Long Road Home Project: What should we do for our nation’s veterans as they come home?
While on active duty in October 2004, I was sexually assaulted by my commander. Unbeknownst to my command, I’d also been raped in 2003 and was living in virtual captivity at the hands of a man, who worked in my office. After taking psychotropic medicines and talking to hundreds of counselors, therapists and healers, I felt helpless and broken.
After being labeled with an an errant personality disorder by a military psychologist, overmedicated to the point of suicidality, and involuntarily retired to homelessness after military service, I was struggling with major depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2010, I lost custody of my children because of that label, to their grandmother who’d been caring for them while I sought treatment. I was at a loss for how to regain my dignity.
I’d read that physical exercise actually stimulated the brain and promoted the production of endorphins, which elevated mood. And certainly, losing the 40 pounds I’d gained since reportingthe sexual assault, would benefit my health.
I came across an inspiring American pioneer in my reading and searching for answers on how to maintain my motivation to better health. Hulda Crooks, the American mountaineer also known as "Grandma Whitney,” was in her sixties when she decided to use physical activity to improve quality of life and extend life expectancy. She started to train by scaling the back steps of her apartment building. Between the ages of 65 and 91, she successfully scaled the amazing 14,505-ft Mt. Whitney 23 times.
With her as my inspiration, I decided to train for a bike ride across the nation. I desperately needed to find a way out of seclusion, and I was fueled by my deep desire to be part of a solution for other women veterans.
I’ve been building on my skills every day while preparing for this cross-country cycling adventure with four other veterans. I began conditioning several months ago by walking from my front door to the top of a nearby park I frequented as a child. Once I’d worked up to walking ten miles every other day, I rode a mountain bike around the neighborhoods where I grew up. Last week, I graduated to a touring bike.
The Long Road Home Project will raise awareness across the nation for women veterans and all victims of military sexual trauma. Beginning July 14, we will unite across 4,200 miles of terrain, past cities, military bases, and some 40 planned events, to help us heal our war wounds. One survivor recently thanked me in an e-mail stating that this ride will restore dignity to so many survivors like me. I couldn’t feel more honored.
So now, the challenge is this: How can we help people understand injuries they can’t see, feel, hear or touch? I’m sure some people will wonder, how can someone capable of riding a bicycle across the country be sick?
I don’t know how to convey the pain, loss and disability that veterans suffer due to traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. But I do know that it is a question all veterans struggle with as they seek help.
My hope is that our ride inspires more of the 25 million veterans across America to unite in support of each other. We have to start somewhere. We need to have this collective discussion, and get to the business of finding solutions. We can’t ask our veterans and their families to suffer any longer. The outcome of these debates will determine the character, and destiny of our nation, as a whole.
I hope every single American takes notice of what we are trying to do for our brother and sister warriors, who are in service, and readjusting after service. This is our chance to focus, adapt and overcome. In choosing to support one another, we can define ourselves, in history, as a grateful nation.
This summer, five U.S. veterans will bicycle across our great nation to heal their war wounds. This group of former service people includes men and women of diverse ages, backgrounds, and interests.
Empowered by their differences, these five veterans are united.
United in their effort to heal their wounds from war via a long distance ride.
United to bring awareness to the fact that hundreds of thousands of service people often face difficulty returning home and,
United to raise money to help other veterans live more fulfilling and meaningful lives. We are raising $75,000 to accomplish this year’s ride. Monies above and beyond this threshold will go towards supporting future rides and other non-profits that serve our veterans.
The 4,200 mile journey begins July 15th near Tacoma and ends 90 days later in Washington D.C.
By the end of these 90 days:
1,500 vets will have committed suicide.
270,000 cases of PTSD, some due to MST, will have been reported since the inception of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
50,000 veterans will have returned home physically wounded since 2001, and
300,000 vets will spend a night on the street.
With your help, we can make the Long Road Home a lot easier for our troops.
Survivor, Victim Advocate
Blood out of a Turnip Foundation
I am connected to you on F.B.
F.B. Blood out of a Turnip Foundation
I appreciate your feedback and obvious concern. However, I will point out that I was not raped during the evening hours, or in a war zone. I was raped during day light hours on a state side base while a festival was occurring. The problem was that this man is a sexual predator. He took issue with me because he felt threatened by me. Therefore, he sought to covertly undermine me then he raped me. Our boss, who was a woman, sought help because he showed up in her office to work, and she claimed he was her rapist from years prior and nothing was done. This man then harrassed her for a couple of years, even though he was technically her subordinate. And there was nothing she could do to get him to stop.
I believe one of the solutions to this problem is to actually increase the number of women soldiers, as doing so would transform the mindset within the military culture. Then, when we do go to war, the foundation will be built for conducting ourselves in theater. Right now, a paradigm of mutual respect, and a mode of accountability does not exist when it could. Why doesn’t it? Simply change policy and prosecute the criminal behavior, and an incentive will form to hold people accountable before an actual rape occurs. There are also signs when a socio path is amongst the ranks. Unfortunately, leaders on all levels are looking the other way because they do not take seriously the impact that that sick person’s behavior will have on the mission readiness. They need more education and information in order to change their minds when given the choice to impact this issue.
There is A LOT that CAN and needs to be done that is not being done. I believe HR 3435 is the answer. The STOP Act protects unit commanders by taking it out of their hands, and it empowers the military to use resources to help victims so the government doesn’t have a permanently devastated, wounded soldier to support for life.
Women deserve to participate and sacrifice for their country with honors and for the right reasons. Rape is not incident to military service. That is unAmerican. And we can handle this challenge. “We only have to want to.”
Let me be clear. This is not about men or women being better. In fact, the Israeliâs have used all women units very effectively in the past. Also, this is not about peacetime operations. Because the same stresses are not present, a mixed unit can operate reasonably effective. This is about the combination of the sexes in a wartime environment.
In a wartime environment, zero accountability is a joke. If you are scared that you could be killed the next day, there is nothing that a government can do to enforce zero accountability. Individuals, especially commanders, can have a mighty impact, but not a total impact. The only solution is to permit segregation in the military. I know most people will not accept this solution, but again, I call upon history to be your judge and jury.
I love the military, but I will do everything possible to keep my daughter out of it. I will also do everything possible to help my son to not be a man who would take advantage of a woman. There are men and women who are part of the solution in the military. But in wartime, there is never enough of them to fight every battle.
I look forward to seeing the movie. When I was in the military, I fought strongly against rape and sexual discrimination and caused several individuals to be forced out. Maybe the movie makes this same point, but I seeing the posts here, I doubt it.