There are many American’s who may righteously say, "America has come a long way", in the wake of the election of our country’s first African-American President, Barack Obama. Or some may argue, “President Obama was elected far before his time”. Needless to say, the old South continues to be a reflection of years past, as it appears to be stuck in a time warp of racist politics and insistent bigotry.
Growing up in a small, predominant black community in the South - during the post-civil rights movement - prejudice and racism didn’t disguise itself. The elders in my community knew how to protect their descendants from racial brutality by simply not talking about it. And black families were forced to live in segregated communities. Today, Southern Confederate racism continues to be a malignant epidemic, passed down from generation to generation.
Leaving home over 20 years ago to join the military, I vowed to myself that I would never return to Buford, Georgia, the Deep South. But God was at the helm, steering my life at the time. Buford is located just 30 miles northeast of Atlanta and its registered industrial history dates back to the early 19th century. The small town was once known as the “The Leather City” of the South, due to its long standing manufacturing of leather goods; ranging from boots for our military soldiers during the previous World Wars, and manufacturing of horse collars used in dozens of old Hollywood western movies.
In early 2010, the Lord had other plans for my life when my mother suffered a near fatal hemorrhagic stroke caused by a brain aneurysm. My first visit to the intensive care unit (ICU) hospital room was surreal and emotionally painful. When I walked into her room, the faint sound of my mother’s breathing was overpowered by the rhythm of my own elevated heartbeat. As tears began to swell in my eyes, I desperately wanted to hear her call me by my middle name, “Lynn”, a name I detested hearing as a child. Just to hear the sound of my mother’s voice would’ve brought comfort to my soul.
I had witnessed the voice of others drown out voluntarily and involuntarily throughout my Navy career. In that moment, I began to reflect back on each decision I had made over the course of my life. Each one provided me wisdom and acted as a catalyst for me to overcome a series of obstacles I faced along the way. As a lieutenant commander Supply Corps officer, serving in the United States Navy I moved to San Diego, California in January, 2006. I had plans to complete my final tour of duty then retire from the Navy after twenty years of honorable active duty service. Those plans quickly changed after I chose to follow a moral high ground which was along the path of righteousness.
While seeking justice throughout my case, God gave me the strength and courage to not be afraid when I decided to report my bosses for committing fraud against the American taxpayers and for violating several articles of my Constitutional rights, and articles under the military’s own uniformed code of military justice (UCMJ), which is governed under the laws of the Constitution. I would soon become a targeted federal-military whistle blower.
As an experienced senior officer, I remained committed to my fiduciary responsibility to upholding the federal laws amended under the Constitution. As a sworn custodian of American’s tax dollars, it was my official duty and responsibility to ensure strict compliance and enforcement of all federal acquisition rules and regulations, at all times, during the execution of public funds.
To this very day, despite my recent set-back, I am blessed and sincerely proud of having had the opportunity to train and mentor junior sailors and other military service men and women and to have been mentored myself. While contributing to the Navy’s mission of successfully maintaining a high retention and advancement rate of our sailors, strongly encouraging and promoting off-duty education, ensuring effective on-the-job training while improving professional and personal development, had been especially pleasing to me.
I view my situation as both humbling and as an eye opening experience. I strongly believe in the philosophy, quoted by Abraham Lincoln, “The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.” This statement applies to women as well. All experiences are educational and should ultimately be used as a positive opportunity to improve.
My family and I are forever grateful that God spared my mother’s life. My mother and my grandmother are the core of my strength. Today, I’m able to appreciate the remarkable gift of strength, courage and candidness that was passed down to me. I would not be alive today had it not been for these two extraordinary women. By the grace of God and the advice and wisdom from each of them, I am able to finally break free from my silence to share the heroic tales of tragedy, perseverance and triumph of my life’s journey and adventures, throughout my story.
My story is a modern day Scarlet Letter story of how I worked as a Supply Corps officer in the Navy and was prosecuted, fined (nine thousand dollars) and was sent to prison on specious grounds of committing adultery. This came after I blew the whistle on military corruption at the height of the U.S. Post 9/11 War on Terrorism. Differing from Nathaniel Hawthorne's romantic fiction, what I went through during the final years of my Navy career is a true story about my pertinacious fight for justice. Similar to Hester Prynne, Hawthorne’s main character in his book “the Scarlet Letter”, I was forced to trade my Navy lieutenant commander golden oak leaf and stripes – which I proudly wore on my military uniform - for a symbolic "A" for adultery.
Although adultery is not considered a crime in civilian courts, the Navy's top brass who went after me, abused their authority and used the uniform code of military justice (UCMJ) as a weapon to destroy me. They wanted to silence me and discredit me any way they could. I am the only non-married female officer in the history of the U.S. military to be sent to the brig (prison) for adultery. Those who operate in darkness and seek to cheat and defraud the government, banded together in an effort to destroy me and use my conviction as an "example" to behold.
Through the pages of my memoir, you will see parallelism between my marriage to my military career and a civil marriage, and how painful it was for me to experience decades of sexism, racism, betrayal and scandal, while struggling to create a new life filled with dignity, joy and self-acceptance. You will also read shocking details of how I risked it all to reveal the truth behind the iron curtains of the U.S. Navy, only to find myself kicked out of the military five-months short of qualifying for an active-duty retirement pension and veteran benefits.
I am a federal whistleblower who maintained my integrity throughout my career, trial and incarceration. And my spirit is unbroken. My faith in God is firm and I will continue to fight until my final breath for justice in this case. Faith brought me to it and faith will bring me through it. Despite the pain and tribulations I endured, I continue to stand firm on my conviction to honoring the Lord's purpose for my life. I live a life unashamed and my faith in God has been truly tested. I now proudly wear the Scarlett Letter "A" the Lord has bestowed on me which stands for “Advocate”.
It is within the depth of my soul that I righteously believe, “Speaking truth to bring internal peace in one’s life is a moral win that cannot be measured in court or by the eyes of man.” My decision to blow the whistle on my bosses brought me peace but for years I continued to be haunted by the demons of my aggressors. For me to free myself from their mental captivity, I bring you “Broken Silence”.
My story expresses who I am, where I’ve been and where I come from. I hope it offers inspiration to other victims of abuse, of any kind, by encouraging them to take a stance when faced with adversity or conflict. Never forget who you are or where you come from. Continue to trust and believe in God to guide you along your path of righteousness.