As I take a crisp autumn stroll through our neighborhood, I count the green lights. Green lights on a home symbolize that either a veteran lives there or are a show of support for our veterans. I feel a sense of pride. Sadly, too often, survivors of military sexual trauma have a challenging time self-identifying as a veteran. Most of us did not choose to end our military career. Most of us did not have a pleasant separation from active duty status. We were victims of violent crimes and many survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) were not offered much, if any, support.
It took me over fifteen years to tell anyone I was a veteran. I was ashamed of being raped and felt horrible guilt that I had let my unit, my country, and my family down. I know I am not alone in feeling this way.
But today, I am a veteran, and a proud veteran. I am humbled by the strength and courage of my fellow MST veterans. I am proud of all of our veterans, knowing that only 1% of the American population have served in our armed forces. When people now thank me for my military service, I say that it was a high calling and privilege to serve our great nation.
Much has changed within our military since just last year. Female rangers! All service members now have the same equal civil liberty too marry whom they love! Veterans now can marry their spouse and have the same spousal benefits as all other veterans. Protect Our Defenders, as well as many great lawmakers and other nonprofits continue in the steadfast devoted “good fight” to bring justice within our military for both victims of military sexual assault as well as fair and due process to alleged perpetrators. So much progress has been made! But please, make no mistake about it: we have much work to do! So please, to all my fellow veterans, this 2015 Veterans Day, stand tall and proud! Only we know the pride and meaning of serving our county.
God bless America, and God bless our troops!
-Terri J. Odom