First, I’d like to say thanks for reading Captain Incarcerated.
Russ’ trial and that echoing guilty verdict were so surreal that I knew if we didn’t write it all down we wouldn’t believe it had ever happened.
The Army provided Russ a ladder out of a depressed socioeconomic situation he might have gotten mired in had he not enlisted and placed his foot on that first rung. Not too long after earning his sergeant’s stripes, he finished college and went to Officer Candidate School (OCS) to become an officer.
When Russ and I found ourselves on the same FOB (forward operating base) during our second deployment, we worked together, went to the gym together, and ate meals together. So it came as a shock when I heard Russ had been accused of a crime. Had it been any other person I knew, even a few other pretty good friends, I likely would have accepted the allegations as true and cut ties. But I couldn’t bring myself to do that with Russ. For days, I struggled to figure out how to respond.
Meanwhile, Russ was having a struggle of his own. I didn’t see him for weeks. Then a mutual friend of ours came in to my office and said she’d seen him sitting in his truck with a thousand-yard stare. She seemed spooked by the state she’d found him in. In that moment, I decided that regardless of the legitimacy of the allegations he faced, Russ still needed a friend. Others were going to abandon him – probably very soon. And even if he was guilty, I knew he was a good person – even if he was guilty, it was anomalous behavior, not his norm.
Mother’s say similar things about their sons who turn out to be mass murderers – they’re unwilling or unable to see the truth. But that’s not the sort of emotion I had or have about Russ. I could have cut ties with him had I come to the conclusion that he was indeed a bad person. It wouldn’t have been an easy decision and I believe it would have hurt, but I definitely would have written him off. That said, I’d literally gone to hell and back with Russ — twice. I know, beyond the shadow of any doubt that he’s a good person. And I didn’t think a good person should ever be allowed to sit alone in a parking lot contemplating their ruin.
So I reached out and he grasped my hand, and we’ve been helping each other through his ordeal ever since.
After our first visit to see him at the USDB, my husband and I realized that although the situation was a horrible one, Russ was probably the only person we knew who could handle it with any semblance of grace. Russ can get along with just about anyone (even mass murderers, apparently), and he can befriend people knowing their faults and foibles.
Do yourself a favor and read a few of these posts. See if you can draw upon your inner Russ and befriend the author.
You may have no experience with prison or the military, or you may have too much experience with both. Regardless of what brought you here, I hope this blog gives you a little insight into the humanity of the incarcerated and the nuances of justice. I also hope it makes you laugh every once in a while.
Because Russ is still fighting his conviction and also hoping for parole, we are using a pseudonym and won’t get too detailed about his crime.