Greene County News
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — It can be very difficult to talk about sexual abuse, and even more challenging when one experienced it as a child. But an Airman at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is determined to be open about what happened to her in the hopes that others with similar experiences may join her in healing or beginning to heal.
Senior Master Sgt. Nikole Messer, superintendent, Command Promotions and Evaluation, Directorate of Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, entered the Air Force 20 and a half years ago and describes herself as a “passionate personnelist” because she loves working with people in the course of performing her duties.
Messer permanently changed station last June from Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to come to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but she is not new to the area. She is originally from Dayton, and was 6-years-old when she was molested by a trusted adult.
She acknowledges her life was negatively affected for decades. It wasn’t until 2010 when she watched an Oprah TV series that things began to change. During the show, a particular quote resonated with her: “Forgiveness is when you look back and you stop saying, ‘What if’,”
Messer said, “‘What if this did not happen to me?’”
She took a good, hard look at her personal life — affected by two divorces, parenting two sons alone and having little to no self-respect. She began to understand she couldn’t change what had happened to her as a little girl, but could respond in a positive way.
“I made the determination that I needed to find forgiveness for this person who did this to me, realizing that it had affected me all of those years,” she said. “I thought I was wasted goods. The thing that is most important to a woman had already been taken.”
Raising her sons to be respectful gentlemen, Messer focused on achieving her goal of forgiveness and respecting and loving herself as a woman for the first time in her life.
“I am sharing my story in an effort to let people know they are not alone,” she said. “Whether we wear a military uniform or not, we all come from somewhere, with both positive and negative influences in our life, shaping who we are.”
A resilience trainer since shortly after her 2010 epiphany while stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Messer said she likes to remind people that going to the base’s Mental Health Clinic and utilizing available resources “is OK, and there’s no judgment — I’ve done it and here I am — standing, happy and prosperous.”
A large part of her happiness stems from finding the “love of her life” in 2011. Her soul-mate also is stationed atWright-Patt.
“He’s my best friend and knows everything about me, and likewise,” she said. “But that could not have happened if I had not found the love for myself. It’s the most important piece.”
Messer said her husband is her wingman who helps calm and support her, especially when she is preparing to conduct resilience training and tell her story. A few weeks ago they drove by the house where she was molested, and she found she was not traumatized or fearful as she had been before.
“When I walk into a room now, I walk with my head held high,” Messer explained, knowing that she used to keep her head low and her gaze even lower. “I walk with my head held high because I am happy with who I am.”
Amazingly, she said learning how to accept, overcome and communicate what happened to her “has been a great experience, and it gets better each time I can talk to a group about it,” she said.
Often people respond by talking or emailing her to share their own stories.
“That’s what the resilience program is all about: everyone helping each other to come out on a positive note so we can feel that love for each other,” Messer said.
A better Airman
Messer feels like she is a better Airman now with the lessons she’s learned. In her current position she maintains an open door policy that encourages easy communication, even about tough topics, no matter what they are.
While she still has nightmares, she feels better when she can connect with and listen to others. She says she has more empathy for others and no longer places blame on other people for what happened to her.
“I’ve learned I deserve good things, and no matter what has happened in the past, it doesn’t define me,” Messer said.
Physical fitness is important to her as it brings peace while she runs or works out. She builds spiritual resilience and centers herself, she said, through experiencing nature and favorite music.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Messer said. “By coming out and saying my story, that’s my path and it’s brought me to the person I am today. I’m not perfect, but I’m OK with me. I was strong enough to pull myself through this, obviously utilizing the resources I had available. But it took [a lot of] years to come to this point.”
Her personal mantra? “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on.”
She’d like to tell other survivors and everyone: “You are worth it. You have a purpose. You’re good enough.”
Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
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