Chapter 1 – I’ve Had Enough of This Shit
Monday, August 20, 2018
Early morning mass text sent out to family and friends:
I just value freedom. I value a fine piece of music or writing or acting that really captures what an artist was feeling in the moment, especially when I can relate to it. I value being in touch with my own feelings and not suppressing them with alcohol or drugs – legal or illegal – in order to play roles or to conform myself to what other people and society expect of me. I get bored with stuff pretty fast. It’s not that I don’t like learning Arabic, I just don’t like that only after a month it’s long since stopped being a magical mind-expanding learning experience and has morphed into this runaway train of a chore I have to keep up with. It’s just not fun. I mean, I’ve quit everything I’ve ever done. I didn’t like working on a fishing boat in Alaska. I loved the experience, yeah, but would I ever do it again? God no. Same with getting certified to teach English in Colombia. Same with last year trying to ride my bicycle across northern Pakistan and western China. I did have major food poisoning that contributed to my quitting in that case, but still. I just tire of experiences and ways of living. I didn’t quit college though. I hated college more than you can imagine but became an alcoholic getting wasted five nights a week to cope and to get through those four years – that’s for you mom! I don’t wanna live that way anymore though – damaging my body and mind just to get through stuff. Some people have suggested I have a chemical imbalance and life would be better for me on medication. They somehow see this as different than alcoholism as a coping mechanism. I don’t. To me it’s the same shit. It’s a chemical suppression of natural feelings. Negative feelings to me are a meaningful form of communication from within telling me if/when something’s not right. How do people not understand that? How do people view their feelings as an obstacle that needs to be crushed so they can continue pathetically struggling against all the other helpless puppies to lap at the teat of the western world’s economic powerhouses? Experience and feelings are all I have in this world and I would never sell them out by taking anti-depressants.
I have the capacity to work hard and give something my all for two, maybe three months at a time before I feel burnt out, like I have nothing left to give and wanna go traveling and enjoy having zero responsibility and can do what I wanna do from sunup ‘til sundown day after day. And I already feel that. I feel like it’s time to run away and do something different. But I have nowhere to go and nothing to do and all my friends and family and classmates here would look down on me. I would definitely regret not having learned Arabic, but right now I feel like I’m not learning it anyway because I’ve developed a mental aversion to it. My mind is telling me I’ve pushed it too hard to do something it doesn’t wanna do and it’s rebelling by giving me a room-spinning headache when I say it’s time to sit down and get to work. I get up at 4:30 every morning to study for an hour before I have to go deal with my military obligations before class and today my mind said, “Fuck you. I ain’t doing this. I just don’t care anymore.” And how can I argue with that? I can’t strong-arm my mind into learning something it doesn’t want to. My mind wants a break. But at the same time the slave driver in my head won’t allow it one because of its interpretation of my external circumstances. It sees that every day I’m getting these hundred or so new words thrown at me and it says to my mind, “You better learn all this shit, or else!” I just hate it.
Something that should be a fulfilling endeavor the way my independent Spanish-learning had been has turned into something I dread. Every morning I wake up and the voice in my head is seething. It’s shouting, “I hate this and I don’t wanna do this anymore! Get me the fuck outta here!” Like, am I supposed to just ignore that? Or take a pill to make it shut up? Or just stop actually trying and coast through the class like a mediocre piece of shit as some people who I’ve mentioned these feelings to have suggested I do? I don’t think so. And I tell them that I don’t wanna do that because half-assing stuff I feel is important is against my principles. And so then they ask, “Well, what would you even do if you quit the Air Force?” And I say, “I don’t know,” because I don’t have a plan. The only thing the voice in my head yells when it hears this question is, “It doesn’t fucking matter! Anything but this! Get me out of here!”
I dunno, man. It’s just like…I feel old and burnt-out and hate looking at my face in the mirror and just wanna punch my fist through it every time I see this thirty-year-old, dead-eyed shell of a once-hopeful kid that dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, basking in the glory of smashing 450-foot home runs every day. Reality’s just beaten me down. I feel rejected by the world. I’m just sad and tired and broken and am struggling to find any reason to give a shit about staying here in the Air Force and keep pushing myself like this further into the realm of anxiety and depression.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Military Training Leaders,
Please see attached. Airman Lally wrote in Arabic on the front of his Unit 1 reading test: “I did not finish my test. I am not very happy. I’m done. I don’t want to be in the Air Force. I don’t want to wear this uniform and I don’t want to be at the Defense Language Institute. Many thanks to all the teachers, but I don’t want to stay here.” And he signed it, “Truthfully, Tamr” – which is his Arabic name – and next to it in parenthesis he wrote “boy genius.” He completed one page of his test and left the rest blank.
When I went up to his testing lab, teachers and the Class Leader were trying to reason with him, but he stated that he didn’t want to be here, that he’s just done/drained, feels worthless, and that he doesn’t have any more to give. He said he knows that life in the service is not for him. Master Sergeant Joe and I talked with him in our office and he stated that:
- He regrets joining, as he was warned by everyone back home that it didn’t suit his personality/lifestyle
- He never commits to anything, having traveled to 50 countries and working odd jobs to get by. He just moves from one thing to the next. He feels inferior to family and friends who “have their stuff together,” stable family/jobs, “normal” lives etc, but he doesn’t want that
- He joined to get away permanently from family issues past and present
- He joined to learn Arabic, got what he wanted, but can’t fathom staying here any longer. He wants no part of military duties like formations, mandatory events, etc
- He has no suicidal ideations. He has no plan for what he would do if he were to get out of the service
- He is a top performer in class
We focused on listening to the student, as it seems he’s not in a rational place right now. I advised him of counseling service available, being that his statements show a lot of red flags – feeling worthless, comparing himself to “normal” family/friends, etc. Class Leader is concerned about him being in class and influencing other students. Please let us know if you need any additional info.
-Technical Sergeant Bilal, USAF
Assistant Chief Military Language Instructor
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Evening text to my family:
Today I was sent to go speak with this Lieutenant Colonel who’s the mental health representative here at the squadron. He seems very manipulative. He’s good at using a tone and saying things that are designed to make me feel he cares, but I see right through it. His agenda is clear. The only thing he really cares about is that I fulfill my six-year contract. He told me that I’m not trying hard enough to overcome adversity. He told me that he was once upon a time like me – a free-roaming rebel before he joined, doubtful of his newly chosen lifestyle and wanting to quit. He said that he didn’t though and it was the best decision he ever made. He said that maybe fate had brought me into his office for a reason – so he could tell me his story and I’d stick around and it’d forever change my life for the better. After the appointment I was sent back to class as if nothing happened. I don’t think anyone understands what’s going on inside my head. I don’t think anyone cares to understand it either. I feel like everyone just sees me and wants me to act like their version of who they think I am or should be. It’s annoying to not be taken seriously. But there’s something much more to it than just annoyance for me. It’s very disturbing to me that – in spite of all these mandatory team-building activities and suicide prevention forums we gotta attend all the time – no one here actually gives a fuck about me as a person. I’m just a piece of property. And that image the Air Force projects of being a family and caring about our mental health is all just cover-their-ass bullshit so they can’t be held liable the next time someone does break and doesn’t have the balls to be honest about it the way I did and instead resorts to killing themself as a means of fleeing this unpleasant existence. That’s what makes this tough for me. That’s why I got that newfound appreciation I was talkin’ about for you jerks. For better or for worse, nobody in the world cares or will ever care about me the way you all do.
Friday, August 24, 2018
MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD
FROM: Chief Master Sergeant X
SUBJECT: A1C Timothy J. Lally Failure to Obey a Verbal Order
- At approximately 0800 hour on 24 Aug 18 A1C Timothy J. Lally stopped by my office to talk. I was already aware of concerns with A1C Lally from his teaching team as of 22 Aug 18 when it was reported A1C Lally was consistently communicating in class that he was struggling with being in the military and no longer wanted to be part of the Air Force. During our conversation A1C Lally communicated that he had given everything he had to give, was drained, and no longer had the ability to try. Specifically, his discussion centered that this environment did not allow him the ability to “self-manage” due to a lack of time afforded to Airmen in training and that all the formations and class was a waste of his time since he was not gaining any tangible benefit from it. Additionally, he expressed concern that his inability to focus and participate due to his self-assessed depression was proving to be a distraction to his classmates and he no longer wanted to detract from the class. Finally, he disclosed that he had spoken with our Occupational Medical Element (Lieutenant Colonel X) and additionally had made an appointment for later this afternoon at 1300 hours with Behavioral Health.
- As the discussion turned to how we could work through his personal challenges together, A1C Lally became increasingly belligerent. His tone became increasingly aggressive and his word selection became increasingly profane and challenging. He repeatedly communicated that he would no longer go to class. I attempted to communicate that I was listening and wanted to help him. I also communicated that I was concerned about his recent decision-making and that not complying with verbal instructions is a crime under the UCMJ. A1C Lally became even more hostile and stated that he understood and was willing to accept any punishments. In an attempt to defuse the situation, I asked him to step out of my office for a few minutes. During this break, I had Master Sergeant X step into my office to discuss options. After approximately five minutes, I asked A1C Lally to reenter my office with Master Sergeant X present. A1C Lally once again opened with an aggressive tone stating that he would no longer go to class and did not care about the consequences. I told him that his unwillingness to comply with expectations is making it difficult to support him. My goal was to get him to his 1300 appointment without further insubordinate behavior. I communicated that the 1300 appointment was a good resource that may open some doors for him. But he was going to need to go to class until his appointment. He stated that he did not care and I should go ahead and punish him now. I told him that he needed to proceed to his class and that I would follow up with his teaching team in 10 minutes to see if he arrived as directed. He told me that we should save the 10 minutes and start the punishment now due to his inability to go to class. After this I directed him to leave my office and sit in our Heritage Room outside the command section.
- Once A1C Lally left my office, I contacted Captain X and asked for a legal vector for Major X who was acting in the commander’s absence. She advised that it would be appropriate to contact base law enforcement and have him placed into custody for the failure to obey verbal instructions from a Senior Noncommissioned Officer. At approximately 0900 Presidio of Monterey Police placed A1C Lally into custody.
-Chief Master Sergeant X, USAF