Wednesday, October 20, 2021

“Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”

January 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

My name is Mary Kay Riccardi. I wanted to join the Army for a while, but chickened out many times before I finally decided it was time. While I was in basic training, I was harassed by all my fellow soldiers. I was “too slow.” I was “too weak.” I never gave up, even when given the opportunity. I was counseled day in and day out for “not trying.” They threatened to kick me out, yet I refused to give up. I was going to be an MP, even if it killed me. It very well could have.

During my time in basic, my body began to get slower. I wasn’t improving at all. My drill sergeants finally sent me to the hospital to have some testing done. I was questioned by mental health and had all sorts of blood work done. Finally, they figured out I had Hypothyroidism. My leadership was prepared to discharge me. I was taken out of training and spent a few days sitting around watching. One day my drill sergeant came up to me, shook my hand, and said “welcome to the United States Army.” I wasn’t getting discharged! The medication the hospital put me on was beginning to work and my drill sergeant had me take a PT test just to see where I was at. He finally understood that I had always been trying my hardest. I had never passed a PT test until that day…and even then I technically failed. We were in Gold Phase,the final phase, so I should have been passing phase 5 PT scores. However that day I passed phase 4 standards and was awarded my Army Values tag for my dog tags. Later that day, my drill sergeant went running through the barracks yelling that I had finally passed. He was actually proud of me. It felt amazing! All my hard work was finally paying off. Unfortunately, my body didn’t have enough time to catch up to standard to graduate with my class, so I became a hold over.

During my time as a hold over, I was given permission to go where ever I wanted as long as I went to the base gym and was back at the barracks in time for dinner chow. When the new soldiers took their first PT test, I took my last. Passing everything. I was told it would be roughly a week before I’d be able to go home, but that I would get a weekend pass. Later that day, my 1SG yelled for me and I went running. He told me I would be leaving to go home in 2 hours. I was ecstatic! I ran back to my bunk and packed my bags. All the drill sergeants came to wiah me good luck and shake my hand. One called me into the office and told me, “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. None of us thought you could, and you proved us all wrong. I’m proud of you.” I will never forget that.

As time went on, I kept up my momentum. That is, until I deployed with a unit other than my own. My team leader was sexist, and verbally and mentally abusive. He took my stress level to the max, and counseled me over anything he could think of. He turned my platoon against me. All the stress started to counteract with my thyroid medication. I began to slow down again. I begged to go get a blood test so my dosage could be adjusted, but my unit wouldn’t allow me to go to Baghdad to get the test done. I resented them, and I turned into someone I’m not only to cope. I only showed up to things that were required. I didn’t socialize with anyone from my platoon. I completely shut down to them. I spent all my time with soldiers from other units or other platoons. It was all I could do to survive. I couldn’t call home about it because my family was worried enough as it was.

When we finally came home, I couldn’t wait to go back to my unit. I was able to loosen up, but the leadership I dealt with in Iraq poisoned my view of all leadership. It took over 2 years back with my home unit to realize they aren’t the same. My unit had my back. My unit cared about me and my well being. My body still had not recovered from not being on the correct dosage of medication overseas, but I refused to give up. As my leadership learned of what I went through in Iraq, they did everything they could to prevent it from happening again. After being deemed non-deployable due to PTSD, MST, and severe hypothyroidism, I decided to get out at my ETS. I wanted to go to Afghanistan with my unit. It’s why I joined, but my own body defeated me.

I hope in a few years I can get back in, but for now I’m looking for a happy medium. I’d love to work with veterans who went through similar situations as I did. Let them know they will be okay. I’m okay. My unit made sure to get me on the right track. Even though I’m no longer in, I still consider my unit my family.


5 Responses to ““Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.””
  1. christine says:

    It sounds alot like what I went through. Practically the entire time
    I was enlisted. I never felt that i had support from anyone. Mental, verbal abuse and sexual harassment. Still bothers me to this day.

  2. deb says:

    I was dealing with the same kind of thing during my term I was in 72-79. and I am still going thru counseling today. it effected my whole life even after I got out. I sat in a hospital status for almost a year with them trying to figure out things and I don’t think they have yet gotten to the problem. Alot of the problems came when they did away with W.A.C.’s, I could write a book about all the things I went thru. I did what I could, Just like another soldier.

  3. Kevyn says:

    Thank you so much for sharing what happened to you. I almost broke my ankle during boot, they put me on modifed duty… I wore running shoes and an ankle brace while everyone else wore boots.

    Nothing like being singled out for something you have no control over. I am so sorry that you went through this. They disgraced the uniform, the service and themselves. I hope you know many of us would have your back in a heartbeat! Good luck and Godspeed Sister.

  4. Cmc says:

    I was a squad leader who ripped both Achilles tendons during basic. I figured I was toast. Thankfully my story was stressful in another way from yours – my squad and DI wouldn’t even entertain the notion that I would do anything less than pass with flying colors. If they wouldn’t give up on me I couldn’t give up on myself. I was pretty tough on my squad. I wanted them to be their best. I figured they’d be glad to get rid of me. I asked one of the girls who had given me the most grief, sass, and attitude why she wanted me around and she said “You’re fair, you care, and if we lose you God only knows who we’ll get.” It made me laugh and kept me going.

    When I was in tech school (electronics) we had different services attending and instructing including foreign services. I was one of the first females to go through that school. Not all of the men were thrilled particularly the Middle Eastern ones (one spit on me – that was new). I just kept remembering my mother’s words “Kill them with kindness” and “It doesn’t matter what they do. You’re only in charge of you and I expect you to do the right thing.” So I resolved to be polite and attentive and do my best in spite of the fact that so many appeared to hate me and one of the instructors told me I was an idiot (I was an honor student prior to him) and there was no way he was going to pass me. I figured I had best know that material backward and forward so he had no grounds to fail me. He tried his best, but couldn’t trip me up. His parting words for that block were “I guess you’re smarter than you look.” (I was a petite curly haired blonde). I so wanted to smart off, but remembering Mom I only said “I had a good teacher.” And so I did. I learned more because I had to and not under the best circumstances, but it stood me in good stead later on. I remembered everything I learned in that block.

  5. Faith says:

    I turn 18 in a month.

    I’ve always secretly dreamed of serving in one of the military choirs. Unfortunately, now that I’m old enough to consider a career in the military, I’ve found out that I have an autoimmune disease (probably some form of arthritis). According to many of the lists I’ve found online, autoimmune diseases are an automatic “no”, when it comes to medical screenings. Just curious if any of you ladies who have dealt with other medical issues in the military know anything about autoimmune (or similar) diseases and if there is any way for me to still serve.

    Thank you all for your service, btw!

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