My name is Brian Schoenborn. I am a former US Marine, enlisted from 2000-2002. I write to share my story as a Movement Leader for the Military Sexual Trauma Movement as a male voice, as it’s taken me 17 years to publicly come forward in the face of shame and judgment. I joined the Marine days after my 19th birthday on December 27, 2000 as an E-2. As a descendant of Americans that have fought in every American war, I joined out of a sense of pride, duty, and adventure. For the same reasons, I enlisted as active duty, infantry, and would become an 0331 .50-caliber machine gunner stationed at Camp Horno, located in Camp Pendleton. While at the School of Infantry, I quickly rose above the rest, becoming a top gunner in my class.
That was until I broke my foot in four places during a full weapons hike. Sidelined with an injury, I befriended another injured Marine. His leg was broken from the same hike. One weekend in June 2001, we decided to go to San Diego to get new tattoos. We stayed at the Pickwick Hotel, where my friend met a Navy man that offered to share some beer with us and watch the NBA Finals. He would ultimately drug our drinks, separate us, and rape us both. I woke up while he was inside me, and my friend apparently fought him at knifepoint for over an hour before this man raped him as well. Upon returning to base, we were constantly harassed. The initial sergeant we told even fell on the floor laughing, like a scene out of a movie. Eventually we began prosecuting this man; our physical injuries healed, and we were shipped to our separate units. I would go to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines Division. The harassment continued, every day being called a “faggot”, being told I was “committing highway robbery”, even being called a “disease” by my 1st sergeant in front of my entire unit. I would eventually start seeing the division psychiatrist, after begging to get help, who would quickly diagnose me with PTSD from MST. My medical discharge board began shortly after.
Early in that process, my friend, who was in Twentynine Palms, contacted me to visit with him in Oceanside, CA. Within minutes of my visit, the police stopped by and arrested him for possession of marijuana, methamphetamines, and C4 (plastic explosives). He would go to the brig (military prison) and I would only see him one more time. Having just shown up, I was returned to base, passed a drug test, and returned to duty. Because of that incident, the San Diego District Attorney determined we were not credible witnesses and dropped the case against Charles Pruitt, the man who raped us both. After a few months of therapy, and the end board in process, the doctor told me there was no more he could do for me. I was not showing any progress, so our sessions stopped. Weeks would go by, desperately waiting for my paperwork to go through, so I could go home, get more therapy, and be around people I love.
There was an issue with the paperwork, however, and I was told by my 1st sergeant that it would take another 6 months to 1 year to get results. Isolated, harassed, and a complete mess from my PTSD, I took matters into my own hands. I would ultimately fail drug tests for marijuana and methamphetamines, receive a reduction in rank, and get discharged under Other than Honorable conditions. Once a proud and top Marine, I would exit under a cloud of shame and guilt, with no benefits and no ability to get help. Over the last 17 years, I have fought with the Naval Discharge Review Board four different times. I attained my bachelors degree in Marketing an an MBA in Finance. I worked my way up the corporate ladder doing marketing, PR, and strategy at Countrywide Home Loans, MetroPCS, Genzyme, and Jose Cuervo, before giving everything up and moving to China to find purpose in my life. Nothing I did could make it go away: the memory spinning in my head daily, that man’s face looking and laughing, the treatment by my marine corps brothers afterward.
In China, I would meet an award-winning film producer. We bonded and he helped me discover my path: telling my story and helping others to tell their. Over the past three years, I have become a film, TV, and podcast producer to do just that. And on September 10, 2018, I finally got my day at the Naval Discharge Review Board to tell my story. They would, 17 years after the incident, vindicate me and adjust my discharge to General under Honorable Conditions. It took nearly 20 years before I could feel that weight of shame, guilt, and ostracism lift. I now look forward to the possibility of getting veterans’ benefits and disability benefits: hopefully only a matter of time. Every year, tens of thousands of military members survive sexual assault. Every year, far too many of them are denied proper treatment, benefits, and prosecution. Every year, far too many of us commit suicide. It is not only a female problem. It happens to men as well, and it happened to me. I share my story because this is not only a female problem.
It happens to men as well, and it happened to me. I share my story for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for inability to relive the moment. As terrifying as it is, I relive the moment so others don’t have to. I write to you to express my full support for the MST Movement so that our servicemen and servicewomen who survive these atrocities are treated with the dignity, respect, and love they do deserve. I have fought for myself for nearly 20 years, and now I will fight for them.
MST Movement Washington State Leader