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Often people tell me that they look up to me. These are people who in most cases I’ve never met or maybe converse with via social media. I can tell you that it humbles me and it motivates me to want to be a better person. I’m also asked quite often how I’m so confident and strong to be able to do what I’ve done, accomplish what I have, and get to where I am today. It’s not been without periods of great difficulty and I think it’s extremely important that you all know that.

I grew up ridiculed and humiliated by others for being feminine. I was taught a young age that being different was wrong and shameful and it was instilled in me at an early age that “I was broken”. I wasn’t broken, but I was physically and mentally broke down by others who somehow thought that bullying me or humiliating me would make me “more of a man”.

I can tell you that as a 36 year old transgender AH-64D Apache Longbow Attack Helicopter Pilot that I have redefined my own version of what a strong, independent, successful woman can be.

I hit a point (around 30 years old) where I learned that the validation of my family, my friends, my peers and coworkers were not necessary. I learned to listen to the stories of others who also struggled to find their own self worth and validation and only by doing that I then learned who I was and embraced who I am. I realized that I was not alone.

“You are not alone” are four extremely powerful words to hear.

I’d like everyone reading this to do the following:

Imagine your life is a metaphoric book. On the cover is a picture of you in your natural non-filtered state. Each chapter of your life is categorized as a chapter in the table of contents…year one—chapter one, year two—chapter two, and so on… Each chapter of your life is captured in great and sometimes humiliating detail. The good, the bad, your successes, your failures, times of loneliness, self doubt, misplaced confidence, nothing is embellished in any way as to portray your own self as the victim or the hero. You are just you. Some chapters may read like fiction, some may read like tragedy, some may be humorously heartfelt.

I am on the 36th year/chapter of my book. I do not know how it will end or if the ending will be tragic or happy, but I do know that it will eventually end, that’s for sure. No Volume 2 or 2nd Edition for me lol.

How will your book read? We don’t always have control of our stories but we can rest assured that regardless of how our story ends, if told with integrity it will be shared long after we are gone. I choose to make my story one of hope, love, perspective, shared experiences, and all of the good things I’ve lived and learned along the way.

I hope your story holds meaning as well. I hope your story inspires others and provides encouragement and hope. I sincerely hope that your story is accurately shared, heard, and learned from because you are not alone in this world.

I look forward to hearing others stories as much as I look forward to sharing my own, because I know that somewhere out there my story just may prevent a child’s story from tragedy or heartache. I know that somewhere out there a younger version of myself is struggling with their own self worth and validation. I want to tell that young boy or girl that “you are not alone”.

Love you all ❤️

CW3 Lindsey Muller is the recipient of the 2018 Donna Johnson Equality and Valor Award, presented to her at the 5th Annual AMPA National Gala in Washington, DC, on Saturday, May 12.