Through wounded eyes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ceaira Tinsley
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

I wasn't okay…I felt like no one cared.


October 10, 2019, was easily one of the loneliest days of my life.


While most of the base slept that brisk morning, I was having makeup applied to my face to represent the “black eye” that would paint it for the rest of the day.


With my realistic scenario playing in my head and 10 domestic violence awareness cards in hand, I set out to start my day.


Throughout the day, I was supposed to come into contact with as many Airmen as possible in hopes that they would ask if I was alright or if I needed assistance. The exercise was designed to increase overall domestic violence awareness, foster the “see something, say something” mentality and highlight the various helping agencies on base.


What started out as quest to find out if I was hurt or in danger, who would notice and more importantly who would care, turned into a journey of discovery.


The first person I came into contact with was obviously taken by surprise by my bruises, but they said nothing. Instead of talking about the obvious, we discussed an upcoming meeting for our positive mindset group.


I knew for sure the second group of people I encountered would say something since they were some of the first friends I made when I arrived at Incirlik, but still nothing. I later learned since most of them were males, they thought it would be more fitting to get the female in their office to ask me instead.


The day went on like this: Some people would ask while others avoided me at all costs.


Over the course of the work day, six people came up to me genuinely concerned about my bruise and tried to guide me toward help. Sadly, all I could think about were the countless people who said nothing.


What about the people who blew past me in the hall and then put their heads down, or the cashier afraid to take my money as I paid for some groceries?


The emotions I felt that day do not even come close to the battles some of my fellow Airmen face on a daily basis.


Although there are no families stationed at Incirlik, domestic violence can still happen. Domestic violence can occur in any intimate partnership including spouses, partners and family members.


As I contemplated, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the passersby. Would I have said something? Have I ever noticed something was not right with someone but still continued my day without so much as a second thought?


The quick answer for most of us is yes. Most of us are wrong.


These are the thoughts and feelings we have to strive to overcome because they can stop us from getting our Airmen the help they may desperately need.


I realized the issue wasn’t that people did not care. Some didn’t ask because they feared they would be invading a private matter, while others simply did not know how to ask the question.


Regardless of the barriers that stop us, we have to remember asking the question is always better than not asking. Checking on your wingmen and taking a vested interest in their well-being is not invading their privacy but instead it is showing that they are an invaluable member to our Air Force family.


Those eight hours were a small snapshot of a greater struggle so many experience every day.


Our Airmen are truly our most important assets, so we cannot be afraid to intervene. We have to ask the hard, and often uncomfortable questions. Some of our Airmen are fighting wounds that cannot visibly be seen, but those wounds are there and they are real.


While the wounds that decorated my face were physical in nature, what about the invisible scars we cannot readily see?


Domestic violence can be categorized in many ways: emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and even digital abuse.


Regardless of the category the answer is the same: awareness plus action equals change.


I challenge each of you, day in and day out, to never be afraid to look people in the eye and say: “are you okay?”


Three simple words could change everything.