Small but crucial details

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Valerie Hosea
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
I didn't know it was happening. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. Please, tell me how I can fix this. I feel terrible.

These are all things we say when someone we love is recovering from something that could have been prevented or stopped, if we had just paid more attention.

When I was 13 years old, my little sister was my world. And I was hers. I would have given my life for her. She was 11 at the time and experienced things that no little girl should ever go through.

From the age of 11 to 12, my sister acted out in school. Her grades dropped. She would throw temper tantrums. She became very anti-social and would sit alone in her room for hours at a time. She became very afraid of the dark. Finally, she began locking her bedroom door at night.

"Why does an 11-year-old need to lock her door?" we thought. Instead of taking a deeper look at what was causing this behavior, we made the mistake of simply brushing it off. We treated the behavior as mere childish rebellion.

Five years later, after a downward spiral of her life, we found out that she was raped and molested repeatedly. And the painful irony of it was, she had never said anything about her horrid experience because she wanted to protect me. She feared that if she told anyone, I would be next.

As she grew older, the "mere childish rebellion" escalated into dangerous behavior. She became severely depressed. To deal with the depression she experimented with drugs. She even attempted suicide.

She must have felt so alone. I can't fathom the pain she carried. If we had paid more attention, we would have realized that there was something truly troubling my brave little sister.

She has never fully forgiven us for missing those small but crucial details, and I don't blame her. I thank her for being hard on me, because I needed to learn how to be more attentive. I needed to notice when someone is not okay.

I thank my sister for helping me to be a more conscientious person, and in turn, a good wingman. I make it a point to take action when I see that one of my wingmen is having a rough time.

I thank my sister for teaching me not to judge so quickly when you're looking from the outside in. People should ask what's wrong and try to help.

I will never forgive myself for letting my sister go through that horrible ordeal without my compassion and understanding.

I learned the hard way to be more aware and in the future, I'll always take a closer look at those around me. To be a good wingman, you should too.