My husband, Daniel James Johnson, was 23 years old when he was killed when an IED detonated in his vicinity. He was and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician for the United States Air Force.
I will start my story from the beginning…
I met my Husband, Senior Airman Daniel Johnson on July 9th, 2008. A mutual friend of ours asked me to come to his Bible study and meet Dan. He did not know I was coming, or even knew I existed. We hit it off from the start, and became “official” just a few short days later on July 18th. I knew immediately that there was something different about my Daniel. He was special. He was so full of life, integrity and honesty.
Dan and I had been together only five short months when he got the news that he was leaving for Iraq. I was devastated. I couldn’t see how I was going to spend seven long months away from my best friend. Dan was going to be in Florida for a month, and then would be leaving for Iraq a few days after his training ended. Dan called me the day he finished training and informed me that he had just bought me a plane ticket to come and be with him before he left for Iraq. It was extremely spontaneous and romantic; I was so touched. This trip solidified the fact that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man.
Once we made it thru the first three months of Dan’s deployment, I became very comfortable. We were talking every single day, Skyping at least three times a week, and he was very bored, which made me very happy. Our worlds were both rocked when, on June 5th 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer. We had both spent some much worrying about him; we forgot to worry about me. I went thru surgery, and four rounds of chemo before Dan came home from Iraq to be with me. Having him deployed during what I thought would be the toughest time of my life was impossible. I needed him. Dan called me during every chemo session and talked to me for hours at a time, until I was done. Dan came home from Iraq, finished off my chemo appointments with me and helped me gain my strength back. He was my hero.
After being home from Iraq for three months, Dan proposed to me on Christmas Eve of 2009 in front of all my family and friends. It was perfect, and we were happy. We had a quick engagement and married on June 5th, 2010; a year after my diagnosis. It was the best day of my life. I married my best friend and my soul mate that day. We were so happy, and our life together was just beginning.
About a month or so before our wedding, we received news that Dan would be deploying to Afghanistan in August. Dan left for training at the end of July, just five short weeks after our wedding. I flew out to be with Dan in South Carolina between training and his deployment. This time together was amazing. After seven quick days together, he put me on a plane and kissed me our last kiss. I left for California, and Dan left for Afghanistan.
We knew this deployment was different from the very beginning. I could tell in Dan’s voice that this deployment was serious. We never ended a conversation without a prayer and an, “I love you.” We talked every few days, and the last conversation we had was on October 2nd. On October 5th, 2010, after only five weeks in country, my Husband was killed. And I knew the second my co-worker came into my meeting and told me that I needed to step out, that something terrible had happened. The notification team came to my house and spoke with my Aunt, who was living with me at the time. She called my parents and told them that Dan had been killed, and it was there job to come to my work and tell me that my best friend wasn’t coming home. My knees hit the ground. I couldn’t believe it. Not me. This was not supposed to happen. We had our whole lives together.
Now here I sit, six months after my Husband’s death, a 25 year old widow. I never anticipated that my life would take this turn. I must admit that I am not sure I have fully accepted the fact that he is gone. He is still supposed to be deployed and would have returned home in March. My mantle is covered in folded flags, pictures of him, his badges, his helmet; all reminders to me that he is gone. The scariest part is that I know the worst is yet to come. I know that when the time comes for him to come home, and he doesn’t, it will hit me hard. I cry every single day for the loss of my Daniel. But the only thing I take comfort in knowing that he is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My husband was not only my best friend and the best EOD Tech he could be, but he was also a child of God. Our faith is the only thing that keeps me going; the only things that allows me to get out of bed each and every day.
I am not sure that I will ever be the same person I was before Dan’s death. I am not sure that I will love again with all of my heart, or that I can begin to think of a future without him in it. But I do know that I have to try. Dan would be so upset with me if he knew that I was letting this beat me. I have to survive, for him. I have to move on, for him. So I will continue on this rollercoaster ride that is my new life. I will return to work in a few short weeks and I will attempt to get my life back. Key word: attempt.
I love you Daniel James. Forever and always.