If you were to ask somebody who lost their leg, “Are you ever back to the same person?” No. You can get a prosthetic leg, but it’s different and it’s always gonna be different. It’s the same with the invisible wounds. Mine is on the inside. Originally I wanted to join the army. A Marine Corps recruiter showed up when I was seventeen and he did the “What? You think you can’t join the Marine Corps?” And I was like, “Watch me.” It was probably the toughest thing that I’ve ever achieved. Nothing came close to that pride. I got to Okinawa in 1999 I went in a skirt and a pink tank top and I was very proud to know that I was a strong woman. I was a Marine and to still be feminine and, you know, feel comfortable in that. I was blindsided. I dealt with sexual harassment. You know, I was one woman to every sixty men. And I had gone out one night, and I normally didn’t. I kind of kept to myself a bit and I went out and I was that night I was drugged and I was raped by my sergeant, who was my chain of command. Meaning he was the person that if something happened to me I have to go to to report. And I reported it and the more that I pushed for things to be done and for them to investigate it, the more repercussions came to me. Professionally, personally. You know, I was kind of blacklisted. Can you open that love? We usually got all this plus like four foamies all stacked up in the back of the truck. It’s very interesting, we met each other when we were in Okinawa and he left and a week later I was raped. So we remember each other as we were before we got together. We hadn’t seen each other for years and in 2012 when my husband returned from his third combat tour his PTSD was extremely apparent and he was not the same person. I have your phone, ok Jess? Did you close the front door? -Yeah. -Did you lock it? -I locked it, yeah. -Ok. And we built our family, you know, from both of us trying to recover from trauma. “He drank away the pain and all of the sorrow and all of his dreams for a better tomorrow. With every passing sip the memories had faded leaving him broken and terribly jaded. Feeling like a failure too afraid to come forward wishing their expectations could somehow be lowered. I worry all the time that this will all be too much and in the end I’ll lose out on the man that I love because he fought in a war that I will never understand with the heart of a boy and the eyes of a man.” (clapping) There’s needs that veterans have and I know that there are civilians that want to meet those needs but how to translate them writing is the bridge. Well there is that huge gap and with our poetry it allows that civilian world to see what we actually see instead of relying on the media or the TV which is so false anyway. And even though we block these emotions out, we can allow them to come out in a safe way and they stay on the paper instead of staying inside of us. The invisible wound part is the most difficult thing to translate but poetry lets me do that. Very shortly after I was raped I was separated with an other than honorable discharge. You know, I didn’t come home to this big “Welcome home Marine.” It was, you know, you’re no longer a Marine. I lost all my veteran benefits I was not eligible to go to the VA and receive mental health care. I had such severe PTSD. Thirteen years went by and this, you know, this was eating me up. It took over my life and I made the decision to fight. I believe whole-heartedly that in my situation, if the process of reporting the rape had been handled completely outside of the chain of command it would have allowed me to see my rapist convicted and sentenced to justice. Attorneys worked for four years on my case and the department of defense this January upgraded my discharge to general under honorable conditions and that meant that I was now eligible for VA compensation. It’s no secret that the government does a great job of sending people to war and a horrible job of taking care of them And people suffer horrible atrocities in the military. Something like yours. Why do we exhibit so much pride for something that has caused us so much pain? I think that Stacey’s case is, from my experience, extremely rare. I think that the people you’re talking to that have that incredibly bad attitude, that is not representative. You know, I’m angry at the man who did it. I’ve learned that that wasn’t the government. I can’t blame one organization for few people’s bad choices. The pride has never been lost. From the day that I graduated as a Marine, I have been proud of that. You know, I credit “Thank you Marines Corps for building me this way.” I learned that you don’t give up. You don’t give up. You figure out how to adapt to the new situation and overcome it. [Praying] You know, he’s not going to wake up one morning, my husband, and not have traumatic brain injury. But there’s this whole other post-trauma part of who Stacey is and who Jesse is and I’ve learned to fall in love with that. That, you know, when when no one else understands he does. And this strong me that people see now I don’t know that I would be the same woman had I not gone through what I went through. And I don’t know that Jesse would have the love for the life we have together had he not been so close to losing his own all those times. And being a glass mosaic artist, it has made me recognize the beauty in being so broken. You take these shattered pieces and you build back something that is remarkable.