ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- "You can be the victim, or you can be victorious."
This has become the life motto for Tech. Sgt. Tanya Evans, the 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron Traffic Management Office receiving and inbound NCO in charge.
Evans has served in the Air Force for close to 16 years. However, during the past two-and-a-half years she redefined herself, her life and her vision. For a period of time before that, Evans found herself living a nightmare of domestic violence and abuse.
But it didn't start out that way. She was stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and was married to the father of her two children. Evans and her family spent 11 years at Luke AFB, where she deployed multiple times to several overseas locations. She said with each deployment, her marriage "Seemed to falter ... it was as if he couldn't handle being 'Mr. Mom,' and he said it was too hard for him."
She returned home from one deployment to the news that her husband had left her for another woman.
"It was the beginning of the darkest time in my life," she said. "I went from weighing 178 pounds to 120 in less than 90 days. My life was in shambles." However, things would soon go from bad to worse.
"We got into an argument when I told him I decided to divorce him," she said. "That was to be expected. What I didn't expect was that the argument would put me in the hospital."
Evans said that her husband became extremely violent during their argument and hit her with so much force he broke her nose and part of her forehead. She spent three days in the hospital and underwent several reconstructive surgeries to repair the damage.
Despite the pain, one of the worst things for her was that her two children, who were 3 and 9 at the time, witnessed the abuse. "The scars from my three surgeries healed for the most part," she said. "But the emotional scars ... for both me and my kids ... those are going to take much longer to heal." She relied on services from Military OneSource and the mental health clinic to begin to heal from the inside.
"I did not care one bit about the 'stigma' attached to mental health care. At the time, I just wanted to be healed. I went through an intense period of withdrawal and distrust. It took a while to work through those issues." Evans attributes her renewed outlook and vision to her support system. "What they say about having a Wingman is true. I was fortunate to have three. I also had the full backing of my supervisor and boss."
The abuse Evans endured wasn't a secret to anyone in her work center. "It wasn't as if I could hide it," she said. "It was outwardly visible and people noticed my self confidence had disappeared. I fell. I didn't focus and I felt that I hurt the mission."
Eventually, through the help of counseling and her support system, Evans began to rebuild her life for herself and her children. While her son was too young to recall most of the abuse, her daughter has definitely been affected by it.
"She has gone through counseling to deal with her issues too, and she has come along way," Evans said.
Evans has only been at RAF Lakenheath for four months, but said she views the assignment as a new beginning for her family. "Being a single mom in the military is incredibly tough," she said. "But it's also incredibly rewarding." She has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of single parents she has met along her journey. "They have become my amazing support system and peers," she said.
Being a single parent has also enabled her to be a better, more understanding supervisor for her troops. "I get it when some of my Airmen who are single parents are having issues with sick kids, daycare or any of the multitude of things that can happen when there is only one parent in a household," she said."I feel it makes me more understanding." Perhaps most important is the journey she has taken with her children and that eventually brought her to the United Kingdom.
"After 11 years in the same assignment, it's like an entire new beginning for my family," she said. "We are going to get to see things most families will never have the chance to, thanks to our life in the Air Force. What makes it the most special for me, is that I am now seeing life through six eyes, instead of just two." The motto that gets her through the tough times, "You can be a victim or you can be victorious," has been her mantra for the past two years. So, is Evans victorious?
"Definitely, without a doubt, yes," she concluded with a smile.