Why I wear teal: To take care of them

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Editor's note: this story is part of a series featuring Victim Advocates across the 354th Fighter Wing. To view the previous story, click here.

Sexual assault used to be something that was foreign to me. It was this myth; a mystery that leadership talked about--at least I thought it was.

When I was an Airman, we did not have a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office and it wasn't a subject that was openly talked about. There weren't pens circulating the base or a hotline to call for help. It definitely wasn't a subject that I thought about as an Airman 1st Class or Senior Airman.

What I did know was, at the age of 19, a Senior Airman in my shop pulled me into the hallway at work and told me "If you ever need anything, you can always come to us. We will take care of you." That is how I got greeted to my new unit. This is how you are supposed to take care of each other. It's something that is inherent to a maintenance community; and to everyone I hope. It was clear that they were honest in their words and for the next four years at my first assignment, they stayed true to these words.

Some years after that, I became friends with an Airman. This Airman is still one of the kindest people and hardest workers I knew; she was undeniably devoted to our unit's mission. As we became closer friends, she revealed to me that she was a three-time victim of sexual assault. She had already reported the assaults and received the treatment she needed. The assaults had happened years ago at different times throughout her career.

Her instinct was to tell me because she needed someone to be her Wingman. She needed comfort. She knew I was looking after her even though she never directly asked me for it. This new role was never a burden; I felt blessed and encouraged that she was able to unload something she had been carrying for so long.

When I arrived to Eielson in 2010, the SARC spoke to us at Right Start. I knew this was where I would enter the Victim Advocacy program. Capt. Laca was devoted to the mission of the SAPR program and the way he spoke to us made me finally realize why that office existed.

They didn't prosecute assailants, they took care of Airmen. I wanted to help those Airmen. More than anything, I wanted Airmen, like my friend, to know someone out there wants to listen to them. I wanted to return the favor of the Senior Airman in my first unit. I wanted to be someone they could come to first.

It is important for Airmen and families to understand that they should never feel like they have nowhere to turn, and on the day they do want to talk, someone is waiting to talk to them.

There are friends and senior noncommissioned officers in every unit. There are organizations on this base who want nothing more than to listen to you. They want to meet you and hear your story. They want to help you shoulder the burden you are carrying. The only thing you have to do is realize that maybe you need some help and trust those people.

This is why I wear teal. I never want an Airman to feel like they have nowhere to turn. You can always come to us. We will take care of you.