In Memory of a Fallen Comrade
by Rochelle Griffin
Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. Today, for many, it’s simply a day off of work and school. For me, it’s about something more…much more. I’m going to share with you a story that I haven’t talked about before.
Almost 8 years ago, when our son was 3, my hubby’s unit was deployed to Afghanistan. Before a unit can actually make the physical move overseas, they have to go through a period of training called mobilization. Although they are still stateside, they are separated from their families during this time. For families, the deployment has started.
During the mobilization, Keith (hubby) suffered a non-life threatening injury. As a result, he ended up not deploying overseas during that particular mission. I, on the other hand, was still actively engaged because I was the head of the unit’s Family Readiness Group (FRG.) As the Volunteer FRG Coordinator, I was in charge of over 100 families with a goal of helping seamlessly match up problems with resources. It was also a fun position…planning holiday parties and get-togethers to help the families have some normalcy. The FRG supports families so deployed soldiers can do their jobs without worry back home.
Anyways, Keith was still healing in the hospital far from home. I was home alone with our son, and I’ll never forget the unexpected call that I received one day. It’s the call that a FRG Coordinator never wants to receive: one of our solders was gravely injured in combat. I sprang into action, jumped into my car, and drove 2 hrs to the home of the soldier’s wife. People were already gathering at her home. I spent hours on the phone with the commander, the general, and others as we coordinated getting her over to the German hospital where her husband was being flown to. It was heart wrenching, but I had to hold it together.
Over the next few weeks, the soldier was flown home to Florida where he remained in intensive care on life-support. I’ll never forget going to the hospital to support his wife and family. I’ll never forget standing by his bedside in the ICU, looking at the monitors, and knowing as a RN what it all meant. I’ll never forget my husband breaking down due to the guilt that he didn’t deploy and his friend was hurt. I had similar guilt as the wife whose husband was home safe while supporting another wife who watched her husband cling to life.
This young man never regained consciousness and eventually succumbed to his injuries…leaving behind a beautiful wife and 2 children. Attending the funeral was an experience in itself. To see his helmet, boots, & weapon in the front of the room…and knowing what it stood for…was more than I could take. I broke down.
When Keith’s unit was again deployed to Afghanistan a few years ago, although every ounce of my being didn’t want him to go, I knew in my heart that he NEEDED to do this. I knew that he needed to do this in honor and memory of his fallen comrade. I knew that he needed to do this to help heal his wound. We said goodbye for a year.
Today my husband is still in the military, and being totally transparent, there are times that I’ve resented it. I’ve had an inside look into military life from the perspective that many, thankfully, never have to see. Today and every day, I honor each soldier AND his/her family. I’m so thankful for all of our men and women in uniform…for their service, for their sacrifice. I’m grateful for the respect and love they have for their country. Next time you see a soldier, regardless of your views on war or politics, thank them for what they do. They deserve it.
God Bless the U.S.A.