Q&A: Sarah Plummer, veteran, advocate and speaker

  • Photo by Tim Johnson
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From the July 5, 2012 edition

Don’t let that infectious smile fool you. Sarah Plummer has seen a lot of struggle her lifetime.

The Marine has served two tours in Iraq, has been struck by lightning and once walked away from a crash that left her car totally destroyed.

But her life’s work of motivational speaking and military justice advocacy stems from one of her most painful battles — she was raped by a comrade while in military training.

“My gifts lie in being able to talk about it,” Plummer said.

We asked her to speak with us and learned that there are several meanings of the word “fighter” that can apply to Plummer.

My nicknames were Pep Rally and Suzy-Q. … One of my commanding officers, every day he’d come in and would tell me to shut up and knock stuff off my desk. He’d be like, “I don’t know why you smile so much.” Every day. And at the end of the deployment he was like, “I just want to let you know that you single-handedly raised the morale of this unit.” And I was like, “What a jerk!” But on the other end of it, it was like wow, what a lesson. Be yourself. Even when people say you shouldn’t act a certain way, in the long run it pays to be yourself.

The worst part [about surviving a rape] was reporting it. Nobody believes you … then how that got put in my record which followed me everywhere throughout the Marine Corps, and it ended up affecting my entire career … The thing I’m most passionate about is telling people that life goes on after that. Remind yourself of who you are and that that person didn’t take it from you.

I am still sort of telling girls, “This is how not to get raped,” and I don’t want to continue to promote that because that’s not right either. It’s not a checklist; that pisses me off. There were some military infomercials I just saw a year or two ago that were like that. It’s this girl in Iraq walking out of her trailer to go to the bathroom and one of the male soldiers comes out and is like, “Why are you out by yourself at night?” There were some guys bullying her. The whole thing basically was, “Oh you shouldn’t have been out by yourself.” The whole thing undermines everything for the victim.

Yoga’s become a lifestyle for me. Where I transitioned from it being pure exercise to more the mental, emotional aspect of it was actually when I was in Iraq on my second deployment. I found that the days that I did yoga, it was like a breath of fresh air.

Faith in God has also given me peace in the storm. I can still fight something or disagree or know that it’s wrong but on a deeper level have a sense of peace with the big picture.

If I wasn’t an eternal optimist, I’d be dead.