole that was this school. At night they would lock down the rooms, and the TAC Officers would patrol the halls and outside the buildings to make sure we didn’t make any noise or try to escape.
Cleanliness was also an issue. While I was there, several of the cadets got staph infections and one kid my age was sent to the emergency room and nearly lost his leg. This sort of stuff is why they would never let visitors anywhere near the dorms. Most of them were built in the early 1900′s and probably had not been thoroughly cleaned in years. Sure, we would clean them every week, but with nothing more than brooms. I doubt they had been sanitized in a while.
There were two types of cadets there. There were the juvie rejects, who made up most of the student population, and there were the other cadets who, like myself, were sent there in an attempt to make us better men. Most of the latter group, myself included, and a good bit of the former group ended up breaking in some way. Often, the other cadets were actively involved in this process through bullying. Occasionally, one of the cadets would make a break for it, and he would get chased down by a few of the TAC Officers, who would then beat him half to death before bringing him back. The one time a cadet did get away, he managed to steal a change of clothes and hitchhike to a nearby town before he got caught. The school actually got the police involved and he ended up getting tased and spending a night in jail before they brought him back. Needless to say, he ended up spending every evening for the rest of the semester in PT.
If there was any minor misbehavior, we would either be sent to PT, or to the Porch. The Porch was what everyone called the Commandant’s office. At the school, the staff were allowed to use corporal punishment. If you were told to go to the Porch, you were to wait outside until the Commandant called you in. When he did, you would go in, and he would give you a lecture before spanking you. When you think of spanking, what do you think of? A few swats with a switch or small rod, right? Not a there. There, you would get the shit beat out of you with a cricket bat. It was horrible, enough to terrify anyone of any age, but especially someone of my age. Fortunately, the one time I ended up on the Porch, my offense was fairly minor, and he eventually let me off with a warning, but he spent a good 10 minutes lecturing me, while threatening to hit me with the bat by swinging it dangerously close to my head. I think he might have been getting off on it.
PT, affectionately called “Physical Torture”, was the other punishment for misbehaving cadets, or cadets that somehow pissed off one of the staff. On their website, they claim that PT isn’t related to their punishment system, but that’s a line of bull. PT consisted of several hours of intense physical exercise designed to make you drop from utter exhaustion. If you didn’t perform at the same level as everyone else or better you were beat and yelled at until you began performing better. I only got sent to PT once, but that is what completely broke me. While I was at the school, I actually developed a type of Stockholm Syndrome which manifested itself after PT when I actually thanked the TAC Officer for putting me through that hell. It makes me sick just thinking about it now, but at the time, it seemed quite logical.
This is not to say that it was all negative. I became more resilient after coming home, and I learned how to deal with tough situations, but that’s not really a fair trade off, especially in light of the last few days. There are two bills being considered by Congress right now (https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/s1667) I would greatly encourage you to call or write to your Congressman and tell him to support these bills in order to stop this kind of stuff from happening to other kids.