In 2006, Air Force Staff Sgt. Colleen Bushnell, retired after a nine-year military career which garnered her multiple job performance awards. The retirement was prompted by service-related incidents in 2004 and 2005 that led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The injuries were not the type typically imagined by the general public when reading about military members hurt during their tour of duty – in fact, they weren’t even inflicted by the enemy.
A Times Union report explains:
Bushnell’s wounds resulted not from enemy action, but from sexual assaults she says were perpetrated by senior personnel around Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. An officer raped her in 2004 and a female officer sexually assaulted her the following year, she said.
Post-retirement was an extremely difficult time for Bushnell. We’ve covered her battle with Fox News’ Liz Trotta here, which reveals some facts surrounding her case, and you can find more details about her personal story in a self-authored blog post here.
But, being a battler by nature, Bushnell has rebounded to become a leading voice for women in the military, veterans, and for those suffering from sexual assaults.
Here is an excerpt from the excellent Times Union report:
Over the past several months, Bushnell has emerged as an advocate for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and victims of military sexual trauma. She’s fighting for changes in how the Pentagon handles sexual assault complaints, which officially totaled 3,192 in 2011. According to the Pentagon, however, most incidents weren’t reported, and the real number was higher than 19,000. More than a third of those assaults involved male victims, who are less likely to report problems, according to reports.
Women account for more than 15 percent of Army ranks and 20 percent of Air Force members. Department of Defense data show 20 percent of all servicewomen experience rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment.
Bushnell uses media skills she learned as an Air Force public affairs specialist to tell others what she went through and to connect victims with information that can help them heal. This summer, she will embark on a national awareness campaign. She is one of five veterans who will participate in the Long Ride Home Project, a cross-country bicycle trip intended to assist returning veterans.
The vets will pedal 4,200 miles from Washington state to Washington, D.C., over 90 days. The riders hope to heal themselves while drawing attention to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are struggling to readjust to civilian life.
Please read the rest here, especially for details on where Bushnell will be speaking in the future and ways you can contribute to the cause…