I was in the U.S. Army at Ft. Gordon, Georgia. It was 1975, and I’d be getting out in 1976, a short 2-year enlistment that the Army offered back then. I was a dental assistant at the Tingay Dental Clinic on post. My boyfriend, Ken, was a dental lab tech and was a “short timer” — he was soon to be discharged. Ken made his plans to return home to North Carolina, and didn’t talk about an “us” beyond his discharge date.
I was 19 years old, and I had no desire to commit myself to North Carolina anyway, so I never pressed the issue of “where is this headed?” With zero reflection time, I started seeing Chad, who was also a dental lab tech in the clinic. Ken regained interest and offered to consider staying around Augusta. But wait…I was already very curious about getting to know Chad.
I was a mess. I broke up with Chad and went back to Ken. I broke up with Ken and went back to Chad. Multiple times.
And then the realization that our casual, poorly executed condom use had contributed to the news that I was pregnant. Both guys offered to be the man, both knowing I had no idea which of them was the father.
I contemplated my options, and at that time, there was no testing ahead of delivery to tell us who the father was. It would have been immediately apparent upon delivery, however, as these two men had zero physical characteristics in common. Zero.
And in the end, even after a stern religious talking-to from the OB/GYN Army Colonel about my lifestyle and decision, I chose to have an abortion, which the Army’s medical staff performed.
After I had the abortion, my supervisor, Sgt. Steele, advised me that I needed to go see the company’s captain. He told me to take my medical record of that procedure with me.
In that meeting, the captain was unaware (or pretended to be?) that I was no longer pregnant, as the meeting was to tell me and another pregnant soldier that we could (and it was preferred that we would) move off post. I handed him the medical record and he dismissed me to return to work.
I was in no way prepared financially, emotionally, or in any other way, to raise a child: far from home, making a private’s wages, no college education, no anything. I had joined the Army for…