Jack Williams rejects the table the hostess has chosen in the middle of the Mexican restaurant. He asks for the least desirable faux-leather booth in the back corner, where he can sit with his back to the wall. He can’t stand to have people come up behind him. That’s what his rapist, an assistant drill sergeant in the Air Force, did almost 50 years ago.
It happened three times, always at about 3 in the morning.
After the third time, Williams walked into the shower at his barracks at Lackland Air Force Base, tied a few towels together and tried to hang himself. Security guards found him unconscious.
A part of Williams died that day in 1966. He was 18. He has not been whole since.
Now 66, he looks back and ponders what his life might have been had he accomplished what he set out to do: to serve his country with pride. Instead, he has lived with rape for 47 years, with permanent injuries that make him depend on a walker, with words like “pansy” and “coward” ingrained in his head.
Sexual assault is one of two high-profile problems plaguing the military; suicide is the other: Twenty-two veterans take their lives every day.