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Mary Lauterbach, the mother of Maria Lauterbach, visited Sheppard July 12 to speak on her experience and address the importance of handling sexual assaults in the military. Her daughter, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach was murdered in 2007 as she was reporting that another Marine raped her. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson)
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Mother tells story of daughter's rape and death

Posted 7/17/2013   Updated 7/17/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson
82nd Training Wing

7/17/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- With a demeanor of somberness, a mother who lost a daughter takes the podium and addresses the audience with a sense of purpose in her eyes. The listeners focus on her words as she prepares to revisit the fateful events surrounding her daughter's murder.

Mary Lauterbach, the mother of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, visited Sheppard July 12 to speak on her experience and address the importance of handling sexual assaults in the military.

Lauterbach's daughter was murdered in 2007 after reporting she was raped by another Marine, Cpl. Cesar Laurean. Her burned remains and unborn child were found in a fire pit in Laurean's backyard. After the murder, he fled to Mexico where he was arrested, brought back to the U.S. and eventually sentenced to life in prison.

At the podium, Lauterbach prepares to tell others what they can learn from her daughter's story and what they should strive to do. Her voice echoes throughout the auditorium with a somber certainty and an atmosphere of tranquil silence quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

"I want people to be a little bit more mindful about the assumptions that they make," said Lauterbach. "It is a good warning shot about the seriousness of the problem."

Lauterbach believes that more people are becoming aware of the issue of sexual assault in the military.

"I can see people are coming to a deeper understanding of the problem," she said. "They realize the deep impact this has. It affects the whole community."

Acceptance and knowledgeable approaches are seen as the key to solving the issue. Gen. Larry O. Spencer, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff sent out an email July 16 restating the importance of handling sexual assault in the military as part of an "Every Airman Counts" program aimed at garnering feedback from Airmen on how to best tackle sexual assault. The first initiative of the program is a blog where Airmen can post suggestions, ideas and questions with senior leaders and subject matter experts.

"Sexual assault is an issue that affects us all," he remarked. "It's important for us to know exactly where and what the issues are so that we can address them with undivided focus."

Being proactive is one of the many steps being proposed towards handling sexual assault.

"In order to solve a problem you have to actively accept and fix it," said Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini, 82nd Training Wing commander.

Val Cook, 82nd Training Wing Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator chief, feels that spreading more cognizance about the topic is what will move progress forward in a positive direction.

"I thought her story was moving and telling," she said. "More awareness was put out there."

Cook also felt that Lauterbach's experience showed different aspects of sexual assault and how there is an obligation to responsibly report them.

Sheppard has taken multiple steps to instill that very mindset within the base populace. Operation REAL, which stands for respect, equality, accountability and leadership, was initiated as part of a sexual assault stand-down day to educate Airman in June. Teal ropes were pinned on Airmen-in-training here in April to show Sheppard will now have a program to supplement the Students Against Sexual Assault and Harassment program.

President Barack Obama made an official statement in 2012 highlighting the importance of handling sexual assault in the Armed Forces and why it has to be addressed.

"The men and women of the United States military deserve an environment that is free from the threat of sexual assault, and in which allegations of sexual assault are thoroughly investigated, offenders are held appropriately accountable, and victims are given the care and support they need," he commented.

Cook believes when sexual assault is handled responsibly, it shows a sense of belief in the chain-of-command.

"It shows confidence in leadership," she said. "It's not an easy thing to do; it's a right thing to do."

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