Conduct Unbecoming
of the U.S. Army

A soldier is betrayed first by her friend and comrade, then by her command. How one woman prevailed over evil and indifference.

“Administrative discharge.”

The words stung, like I had just been slapped or spit upon. I couldn't follow the rest of the lieutenant colonel's words. Only that the man who raped me was being given an honorable discharge.

My commander was small in stature and had skin deeply creased with age and experience. He always came off warm, calling me by my first name and offering support and understanding. This time, his friendly demeanor gave a surreal character to his “good news.” He intended to give my rapist, his NCO, an Administrative Discharge under Honorable Conditions.

The same shock, disbelief and denial that I had felt after the rape overwhelmed me. I was back on the couch, trembling and in tears, as J slept on his bed, his gun close by. I had sat there then, trying to make sense of what had happened, how a friend—my supervisor and brother-in-arms—could betray me. Now, I was dazed by the betrayal of the Army.

In the cold, makeshift conference room, I was outranked and outnumbered. I sat across the table from my commander and a major; beside me was a female lieutenant, my cold, makeshift advocate.

I fought to stay in control. Anger, building since the attack, boiled up.

J would keep his rank and his benefits. His record would be unblemished. J could reenlist the day after his discharge, and conceivably return to his place on the state honor guard, carrying caskets and folding flags for those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

The thought repulsed me.

“With all due respect, sir,” I said with the intensity of barely controlled fury, “that isn't acceptable to me. I don't ever want to see this man wearing this uniform again, leading troops again, or dishonoring another veteran at their funeral.”

My commander, Lt. Col. M, wrestled away a wry, uncomfortable smile as he looked around the room, unsure of how to react to my challenge. Gingerly, he reminded me that this action would mean that J would be out of the Army and would no longer hold a position of authority. Lt. Col. M said that this was all he could do, that he didn't have the power to deal a harsher punishment.