Taniki Richard’s family moved around often during her childhood, so adjusting to new locations during her deployment came naturally. She enjoyed her assignments and has positive memories of Iraq. “Everything made sense in Iraq,” Taniki said. “You had a routine, you had your friends, and you knew what you had to do every day.”
But routines don’t always go as planned.
Stress of combat
While delivering classified equipment to a base in central Iraq, Taniki’s helicopter came under enemy fire. Physically, she and her fellow Marines returned unharmed. Mentally, Taniki took a turn for the worst. The stress of combat brought back memories of an unreported military sexual assault she endured a few years earlier.
After deployment, Taniki returned to her base in North Carolina, where she continued to struggle. Despite being a suicide awareness facilitator and an advocate for victims of sexual assault on the base, Taniki purposely crashed her car into a pole outside the base gates.
“I didn’t want to die,” Taniki admitted. “I really wanted to live. That’s why I was so sad. I wanted help, but no one seemed to want to help me. After I crashed, I decided to get help, and I think that’s the first time I was ever a true leader.”
In 2014, Taniki got involved in a mental health program that empowered her to learn how to cope with PTSD. This program also connected Taniki with other wounded warriors who play a vital role in her recovery.
Today, Taniki spends most of her time helping other warriors find their paths toward recovery. “If I can be a part of something that helps people heal and find peace, then the end of my service is not the end,” she said. “I’m just serving in a new way now.”