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The weight on our shoulders

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley L. Gardner
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

“Let’s go! You got this,” one person chants as she runs past the finish line. Then she quickly turns around to make sure her all teammates, one-by-one, make it to the finish line during the 6.7 kilometer ruck for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Though we go through annual training and have several outlets for survivors to speak out and educate others on sexual assault prevention, it’s still an ongoing issue in the military. This isn’t something that is just talked about every April each year. But it’s continuously ingrained into our total force community, and still it seems to be happening.

There were approximately 6,700 reported case of sexual assault last year and on April 26, 2019 more than 200 volunteers and participants gathered to ruck 6.7 kilometers. Tech. Sgt. Holly Miller, volunteer and 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron crew chief said the distance was symbolic to the number of reported cases of sexual assault last year.

“Given the number of victims reported, the ruck gave a way to symbolically represent their often silent, long road ahead,” said Tech Sgt. Brenton Merry, ruck march coordinator and 379th Expeditionary Medical Group, medical information systems NCO in charge.

Many participants came out with friends or as units to support, raise awareness, and take a stand for all sexual assault survivors and their families.

Sexual assault is an issue that impacts almost every military member in some way, shape, or form, but combating it doesn’t start by hiding it, it starts by being out front and leading against it.

“As someone directly impacted by sexual assault, it made me optimistic and gave me hope to see so many people come out to support this cause,” said Tech Sgt. Merry, “…most of the participants had to work that day, and they still came out to ruck in the heat, it was really a great feeling to see that.”

The decision to ruck in the event was representative of the weight sexual assault places on its survivors.

For the individuals who feel like they have to be silent and carry that weight on their shoulders alone, this act of participation shows that people don’t just say “I am against sexual assault,” they attest to it. The act shows they are supporting survivors and they are dedicated to raisings awareness.

“It’s an actual physical challenge and serves to bring together more than just runners,” stated Tech. Sgt. Merry. “Anyone was able to come out and participate and show their support.”

The weight may be heavy but remember there are people cheering for you, running with you and supporting you saying, “You got this!”