Hello, my name is Kim L Smith. Many of you do not know who I am. I hope you will learn a little more about me.
I married my best friend, Paul, in 1988 after a short while of dating we had a son in 1989. We lived pay check to pay check, while Paul worked 3 jobs to provide for us, then in 1993 things got rough, financially. One day Paul went and took the
army test on a whim and our lives changed for the better. Seeing him at boot camp with his hair shaved to military Id’s, I loved him even more than I thought I ever could.When he came out of boot camp we headed to Texas where I was so happy.
Paul went from a buck private to an E4 quickly, and we had awesome leaders and friends along the way. The military life is like no other lifestyle and once you experience it, you will never forget the late nights, early mornings, 24 hour shifts and buddies who are always there for support. The other soldiers’ wives became friends for life, like a sisterhood, a family. When one of our soldiers was away, we’d look to each other for support and comfort, and we each knew what the other was going through. We still were going from paycheck to paycheck but it was different.
Then we were stationed in Germany in 1996. Paul did not enjoy being there as much as the kids and I did, he did not get to see the black forest or get the clock he really wanted, but we still had fun, It is a memory my family will never forget. We were there for three years without visits from family, and that is where I made the strongest bonds with other Army wives. Paul would deploy for training, and it felt the same to me as if he were going off to war. I swear to this day, I loved the military more then Paul did.
We flew back stateside and ended up in Fort Riley, Kansas, of all places. We were only an eight hour trip from our hometown and families in Illinois. This time in our lives was more trying because Paul was deploying almost every year, for at least year at a time. I really depended on the support of other wives, as well as friends and family. Paul was deploying for wars, especially post 9-11, however we felt very fortunate to have computers and video chats in order to talk and see each other.
After seven years in Kansas, Paul decided to bring us back to his hometown in East Peoria, Illinois, where I am writing the demise of my happiness now. Paul had a thirty day separation from the active military and then he joined the Illinois National Guard out of Kewanee, Illinois. The experience was much different between having full time Army responsibilities and what we referred to as the “Weekend Army,” and along with a new career change, there also came new challenges to face. Paul had to learn new skills and to do so, he ventured to places such as Boston for training. He seemed to like the weekend and two weeks of summer training, but it wasn’t the same for me.
Now comes the time that is hard for me to write about. Paul was not mandated to be deployed to Afghanistan, but he volunteered to go. He was a true soldier. We were struggling a little with health care and finances, so he made the decision to deploy with them and things were good for awhile. I met more army wives through the deployment and helped out with cooking, baking and whatever else I could for the unit, after all, I loved the military and was proud to help. I did not put up much American theme decor until after Paul was killed. It was classified as a homicide, and typing or saying those words still upsets me. I am getting a little ahead of myself, though. Paul came home in April for rest and relaxation, “R & R” as we called it. I picked him up and we had a awesome time with family and friends as well as relaxing. Paul was showing us pictures and videos of Afghanistan, he was proud and happy to show them, and all I had to do is look at him to see how much he loved to video tape and write about his experiences. I just can not express what a hero he was.
On May 12th, a day before what would have been our 21st wedding anniversary, I kissed him and said goodbye at the airport, thinking he would return the that coming August. All seemed well, although he did express to me it was getting worse over there. I let it roll off my shoulders, paying no attention to it. We would talk on the Internet and by satellite phone. I knew where he was going and when he was to return, but on June 19, 2009, the man who was a hero, my husband and best friend was killed. That was the day my life turned to shambles.
What I am going to write is what has happened up till now and now is where I have to decide to go on or not . I have went to many military funerals and they are each special in their own way and also have seen fully dressed chaplines go knock on doors in real life not on TV I have seen the devastation that take place afterwards. Who would have thought i would be one of them?? No one can ever imagine what it felt like that day when two army men fully dressed came to my door worse of all Sarah, my daughter, saw them first. They knocked and asked to come in first I thought he was hurt and I could fly to Longsthul to see him; never was i prepared for the words and letter they read from telling me Paul was murdered. I was angry ,hurt, worried, confused, crying ,yelling. telling them not to read the letter begging them to leave me alone. But they did what they had to do and when it was done they said sorry, “sorry for what? Ruining my life, sending me down a path I did not choose or want”
Okay. Sorry, wow and they left. They did tell me my causality assistance officer would be by; with my head still spinning I called my family. The Chaplin was on the way to tell Paul’s mother, Jan, how was I going to deal with them they were not supportive and now the military took her son. All I could think of was seeing Paul; holding him, kissing him, hoping they were wrong, praying to God to take me also. I really did not want to go through all of this and life without him, but as a army wife you have to overcome. They said “Honor him, Be strong.” When friends got word of Paul’s death, the wives I knew from every post i was stationed at flew here and helped me through the funeral from red eyes from crying so hard, to cooking. and styling hair, and just listening to me. Thanks girls! I did have the national guard wives but it wasn’t the same as the army wives sorry but it’s not.
Getting through the funeral, seeing Paul laying there, knowing he is in a better
place or so they say, I have to question everything more so then before. Kissing him goodbye, I begged him to wait for me don’t forget me and take me and put in a good word. We did everything together, he loved staying home watching TV, movies, popcorn and grilled cheese.
“How could you leave me?”
Well my CA officer was a guy who was high ranking in the guard stationed in Chicago. He walked me through things, set stuff up, and got the money started and he even went with me to welcome the guys home when they returned from overseas. Then he left and all my girl friends left people, people went on with their lives and i was stuck in mine trying to figure out what to do, why this happened, seeing all the articles, receiving gifts from angels all over the state, I love all of them and I now decorate one room all red, white, and blue. Remember I said I never, did now I do.
Paul’s ashes sit proudly on the hutch along with pictures and other stuff that honor him I never wanted this life but its all part of being in the service that you have to know the posabilities sad but true. We are going on two years this June 2011, and I am still mourning him, they say get over it move on, they don’t know me and chances are they don’t want to know me.
This is my fall, they give you the money, send you on the way, and poof everyone is gone my CA officer moved on he talks from time to time he knows my sorrows, but it’s not the same. Army wives have moved on, don’t see the Kewanee guard anymore, I seldom talk to the wives on facebook, the others are gone. I have no support other then the kids and my family. Some uncles have stopped coming by some blaming me for Paul’s death, etc. I went though a chunk of money in 2 years, they say this is normal. I did purchase the house in which we intended to do anyway, fixed it up, and loaned a bunch of money to people; some have paid back, others seem to forget and some said that it was a gift and it