I am the widower of 1LT Connie L Keller. Connie and I met in the Laboratory of the VA hospital in Phoenix. I was a phlebotomist and Connie was a Medical Technologist, and when we first met I had a needle in my hand to draw her blood for her new employee physical. They called me down from the lab because the three assigned to outpatient had already missed. Connie’s first words to me were, “You had better get it on your first try, or I’ll kick you in the balls.” Not nearly as romantic as most first meetings of ‘soul mates’. Got it first try. (Whew).
Connie was in the habit of treating everyone as equals until you gave her a reason not to do so, So one day at lunch she made the mistake of asking me to sit with her and the other Medical Technologists, and boy did she pay for that. Asking a “Mere” phlebotomist to sit and eat with Med-Techs, the nerve of her.
Connie asked me to help her move, and that night she made dinner for me, and we went on a few dates, I helped her move in with me, and we were together for 22 years, married 19 years, 4 months and 11 days. My NCO’s in my National Guard unit called her “Stracker”, because, although I was very good at my job, I wasn’t always turned out in the most military manner, Connie was always strack, and helped me to be as well.
Connie had a varied career in the services, from being a WAC to Air National Guard, back to Active Army, to the US Public Health Service, then back to the Army, in the Reserves.She as a Laboratory Specialist, Aeromedical Technician, Preventative Medicine Specialist, Commissioned Sanitarian, (USPHS), which is where she received her commission. When she returned to the Army Reserves they wouldn’t recognize her commission, but she was able to retire at her commissioned rank.
Connie was called up to go to Iraq in 2008, the orders dated for her 57th birthday and delivered the day after. She served at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. Bucca was a detainee center. Connie worked in the Lab, doing microbiology, where she saw things she never expected to see outside of a textbook, and even found some things she had never seen before, she wound up sending samples to the CDC on a regular basis.
Connie was medi-vaced to Landstuhl, Germany for acute respiratory distress, and then to the WTU at Ft. Carson.
Connie was sent to Ft. Dix after being returned to duty, where her lungs got worse, and she wound up on oxygen 24/7. She took returned through the WTU again, which she retired from.
Then one night last August I woke up, leaned over and pressed my lips to hers, but not for a kiss, but to try and breath life back into her still, limp body. I placed her on the floor and started CPR while I called 911. The Paramedics took over when they arrived, and transported her to the hospital up the block from our home. I had worked EMS for 20 years, and I am looking at what was left as I was pulling myself together to drive to the hospital, the house, which had been so crowded just a few minutes ago was now empty, except for me and my thoughts. I was thinking “Well, I should keep that, and this, that too might come in handy next time.” Then I fell to my knees and cried out to GOD to let there be a next time, because that would mean she survived this time. They revived her on the way to the hospital, then two more times. They were unsuccessful the fourth time.
I had friends and family, especially from my church, but there was still things they didn’t understand, and I was at a crisis point when I discovered the American Widow Project, called the hotline number, and talked to Taryn for over four hours.