This Memorial Day, a writer bares her soul…

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Ah, Memorial Day… for many it signifies the kick off of summer, a time for family, fun, sun, barbeques and a glorious three day weekend. For others, it’s a day of patriotism and the unabashed pride we feel as Americans.

For others… it can be a difficult day. The loss of a loved one is never easy, but to lose them in war is separate. I’ve talked in the past of how the pain fuses with pride, that there is no better cause for death than the defense of our country and the fight for freedom. But today… today I will focus on just the loss. The pain. The consequence of loving somebody brave, selfless and heroic.

Today, I will talk about what it means to love a true patriot. We all know that the inherent risk of life, is death. But, when you love somebody in the military, a military contractor or agent in one of those agencies cloaked in secrecy, your heart becomes even more vulnerable. Every day you wake up telling yourself that you are proud of them, because you are, that what they are doing matters, because it does, and that they will come home safe, because they have to. But, for some, those loved ones don’t get to come home. And what then?

Yes, their loss of life is tragic and overwhelming. But for the loved ones who have to carry on with that void in their lives, their heart, their soul, it is more than tragic. It defines them.

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Some people fracture into a million different pieces scattered to the wind. For the lucky few, they will be surrounded by loved ones who help piece them back together, however many times it takes. While they can again become their whole selves, the ridges, the fractures where those pieces come back together will always be there, marking the destruction and readying to scatter again.

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Others simply split wide open, their emotion pouring out so quickly that they lose themselves in the flood. Drowned. Gone. Never to be seen again. These are the broken few who never move past it, who struggle to wake up every day, who surrender to their grief and fall into the endless ravine of despair. This loss can culminate in bad habits of alcoholism, suicide, drug abuse… the list is endless. The common theme is isolation. Because they lost that precious one, they give up all the other aspects of their life because it becomes too painful to move on with a hole in your heart.

Others handle the loss much better. They are strong enough to reach out for help, to allow people in to grieve with them and pull them along, furthering their life. They keep the lost loved one safe and secure, a precious memory in their heart. They go on to live a full and happy life, honoring their lost loved one and never forgetting their sacrifice. .

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The truth is, there is another group of mourners. When we endure loss, we don’t know how to process it. Instead, we shut down. We grow cold and forego not only joy, but the ability to connect with others. We turn our back on empathy for fear it will chip away at the dam we built around our heart and are keenly aware that it only takes one little chip in that dam to cause the entire thing to give way. We become frigid ice queens, unable to establish relationships with others, including deep friendships because life has taught us the moment we care, we lose that person. Eventually though, luck may give us another chance. We may encounter somebody who climbs that wall around our heart. Unfortunately, it takes a heroic person to climb that wall, and if they are another patriot, affiliated with the military in any way… we run. Us ice queens, we know we’re damaged goods, and more importantly we believe in the greater good. If we suffered a loss because of war, we can’t bring ourselves to endure it again. We are strong enough to know we can’t overcome such devastation a second time and are too weak to risk it.

So this Memorial day, please take a moment, a moment to reflect, to remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and all those left in the wake of loss, who continue to grieve, to suffer, to endure. After all, we are Americans. We are resilient. Strong. Powerful. Everyday we wake up and our soldiers lace up. Our brave men and women put their lives on the line for a free world, and their loved ones hold their breath, hoping, praying they can wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

~Jennifer L. Meacham

“How to Avoid Being Assaulted”

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Sorry to piggy back right off my last post, but I can’t help it in this instance. After posting “Sexual Assault and our need to stop denying victimization”, I noticed an article. Then, I saw it again, and again. I saw it in different formats and even watched a story on it on my local news station.

“How to Avoid Being Assaulted.”

As I said in my last post, we need to stop challenging victims and allow them to reach out so that we can address these heinous crimes. But after seeing this Public Service Announcement, I want to remind all of you that clearly, we still need to work on our education before we can address the crimes themselves.

So according to the PSA, just how does one “Avoid” being assaulted?

  • Women should dress appropriately. – Not only is this vague, but I didn’t realize there was a mandatory dress code in the game of life, especially in America. And if so, do the men who walk around shirtless in the summer invite trouble? No? Oh. Ok. But my tank top and shorts are just screaming “Assault me!” Aren’t they? My bad.
  • Women should walk in groups or pairs – Seriously? Now we need an escort too? And how many goats will my parents get for my hand in marriage?

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  • Women should avoid going out at night – Sorry guys. I can’t go out tonight. I have to be home before the streetlights come on. Oh, I’m not in second grade? Hm. Then why is society telling me to act like I am?
  • Women should avoid alcohol – Yes. Of course. We can’t drink the devil’s water. As weak as we are, just one little whiff, and we black out. Of course, we are helpless little creatures and as the world knows, an unconscious woman is a free pass, like a dying gazelle in the desert. Just let the predators line up to get their fill.
  • Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know – I hate to burst your bubble, but how is it that you get to know people, if you are not allowed to talk to them and you know, get to know them?

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  • Don’t engage in risky behavior– Again, this is a little vague. While I agree that dancing in front of oncoming traffic, propelling down the side of buildings without proper harnesses or supports, etc. should be avoided, my spidey senses tell me that’s not what they’re talking about here.
  • Hold onto your drink, even when you go to the restroom – Yuck. Just yuck.
  • Have a plan and stick to it – So much for spontaneity, whimsy and being a free spirit.
  • Avoid bars that charge men but let women in for free – I live in Vegas so…. avoid Vegas. Got it. And also, does this apply to the gyms where women join free?
  • Let your date know what you are willing to do from the onset of the date. That way, they don’t have to read your mind. – So… should we bring a contract and notary public with us, just to make it official? And what if they don’t honor this magical document that outlines our boundaries?

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  • Be independent and aware – This one really chaps my kakis. For some people, especially those with anxiety, this may not be possible. For them, strength and independence may be a work in progress.

Now, if we truly recommend these guidelines, aren’t we essentially telling people to avoid talking to others, never take a drink and don’t go anywhere? I mean, we might as well be saying, “Hey, do you want to avoid rape? Go to a well lit corner and sit by yourself. Do this, and you’ll be fine.” Does nobody see how insane that is?

And what of the men? The bulk of the guidelines are addressed to women. What about all the males who are victims of sexual assault? What of the children?

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I would like to believe the intent behind the Public Service Announcements was righteous. I think the people behind them were trying to help, but the simple fact is: none of these guidelines can prevent sexual assault.

The only thing that stops a sexual assault is stopping the attacker. We don’t need to tell our girls to walk in packs. We don’t need to judge the clothes they do or don’t wear, and we certainly don’t have the right to question what they do in their daily lives.

Instead, we need to teach people to respect all others. Boys should be taught women are not sexual objects, but are real, live, breathing people, because they are. Girls need to be taught that men are not there to serve them and that they too, have the right to say no. We have to explain that assault is a two way street. We have to start at the ground level, teach people to respect others, to love others, and to be good to everyone they meet.

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Then we need to move into consequences. We can’t continue to allow this epidemic of sexual assault to run rampant. We have to hold those who attack accountable, and not just by issuing a minor fine or writing it off with a few dozen hours of community service. There need to be real, true consequences. These people overpower others. They use fear and intimidation as weapons, knowing the consequences they could face are minimal. If they want to dabble in the world of fear and intimidation, let them. Let them live in fear of what will happen to them. Let the justice system intimidate them and make it crystal clear that this crime they are committing WILL forever change their lives. Make them know, with every fiber of their being, that this will ruin them.

We don’t need to teach people to avoid sexual assault. We need to teach them to stop committing the attacks.

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~Jennifer L. Meacham