Bruises to BUD/S

Growing up there was a lot of things in my life most kids never get. There were two parents, there was travel, birthdays, an education, and a home with food in the fridge. But if you dig deeper, past the surface you can see that my parents were at each others throats more times then not, that I was always being shipped away from my father, stolen away from my mother, or flown to see my grandmother in Texas. That the tension at the birthdays was thick enough to cut up with the same knife piercing the cake as I sat at the table, doughy-eyed and full of naivety. Dig a little deeper to see that my school life wasn’t any better, that starting at elementary I was already being picked on for being a little black kid in an all white school. One memory I don’t think will ever go away is sitting on the bus next to two little kids my age and being spat on and pushed against the window. I didn’t really take it that seriously being as small as I was but my father was outraged and I was immediately pulled from the bus and it was a hot button topic to keep me in school or not.

There was a period in my life when I was always at my favorite Aunt’s house, and I was always overjoyed to talk to her because she always filled me with happiness and went out of her way to let me know I was loved and that no matter how bad things got I was strong enough to get through it. That if I kept my chin up and pushed my hardest there would be nothing I couldn’t do, no reason I would have to be afraid. It’s because of her whenever I fell and got cut up I refused to cry. Just sat and gritted my teeth and pushed through the pain. She opened me up to the wilderness, the one place where I could feel safe and be me. Where there were no people to hurt me, no mom and dad fighting, no moving unless I had to. Just me, the sun and the mulberry trees she had on her few acres of property. So I reached as high as I could and swiped my arms reaching for the sweet, juicy berries that I began to associate with freedom. Happiness.

My Aunt’s house was the only real safe place I had for awhile, and to her knowledge it always was till recent. Until it was cut up and taken away from me. By someone I looked up to like an older brother, that I called my cousin. He was my best friend and someone I aspired to be. Someone I only dreamt of being as strong as. Wherever he went I followed, always trying to play a game or just talk, learn what life had in store for me. But at a certain point things changed and I became a victim of sexual assault. As a kid I was easily lulled into a false sense of security and that it was okay to let it all happen. So would always lay there and feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach. It continued on for another six years before I ever did anything, before I ever stopped it all. Before he moved on from me to the next victims.. My near and dear siblings. I was a teen by the point I found out. I was a teen by the time I got my moment to take revenge, for me. For my siblings. A fresh 16 years before I was given the opportunity to press a cold blade to his throat and slice violently through. I denied myself this opportunity, denied myself this simple satisfaction because I wasn’t him anymore. I’d taken so much from him. The anger, the abuse, the drive. But in the moment in which I lingered over his bed, in the moment my grip tightened and my heart beat out of my chest. I discovered who I truly am. I am the sum of my scars. The smallest collection of bruises and cuts and all the bandages in the world won’t stop the pain from festering and changing into my own strength. Turning me into the man I am today.

Shortly after the entire ordeal that took place, I fell into a lapse of self-accusation. Believing that had I done more that I could’ve prevented all that happened from happening. That I could’ve and should’ve stopped it all from happening. I felt weak and like I was better off locked inside my own mind. I began shutting people out and digging deeper and deeper into my own psyche. This is were I began to reminisce on all the moments I had experienced. My aunt’s advice started to become my source of rehab, trying to piece together all the shattered bits and pieces of my self-confidence and pride. I came to the conclusion that I needed to find my purpose.

Fall of the same year I sat in class, listening to the daily school announcements and my focus was drawn to a call out meeting to join the town’s local rugby team. In need of something new, a purpose to dedicate myself to I went and fell in love. Saw faces of people I knew and some I didn’t. I showed up to practice the next week and was introduced to the fascinating world of the sport. Learned how to throw properly, learned the positions and learned of what I was to end up playing. Fullback. To those of you new to the sport or have the belief that American Football and Rugby are basically one in the same, here’s a brief run through of the position. My job was to sit towards the back of the field and keep the opposing team from scoring and also kicking the ball back should it come my way. Which I was pretty damn comfortable doing. Except I had the slightest issue of not being able to catch a single thing that came my way. I remember the first game I ever played in I over estimated the power behind the kicked ball coming my way and was forced to sprint up and pick it up off the ground as I came through. I hit the gaps and sprinted as hard as I could through the opposition before being hit by a pair of behemoth sized players. I popped up and ran back to my position after my team recovered the ball and prepared for play after play. I was always keeping my ears open for advice that the coach and players were throwing my way from the sidelines. I recognized errors and for the first time in awhile felt the flow of adrenaline crashing through my veins and give me the pride I was looking for as I tackled every single player I could wrap around and fling over myself.

Fast forward to late winter of the same year. Rugby is out of season for a few months more and I’m going through life dealing with the problems most teenagers do. Acne, Girls, and School. Somewhere along the line I was made aware of an opportunity to take the ASVAB, a military placement test to show where I’d best fit in certain military branches or what opportunities I had in them. I decided I wouldn’t hurt and so I rushed down during first block and took the test with a handful of other students. I took the test and asked a few questions to the Navy recruiter who I was vaguely familiar with already and said he couldn’t really give a lot of info at the moment but gave me his card and said to be in contact with him. I contacted him later in the week and we discussed what probable plans in the Navy would be and benefits I would receive. So I told him I wanted nothing more from myself and the Navy then to be the very best of the best. That’s when he told me about the Navy SEALs. Told me that they were the best of the best and literally endured Hell to be just that. Said that my scores on the test were high enough to make it, all I had to do was be physically and mentally prepared to take the steps when I was able to enlist. The fire was sparked and every single moment since that day all I’ve wanted is to be a SEAL. To stand up for my country and defend all those she shelters.

A year later I’m seventeen and legally able to enlist with a parents permission, they were both more then ecstatic for me to be seeking out a strict, disciplined life that they believe I’ve always needed. So they signed the forms and went through the motions and helped me get to the places I needed to be. So after a full year of waiting and hoping, I made it. Made it to the the place where I took my oath:

“I, DeShaun Isaiah Johnson, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

I shook the hands of the Sergeant and went off to talk to my recruiter one more time as we headed out of the building. I shook hands with all at the office and headed off. Onto my new path as a United States Navy Sailor

In my short lifetime, I’ve experienced a lot of highs and lows. Learned that pain can be overcome. That there’s always a way to overcome. Its with all my good times AND my bad times that I have become the person I am today. The very same individual who will stop for nothing or no one until he is the very best he can be.

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