By Maria LaMagna, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Things probably should have turned out differently for Samantha Schilling.
The stories she tells have dark beginnings and could have had, under different circumstances, dark endings - as so many stories for those in the military do.
Schilling, now 31, served in the U.S. Navy from 1999 to 2003. She was never deployed but worked as an information systems technician at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.
Several of her friends were killed during the 2000 al Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which left 17 dead and at least 37 injured. Some of the injured were transferred to her base in Norfolk.
Many of the survivors suffered from mental trauma after the bombing. One of them, a man who had been aboard the ship, attacked Schilling and attempted to rape her.
That assault drove home the impact that active duty had on her colleagues' mental state.