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Excerpt from “Life of a Baby Boomer”: Or My Life in the Brig!

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THE LIFE OF A BABY BOOMER1966

Below is an excerpt from Steve Stinnett’s memoir, “Life of a Baby Boomer: Above is a picture of my friend and I, but he never spent time in the brig with me! He was always a lucky dog!

Chapter Twelve

  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day

    has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

The brig on board our ship was referred to as a red line brig because of the red lines, the color of the marine corp., that were painted in front of every cell, hatch, or door.  If a prisoner ever touched a red line, he was worked over by a marine for a few minutes, and it hurt—it hurt badly. This type of justice changed by the seventies because of abuses within the system, but it was in full effect back in the sixties. I tried to keep in mind my small mustard seed of faith, but things looked bad for me.

As a matter of self-preservation, I had the program down in less than twenty-four hours. Although it’s been over forty years since I was in the brig, I still remember every word I had to recite in order to move in that environment.

If I said everything was structured in this situation, it would be a wild understatement. At shower time, I was allowed thirty seconds to soap, thirty seconds to wash, and thirty seconds to rinse. I never learned what would have happened to me if I didn’t shower in those ninety seconds because I wasn’t about to take that chance. During mealtime, I had to eat every item on my food tray in three minutes.

After we ate, we left the chow hall as a group, and we marched in half-step with one finger through the belt loop of the sailor in front of us, looking straight ahead at all times. It reminded me of those lines we used to form in kindergarten via the buddy system.

Getting back into my cell was something I’ll never forget, and believe me, I’ve tried. I’d enter the brig with my shoe at the red line, not touching it. As loudly as possible, I’d shout, “Sir, Prisoner Number 3312 requests permission to speak to the duty turn-key, Sir.”

While I shouted, the marine guard slammed the iron cell door back and forth. If my foot had accidentally touched the red line, the grill would have smacked me in the face. After three tries, I was allowed to formally speak.

I then shouted, “Sir, Prisoner Number 3312 requests permission to enter the brig, Sir.” I had to repeat this procedure for every step I took. It usually took fifteen or twenty minutes to actually arrive back inside my cell.

No matter how much they tried to humiliate me and crush my spirit, I learned that if I followed orders, kept my mouth shut, and accepted my fate, I’d get out in two weeks. At night, I’d repeat Bible verses I’d learned in Sunday school and that helped me survive the two weeks. The major harassment ended in two days so long as I continued to follow simple procedures. The worst part for me was when there was a parents’ weekend where a thousand relatives came aboard for one day.

I remember marching to the chow hall, half-stepping with my finger in the belt-loop of the sailor in front of me and hearing little kids laugh as they pointed at the funny way we were walking. The stares and the whispering of the adults burned in my soul. I’d always planned to reenlist and make the navy my career, but this humiliation and powerlessness made me realize I’d never serve more than the next two years.

When I was sent to the brig, another sailor also received fourteen days correctional custody for under-age drinking as well. While I learned to work within the structure of the program, causing the harassment to stop, unfortunately, the other sailor couldn’t accept such harsh treatment. He told the marines to lock him in a cell and release him after the fourteen days were over.

Since we’d been reprimanded to the brig, we were now under the jurisdiction of the marine corp. and must comply with their uniform code of military justice. The other sailor refused to comply and his sentence was doubled. When I was released after the two weeks, that sailor was sent to a military prison. This meant his non-compliance had earned him over ninety days of prison time. I prayed he would make it through his time served.

While in the brig, we never had access to counsel or guidance. The other sailor was sent to a military prison because he thought the punishment harsh and unreasonable. Justice could be capricious at this time in the military.

Earlier in my career, I’d met a bartender at a bar in San Francisco who was captured by the F.B.I. for being A.W.O.L. for eleven years, and all he received was six months in the San Diego brig. I learned later that he’d been reinstated to his original rank and allowed to complete his military duty. To me, underage drinking seemed a far lesser crime than going A.W.O.L., but his punishment seemed light compared to ours.

The final incident that convinced me not to re-enlist when I completed my commitment happened to my division officer after I got out of the brig. He was a chief warrant officer, 4th class (CWO4), the highest rank within the enlisted ranks. He’d been in the navy for twenty-eight years, and he was a gold striper, meaning he had a perfect record, with no disciplinary marks against him.

During his last two years of service, he wanted to be stationed in Alameda, California, where he’d bought a house and settled with his family in preparation for his retirement. The navy ordered him to Atsugi, Japan, to serve his final commitment. In spite of all the appeals and letters he wrote, he was still sent to Japan. It came down to the needs of the navy, and the loyal service he’d given to his country for twenty-eight years counted for nothing.

With these incidents fresh in my mind, I determined to serve out the rest of my duty honorably, but I would not sign up for another four years. I still believe that every able-bodied person should serve their country, and I’ll never regret my time in the service. The navy gave me outstanding experiences and helped me grow in body and mind, but I think as an organization it still should keep in mind the needs of the people serving their country.

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After my stint in the brig, I did learn to consider the consequences of my actions. My faith in the unseen grew stronger. There was something bigger and more powerful out there, and if I listened carefully, I would be led where I needed to go. During those two weeks in the brig, alone at night, with the darkness surrounding me, God gave me strength to survive the hardships. I was ashamed of my weaknesses, but where I was weak, God was strong. Once I’d served my obligations to my country, it would be time to move on, and God would lead me wherever I needed to go. I’d learned to appreciate the fact his forgiveness was total and came without strings.

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Sometimes when I’m feeling discouraged I find I like to reread chapters of my husband’s book for inspiration. I hope you enjoy these chapters as well. If you’d like to purchase his book, its on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/LIFE-BABY-BOOMER-Steven-Stinnett-ebook/dp/B00CMTCGT0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1438471768&sr=8-2&keywords=Life+of+a+Baby+Boomer

Thanks for stopping by.

Bren

 

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