By Gloria Nesloney
Tears flooded my eyes when I could not see past the pain so many years ago. I am taken back to the time when wordy prayers seemed endless and aimless. I didn’t have real requests or supplications, only complaints, and sadness. It all started while I was assigned to my duty station in 1993. I requested liberty the weekend of Valentine's. It was a common practice to request leave in advance so that your duties were completed or someone could be placed in a position to fill in. A couple of others requested liberty on the same weekend. Our names were placed on a roster so everyone could see who was going to be out and who was staying to help with duties.
I saved some money to take a taxi to visit several locations outside the base. I had plans to eat a fancy lunch, go sightseeing, go shopping and finally spend the night off-base for the first time. I was captivated by the dew drops that lingered to collect under the leaves and then drip slowly to the ground. My moment of solace and quietness kept me at the forest long enough to stay before the evening hours.
As it started getting dark, I asked my taxi driver to take me to the mall. I stayed about three hours until the stores were beginning to close. As I was waiting for my taxi ride, I saw some of my platoon. They asked where I was staying. I didn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t want any company. So I told them I was going to continue to sightsee different areas around town. They waved goodbye and we parted ways.
Later that evening I checked into a hotel that most of the comrades mentioned because the rates were low and they had military discounts. The evening went well and I was looking forward to some quiet rest. However, that night, I had a nightmare, at least I thought it was a nightmare until I woke up. When I woke up I had a massive headache, unlike a regular migraine. I woke up in a bathtub that was running with water with a trail of blood. I had a gash on the back of my head and blood was dried on my hair. I had a head injury.
Oddly, I had no clothes on and the bathtub was overflowing. The trickling of water drops can be heard. How the heck did I hit my head? Why didn’t I have clothes on? Why was I in the bathtub? Why was the water overflowing? I stepped out of the bathroom to find something to wear. I found my clothes nicely folded and set on a chair in the bedroom. I don’t remember taking my clothes off. I had always slept with clothes on in case of an emergency. I also would not have showered until the morning. I was not a bath person. I am a very routined person. So, yes, I was confused.
When I fixed myself up and was ready to leave the hotel, the door was unlocked. That was when I realized something happened and the memory started coming. I never would have known that the nightmare was actually happening to me, physically. In the nightmare, a figure is opening my door, I remembered his face, his words, his last name, his cologne of Cool Water. I left scratches on his face and on his chest. In the nightmare, the perpetrator knocked me behind my head while he was raping me. He was from my platoon.
I told the hotel personnel about the incident, but they said it was a military issue and needed to be dealt with by the military. I was well enough to call a taxi from the front desk. I signed back in on the roster and I went to my Staff Sergeant to report the incident. When I pointed to the individual's name that was on the roster, I was told to leave the office or I would be reprimanded for slandering. I went back to the barracks and I was furious. I knew I was going to have to face the platoon Monday morning.
Before I was able to go to bed that evening, I was escorted by two Military Police. I was transported along with another female from my platoon. We were admitted to a hospital for evaluation and a rape kit was provided for us. I had never heard of a rape kit or a pregnancy prevention shot that was administered to both of us. We were interrogated. It was a terrible experience. We were sent back to the barracks and instructed not to speak to each other or speak to anyone about what happened. Early Monday morning, I stood in front of my Commanding Officer and the Administrative Committee which was going to determine my future in the military. I was treated like the villain instead of like the victim. The Staff Sergeant of my platoon just stood there watching me try to keep my bearing while I wished he would read my mind that was screaming inside, “TELL THEM THE TRUTH.”
That was the day I determined that I would tell the truth instead of being loyal. See in the military there is a code of conduct and nowhere does it say to be honest, it says to be loyal. No one was loyal to me the day I needed them to have my back, be on my side, and fight for me. I later found out that the individual who broke into my hotel room was not his first-time rape, I could only pray it would have been his last.
I had shame, guilt, and no will to live. I wanted to make my parents proud of me, but they couldn’t know the truth about my being raped, so I overdosed in a suicide attempt. Time was of the essence if I was going to survive, but no one knew how long I was out when I was found unconscious. No one knew why a seemingly happy young successful lady would want to hurt themselves. If anyone knew, it would be the Commanding Officer, the Administrative Committee, and my platoon Staff Sergeant.
You may have heard of people having an out-of-body experience, seeing the light, seeing heaven, seeing their bodies on the hospital bed. I didn't believe those kinds of stories either until it happened to me. It happened the day I died on April 7, 1993. However, I didn’t see light or heaven. I could not speak, but I could yell. However, no one could hear me. I saw myself from above my body, I could see the shadows of doctors working on me. I felt my body leave the ceiling and go to a dreary place where I saw sheer terror. It was like a battleground with souls scratching the walls as if trying to get out of a burning pit.
I was in complete darkness, but I could still see glimpses of those who seemed to be screaming but I couldn’t help them. I feared as I have never feared before. I had an encounter with death and visited hell. Though brief, it was enough to know that was not where I wanted to be.
What was supposed to be my career in military life was a crushed dream. My identity was labeled as TBI, MST, MPD, and PTSD. I no longer felt like a mighty warrior, so I didn’t believe it anymore. I shut down from anything called life and found myself at psychiatric appointments that only tried to treat my symptoms instead of the real issues. I was raped, I was hurt, I was angry, I did not trust people, and I hated my life.
I learned how to be cold, and bitter, and act out in bouts of rage. I learned to push people away. I would put on my stern, get out of my face, look, and not let people get close to me. From my military training, I learned how to fuel the fire that raged inside of me. I was going to be a mean green fighting machine. I had bottled up my emotions; eventually, they blew up like a volcano, an inferno that seemed inescapable. Sometimes I would be venomous toward those who cared for me or tried to help me. I had secrets I hid, I learned how to live a double life, and I learned how to harbor hatred in my heart. The spiral of life was only getting deeper, darker, and more dreadful. All those emotions exploded back in my face when I tried to live my reality without God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit.
On Labor Day of September 1995, I was sitting under the canopy of a shaded atrium and the smell of jasmine was in the air when I looked up at the trees above. Again I saw a small beam of light reflecting the dew under the leaf. I was taken back to all the other times I had seen this and the terrible triggers it brought. The Lord spoke to me and said, “Gloria, I will replace old memories with new ones.” So I prayed. There are still some things I don’t remember well from my past, but I can recall the miracles the Lord has done since. What really caught me off guard is that the Lord knows my name.
That day I fell. I fell hard. I fell hard in love. I fell hard in love with Jesus. For the first time, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I needed a change in my life, and thankfully, Jesus was the answer I was looking for. There were still issues of the heart that the Lord wanted to heal. One day the Lord asked me, “Gloria, will you allow me to love you?” Right away, I answered, “Yes, Lord, I will allow you to love me.” Then he asked me another question. “Gloria, will you allow Me to love you through someone else?” I came undone. I said, “Lord, you know I don’t trust anyone with my heart but You. No man has ever given me a reason to believe in love. You’re going to have to help me with this, but Yes, Lord I trust you. I will allow you to love me through someone else.” The Lord gave me a new memory, a memory of celebration when I was proposed to on Valentine’s Day in 2014 at the age of 40. My heart was healed, and my answer was “Yes.” I couldn't believe how safe I felt for the very first time with a man ever.
I have been given a second chance through the grace and love of God. I have found the purpose through the pain. My identity is not what I have gone through or what others have labeled me through the issues I went through. My identity is in Jesus and what He has done for me. Tears of joy flood my eyes now that I can see past the pain. The terrible memories are fewer and farther between. I am taken back now to when prayers were answered, miracles occurred, and I have been set free from the torment. I have found my reason to live.
I help others through inner healing from traumatic events. I found the answer to overcoming the casualties in my mind was through the power of prayer, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and salvation through Jesus. I learned how to lean on Jesus when I was scared, felt alone, or needed to cry on someone’s shoulder. I learned that what I have gone through is going to help others find hope in life, in their future, and in God.