Kate Emery, 20, is currently serving her country as a Blackhawk Aircrew Chief. Emery enrolled in the service on July 14th, 2014, at age 19. While many perceive the armed forces as protecting their country, Emery reveals that many times, the service can protect the soldiers themselves.
Though Emery's late grandfathers on both her mother's and father's side, as well as her uncles serve in the Army, she believes that the Army was simply something that was meant to save her from herself. “I think a lot of it was it was always in the back of my head because I grew up with such a strong presence. I needed a change I needed to feel strong as a person I was floundering a lot as a person,” Emery said.
“I was definitely hanging out with the wrong people. I developed a drug problem when I was really young. I was probably 15. It wasn’t really that bad, I was just like a bad kid. My parents had a really bad divorce and that just fucked me up as a kid. My home life was chaotic to say the least.”
“When I was 18 I moved to Destin Florida and I was sexually assaulted. I was at a party and I was fucked up and we were all fucked up and I got raped. After that I kind of went off the deep end,” Emery said. “Every time I was trying to get my shit together I just couldn’t. I felt like it was my fault and I felt like I should never have gone to Destin. I went there for a guy and it was the stupidest thing ever.”
“I knew of him [my rapist] beforehand, but I didn’t know him. He was at my dealer’s house he was a really bad heroine addict he overdosed like 3 weeks later.”
“I got really sick from the drugs. I weighed like 87 pounds. I kept ending up in the hospital because I was always overdosing on the drugs. My boyfriend and I had broken up and he called my mom and said that I was basically a mess and she came and picked up all my shit and she took me back home to St. Augustine. She took me to Stepping Stone which is an in-patient rehab. Then I was living in Jacksonville in a halfway house with other addicts.”
Emery found herself struggling to beat her addictions, primarily being addicted to prescription pain killers such as Dilaudid and Roxy. “I always dabbled in things growing up. I was 12 when I was put on Xanax and Prozac. I was a really depressed kid after my parent’s divorce. I think that because the doctors put that on me so young I developed bad habits so young. I felt like I was addicted to Xanax right away," Emery said.
“The first time that I overdosed I was 13. I had swallowed a bottle of pills because I was just so depressed. It was definitely intentional. Being so young and being prescribed pills that strong, those types of drugs have a lot of adverse effects on kids. It was my sister that found me passed out and overdosing in my bed at my dad’s house. She’s younger than me so she was probably 11 at the time. We have a lot of problems now because of the shit that I did back then," Emery said.
Emery says that she realized that the mantra that her Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous counselors had taught her turned out to be true. Both AA and NA instructed patients that the only way to say sober was to change "people, places, and things". Emery did just that by leaving her old friends and bad habits behind to join the Army. “I didn’t care who I hurt, I didn’t care if I hurt myself. I had no integrity I had no respect for others or myself. I didn’t care who I hurt. I think that’s why I enlisted. I needed a total shift. I needed my past to not matter anymore," Emery said.
“My mom was really happy for me. We’re really close and she knew that I needed it. I think that she was relieved that I was going to find my things. My father was scared. He’s like a hippie, he’s like peace and love and he doesn’t understand why I would want to be in the war. My sisters were terrified, they just wanted me to go to school like a normal person.”
“I never understood when I looked at my life as whole why my life was the way it was and why things were the way they were. I realized that a lot of the women in training were in the same situation as I was. A lot of things that you thought that you had dealt with ended up coming up just because there was so much exhaustion. We’re not going to be defeated by men. We’re not going to be put on a lower level than them.”
“We helped each other heal a lot and we became increible. 99% of the females that I was training with had almost the same exact backgrounds as I did. Most girls don’t grow up saying that they want to grow up and kill people. We’re damaged in some way, either we damaged ourselves or we were damaged by other people, it was usually both.”
While in basic training, Emery found a way to work through emotional and personal issues which had been haunting her, with the help of fellow female soldiers that had overcome similar obstacles in their lives. It wasn't until after leaving basic training that Emery began to reach the unfortunate realization that her male co-workers outside of basic training were not as supportive.
“In basic training there were 40 women and 160 men. In basic training it is so structured in that the drill sergeants are constantly being watched that there is little to no discrimination. That is so controlled by the government that there is no way they could make a sexist comment. If they did, they would be dishonorably discharged," Emery said.
After completing basic training, Emery began working with the Army in Jacksonville, building aircrafts and checking these aircraft's security to ensure their readiness for combat. “When I first walked up to my work unit, my Sargent reached out and shook my hand and said, ‘We actually do work in this unit. So if you want a desk up, we can make that happen.’ That is the first thing that was said to me and he was my section Sargent. He was my boss. I told him that I graduated honor grad. I was top of my class. Better than all the guys. I told him I love what I do and that I refuse to sit at a desk. It’s been difficult ever since then," Emery said.
“I definitely think that my career would have been easier to progress in. I wouldn’t have to fight or everything. It’s hard to find motivation sometimes. It’s exhausting and it’s really sad. I thought that if you put in this much effort that it would be reciprocated. I think that caring about their career would be in the forefront of their minds because that’s their jobs as sergeants is to further your career," Emery said.
Despite the fact that Emery faces more adversity than male soldiers in her unit, she recognizes the positive impact that joining the Army has had on her life. “I haven’t found a passion with anything else other than what I found with the military. The military has encouraged me to be strong and it taught me that I had it within me without any help from anyone else that I could do any task put in front of me and that I could do it with excellence," Emery said.
Emery recognizes the empowerment that she has found since completing basic training and the influence that her drill Sargents from that training have had on her life. “They teach you to trust your equipment and the man next to you with everything you have. I think they install the fear of fucking god in you and so it kind of teaches you morals like you have to be trustworthy you have to have integrity," Emery said.
"They thoroughly convince you that there’s nothing you’d rather do than sit in a ditch in clothes you’ve been wearing all week and you’ve been eating slop all week but you say fuck it I’m happy I’ve got my gun I’ve got my friends," Emery said.