On the night of Brigade 2018, the overnight competition in Fort Dix, most of the Raiders had returned to their rooms to prepare and rest up for the following competition the next day. Members of the Female A Team filed up the staircase leading to the female rooms on the second floor above the hazing incident. My team got ready for bed, packing their ACUs (Army Combat Uniforms) and whispering words of assurance and motivation to each other. Little did we know, all our hard work would go to waste as soon as we fell asleep. On another floor, in another room, a male student was assaulted and branded with an iron by his team captain.
The Raiders is a physical team within the JROTC program, and is a simulation of the Army Rangers Team. They are split into male, female, and mixed teams that train separately for different divisions within the same competition, of which there are 4 annually: League, Brigade, Commanders’ Cup, and Nationals.
The summer before school started was spent tirelessly in the scorching heat as my team trained for the Nationals competition in November. It was everything I could wish for, to bring back the National Title we once upheld. Having competed twice, winning 3rd and 4th place in 2016 and 2017, I had anticipated this moment for 3 years, and my teammates sacrificed so much blood, sweat, and tears for the competition.
When school started, the terrible news fell upon us: our team was suspended due to the male hazing incident. As Raider commander for the Female A Team, I was unable to comprehend the situation. How could this have happened? Why did this news emerge in September? Why didn’t anyone speak up? I could hardly contain my emotions. Separate rooms, separate teams, yet we were all punished.
It is generally implied that within a large group of people, the actions of a few can represent the many. When one member of an organization, company, or team commits a deed, it reflects the overall attitude of the entire group. However, that is not applicable to this situation because many people had been unaware of the incident, or any prior incidents. Additionally, there was no evidence that the girls’ team was ever involved in the incident. As new and shocking the assault had been to the rest of the school community, I was just as unfamiliar with the story as everyone else.
My story may have started out the same as yours, or any incoming freshman of the 2014-2015 school year. As a shy and timid new kid in town, I was a fresh page in high school. I joined the Raiders team in the September of my freshmen year, and from then on, my pages began to fill with details of a painful but rewarding series of life experiences. I experienced joy and despair, glory and defeat, comfort and pain, support and hopelessness. I found a purpose within my small circle of life in the school, and broke down mountains of barriers to obtain my goals. On the team, I embraced self-sacrifice, hardened my perseverance, became a leader, and toiled through the joys and sadness of life with a group of people I called family. Over the years, we’ve won many championships, but we’ve failed plentifully. There was something special that tied me and my girls close, and we literally and figuratively became each others’ backbones for everything we did.
A student came up to me recently and, pointing at my team windbreaker, said, “Raiders is bad.”
His words translated to many things. It sounded like a joke, a poorly played joke that I could have swiped from memory like wet gum. It sounded like an accusation, but like all accusations, there is doubt and lack of truth. However, this piece of wet gum could not be wiped, because underneath the slippery cover was something that stuck to me and ultimately became the weight I will shed today.
If the “integrity of the team” is in question, then let us, the unfairly banished Raider members, ask you this: if you assume that a group of seventeen-year-olds knew any better to cause trouble and hurt each other, shouldn’t it be our responsibility to fix the problem, whatever it may be, then to shun them into silence and negligence? How will those people learn? Is suspending a group of people that will remain under your educational custody for years the optimal solution, when half of those people have no idea why they are suspended, unknowledgeable of a crime that was carried out behind their backs? If the male track team misbehaved, should the female track team be punished as well?
I fought for my team and our honor. It is unfair. The girls’ Raider team deserves another chance. We deserve redemption. In the end, I am silenced. The girls I trained with are forgotten. We have been erased. We are deleted from the Patriot Battalion website. On the very bulletin boards I decorated in my sophomore and junior year, I am removed. During “Team Week” I cry for a spotlight, to showcase my team, our achievements, our medals and trophies, but I sit quietly in the audience.
In my heart, in the medals I wear on my uniform, in the trophies I have collected, and in the scars that are etched on my skin, I represent the untold story.