Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I was now an elite member of the Hospital Corps, a Neuropsychiatric Technician (in training) and I was assigned to the Open Ward, Ward 11. The ward was located at the far end of one wing and you had to pass through some formidable doors to gain access to it. Before I joined this unit, I knew of it’s location but I knew nothing else, only rumors. This was where they kept the “crazy Marines” and rumors about the conditions there grew larger than life. Even today, nobody really wants to talk about mental illness and in the early 1960’s, it was very much misunderstood. In fact, NP Tech’s were treated differently just because of what we did. It was as if we were somehow contagious because we treated patients with mental illness.  

The patients here had somewhat minor problems; mostly “inadequacy” and some bed wetting…which, for some, was a preferred method of leaving the Marine Corps. Truth be told, most patients on this ward wanted out of the Corps…in the worst way! So much so that they were quite willing to be embarrassed for their bed-wetting episodes, as long as it got them into Ward 11 and then out of the Marines. Strange, but they never wet their beds while waiting to be discharged?

Right across the hallway from Ward 11, were the barred doors to the maximum security ward, Ward 12. I was given a set of keys that would allow me to access that door if there were an emergency and the staff behind the door needed help. I wasn’t sure what kind of help I could be, but I was willing…

After I had worked on Ward 11 for about a month, I was told to meet the Senior Corpsman of Ward 12 to be given a tour of the locked ward. Oh, oh! I guessed I was ready and so I took a deep breath and marched over to the button on the wall that paged a corpsman to come and let me in. Speaking through the bars and mesh, I explained that I had an appointment and the door opened for me. There was a short hallway inside and then another pair of locked doors. Beyond that was the ward itself. We went into the Nurses Station and I was introduced to everyone on duty. I already knew most of them on a casual basis and so after a few minutes, my guide and I left to tour the ward…

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