One year ago today I did a thing I had thought about for a very long time. Something I never thought I’d be able to do, but at the same time I had dreamed about it for months.
Let me back track; In April of 2015, I was contacted by the JAG office. They asked me questions about my marriage and my husband. They told me they wanted to prosecute Chad. He was charged with 6 counts of assault and battery and a drunk and disorderly. After several months of investigations and making offers, and then counter offers, we finally came to an agreement. Chad took a plea deal, pleading guilty to the drunk and disorderly (which was irrefutable) and one of the six counts of assault and battery.
The morning of January 14th, 6 month old Jackson, my mom and I flew out of Lexington, KY before the sun even came up. This was Jackson’s first flight and he did so well, considering he was only 6 months old. We flew into Palm Springs, rented a car, and made the hour long drive ‘up the hill’ to Twentynine Palms, CA.
It was like a dream, being back in that town where so much in my life changed, it didn’t feel real, and sometimes still doesn’t. The next day, the 15th, a year ago today, i woke up ridiculously early, mostly because of the 3 hour time difference. Also because I was so damn nervous! I was about to see my soon to be ex husband for the first time in over a year, not only that, I had to stand up and speak to the judge in front of close to a dozen Marines and USMC attorneys.
I dressed up in my nicest dress and sweater, trying to impress. And I felt good about it especially after seeing how much weight Chad had gained. This was the first time I really felt like I had the power. After a lot of talking and military jargon it was finally my turn to speak. I walked up to the podium, shaking. I stood directly in front of the judge, my back to Chad and both of our council.
“Good Morning Your Honor”, I began
I told him who I was, about my family and were I was from. I talked about Chad and I when we were young. “I attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School where I met Chad as a 16 year old junior in high school. We were opposites, he was kind of a bad boy, rebellious and outgoing, and I wasn’t; I was shy and good and a little sheltered. We started dating towards the end of the school year and I fell for him hard, and he for me.”
I spoke about how i thought I loved him thus I was able to look past how he treated me. He was verbally and emotionally abusive our whole high school relationship, about 8 months, I finally found the strength to say enough was enough, and we broke up. A year and a half later, after he had joined the Marine Corps, we got back together and I really thought he had changed. I was wrong. After dating long distance for some time, we got married in December of 2013. That was when things got worse.
“I moved to Twentynine Palms in April of 2014, and we fought from the start. It was usually just yelling but it wasn’t long before things started escalating. He started getting in my face when we were arguing, that led to him pushing me and throwing things at me. If I stood up for myself, it just made things worse. I’ll never forget the first time hit me. It was something I never thought he would do, but he did. The physical impact hurt, but the emotional impact of getting by my husband has left deeper bruises. I also never thought he would hit me a second time, or a third, or a fourth, but he did those times too. The third time he hit me is the charge to which he is pleading guilty. That evening was terrible. The hitting comes back in flashes, but I remember getting struck in the head by him and falling to the ground, I cried, and he kicked me twice. I felt his foot hit my head and back and after I cried out, he left the room. I laid there a couple of minutes after he left, trying to collect myself and regain some dignity. I had tenderness on my back from my shoulder down to the lower part of my ribcage. There were also some large knots on my head from where he hit me and from where my head hit the floor. Those knots lasted about a week, and I tried to hide them in my hair. I also had pain in my forearms from falling, but it could also have been from where he kicked me.
“Chad’s violence was not just limited to me, unfortunately. He also demonstrated that kind of behavior when we went to the VMU-1 Birthday Ball. The night of the Marine Corps Ball started off rough. We were supposed to have out first marriage counseling session that day, but we cancelled at the last minute and he was upset because he to work that day when he was supposed to have the day off. Regardless, we decided to go to the ball, and he quickly began to consume liquor. I knew that I had become the designated driver by default. I didn’t mind, and this turned out to be a good thing because I was likely pregnant at the time, but only for a few weeks at the most.
“Chad continued to drink heavily throughout the night, and gather our group to leave at around 0130. Everyone else changed into civilian clothes and wandered around, but we were finally able to get everyone in the car. About halfway home, Chad started to cough and gag, and I realized he was vomiting in the car. I pulled over on the side of the road and the other Marines in the back were all asleep, but they woke up once I stopped the car. Chad finished puking, and wanted to go back to the hotel. He got violent with the other Marines and started throwing punches at the right on the side of the road. One time, he was laying on the ground with two Marines on him and he was able to break free. This really scared me because I was seeing how strong he was compared to others. My only measurement of his strength had been when he hit me. About 10-15 minutes passed by when another car pulled over with a Marine Staff Sargent and a civilian working with the unit inside. The civilian, a woman names Stephanie, Kept me company, and we both got scared when Chad took off running into the wind turbines and then returned with a wooden stake. He threatened to stab Stephanie while she was keeping me company and I was afraid for myself. Chad kept trying to talk to me, he ran over to me and opened the car door, I was terrified. After trying to talk to me, he ran off directly onto I-10 but was pulled off the road by another Marine. Fortunately there were not many cars around at 3 am, but I was still afraid he would get hit and die. Eventually the police came and everyone decided that Chad would go back with the Marines and not stay with me that night.
“Because of Chad Poole, I live in constant fear. The physical and mental abuse he inflicted on me, escalating over a period of more than a year, has scarred me permanently. I left Chad, returned home to KY when I found out I was pregnant, vowing I would never put my child in the situation in which I was living. I am now raising my son Jackson, as a single mother. I am sad to be in this situation, but I believe we are much safer without Chad in our lives.
“The situation I was in impacted me greatly. I realize now just how strong I really was to be able to leave, but I left for my son’s benefit and not just mine. I was in a situation that I felt was almost impossible to get out of, and now I hope the court brings a satisfactory conclusion to this episode in my life. I had to do what was right for my future and the future of my son. Knowing that Chad is admitting to at least part of what he did to me with the pre-trial agreement and is receiving consequences helps with closure. I’m very grateful for the opportunity for my story to be heard and for all of those here who have helped me through this difficult process, thank you. I’m thankful you stood up for me”.
I thanked the judge for his time and went back to my seat. My council told me what a good job I did but it wasn’t until after a brief recess my council told me that the judge spoke to him and commended me personally on what a good job I did, and how prepared I was. He also spoke to me personally about being from Kentucky, mostly about basketball and bourbon.
Because of my statement, Chad got an extra 6 months on top of the 2 months he agreed to. The extra 6 were only to be served if he got in trouble while in prison.
This experience, while incredibly stressful, was one of the most liberating, empowering things i’ve ever done. After standing before the highest ranking Marine Corps judge West of the Mississippi and giving a statement against my abusive husband, I left like I can do anything. It also goes to show that standing up for yourself is always worth it. Though it may not seem like it at the time, and it may take a while, but it’s always worth it. You owe it to yourself.