On Sunday, Sept. 11 in his commemoration speech at the Pentagon, President Biden said “The American story itself changed that day.” Surely this is true on many levels.
Part of that story went on to be written by women and men who trained and served in the military throughout the next two decades. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq changed many servicemembers’ lives in numerous ways.
Only recently has the untold story of military sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape garnered attention. While these crimes impact all sexes and all genders in the military, the impact on female servicemembers is particularly alarming.
Only 17 percent of all military women personnel experience these crimes at a reported rate of 1 in 12. The Veterans Administration reports 1 in 3 women respond yes to military sexual trauma from their time in service.
The 2021 annual report on sexual assault in the military shows the worst year in prevalence rates of sexual assault for women and the second worst year for men since 2006. The data on which these numbers is based is self-reported; actual numbers are likely much higher.
Completed suicide rates for women veterans is rising much faster than rates for male veterans.
Army specialist Vanessa Guillen was murdered at Fort Hood Texas in April 2020. She is now the face of military sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Long considered “incident to service,” just this year the Uniform Code of Military Justice was amended by order of President Biden, making sexual harassment a punishable offense.
Yes, the American story did change on Sept. 11, 2001. The next chapter was written by the men and women who served in the military in the ensuing decades. The newest chapter demands military perpetrators be prosecuted and leadership be held accountable for their decision-making.
May all who were lost on 9/11 rest in power.
May those listed below be remembered for the sacrifice of their lives following military sexual assault.
May it not be in vain.
SPC Vanessa Guillen
PFC LaVena Johnson
SSGT Morgan Robinson
SGT Amanda Sheldon
PFC Asia Graham
PV2 Nicole Burnham
SPC Kaylie Harris
CPL Thae Ohu
CPL Anne Vassas