My name is Adela Veguilla-Shapiro and I am the proud Military Widow of Pfc. Steven Shapiro, and this is our story.
I met my husband through a mutual friend in the summer of 2003. Steve was 20 and I was 17. We were both young and at the time trying to find ourselves, and our lives had taken us to opposite sides of the state. We continued to stay in contact with one another and after six years, we re-united.
I remember the first day we we’re able to get together. It was a beautiful day in San Francisco, May 2009. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. We made our way through the city, stopping at Dolores Park, The Sutro Bath House and ate lunch in Japan Town. He was impressed that I insisted on paying the bill and saying to him “I’m a working girl, I have my own money.” We ended the night with a simple good bye and I began my drive back home, two hours north. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I was praying that he would want to see me again. And, sure enough, I received a text message. My heart skipped. Steve wanted to make sure I made it home safe and told me he had good time. I immediately replied back with a “we should hang out again sometime.” The following week, I took the two-hour drive south, to San Francisco to be with him. This time, it was a date. We went to a movie in Daly City, and in the parking garage we had our first kiss. He surprised me while I was digging through my purse looking for my glasses, I felt him come closer and before I knew it, his lips were on mine. I felt my face get hot and became embarrassed. I remember thinking to myself “oh my god.” That feeling of being embarrassed and uncomfortable quickly went away. There was something about Steve that always made me feel at ease. Perhaps it was because we were friends for so long, we already knew one another that taking our friendship to the next step just seemed to come naturally. On May 13th, 2009, we were official and I was his girl. From that day on, we became inseparable. Steve and I would constantly call one another, texting each other throughout our workday. And on our days off, I would stay with him in San Francisco, so we could be together.
A couple weeks into our relationship, I knew he was the one. Steve was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And in true traditional fashion, I brought him home to meet my Father. The two-hour drive to my house, I was prepping Steve on what to say and what not say to him. Because my family means everything to me, and if they didn’t approve of Steve, that would make our relationship very difficult. Again, I prayed, hoping they would see the Steve that I loved and accept him for the man that he was. When we pulled up to my house, my heart began to race. I ran a million scenarios through my head. The first one, was of my Father cleaning his pistol as we walked through the door. I hoped that I was exaggerating this moment, and thankfully that was the case. Before I could even open the door, my parents were already standing in the doorway, smiling. “How embarrassing” I thought to myself. To my surprise, that night went smoothly. Steve and my Father became close. Night after night, they would reflect and converse over things that I didn’t much care for and he quickly embraced my family as his own.
Over a series of conversations with my Father, Steve became inspired to enlist in the U.S. Army. One day after class, Steve had decided he would speak with a recruiter. It was a spontaneous action. I wasn’t aware that Steve had taken interest in joining the military. I remember asking him over and over again “are you sure you want to do this?” And he would reply each time with “yes, I want to do this.” Hesitantly, we met my Father at the Army Recruiting Station in Santa Rosa. A series of meetings would take place in this office with his recruiter. Together they would discuss the benefits of joining the military and all it’s glory. What took over a course of weeks, seemed like hours, and with the blink of an eye, Steve had signed the papers.
Every girl dreams of the day when they’re proposed to, their wedding day and so forth. My dream was just like any other girl, wishing for a fairy tale. Steve was a romantic man, and he proposed to me, with no ring, while driving in my Honda, down Geary Street in San Francisco. And, it wasn’t even a “will you marry me?” it was a “well, if we get married, we’ll be able to live together.” Did I mention Steve was romantic? In all honesty, I didn’t care how he asked, whether it was on one knee or not. So I said to him, “I’ll marry you with a ring from a Cracker Jack Box.” And in less than seven months, I went from girlfriend, to fiancé, to wife.
December 31st, 2009 Steve and I became husband and wife. We decided to not have a wedding, nothing fancy, just a civil ceremony at the Napa County Court House. On our drive back home, we kept saying to one another “we’re married!” — “you’re my husband!” — “you’re my wife!” After so many years of friendship, knowing that he chose me, out of all the other girls, he chose me to be his wife. I was honored, honored to be his.
March 1st, 2010 I drove Steve to the recruiting office, where I’d have a few moments to say goodbye before he left to basic training. I tried my best to hold myself together, to be strong for him, to not allow myself to cry. I kept thinking to myself “it’s just four months, four months will go by fast.” I kissed him goodbye and then he left. I stayed in the parking lot of the recruiting office. Alone in my car, I cried. I highly underestimated how long four months would take. Four months seemed to take forever! Graduation day finally came. It was the end of June 2010. I found myself in Fort Knox, Kentucky and I had butterflies in my stomach while I watched him march around in his Class A’s. I was so happy to finally be with him. No more letters, no more missed phone calls, I could finally kiss my husband.
July 9th, 2010, Steve reported for duty at Fort Hood, Texas. We were both tired and anxious from the two thousand mile drive from California. It hit me. Steve finally made it. He was now a soldier and I was an Army Wife. We lived together less than a year as husband and wife before he received orders for deployment.
February 2nd, 2011, my husband deployed to Iraq.
The families were allowed into the company, to spend the last remaining hours with their soldiers. Steve and I were quite. We didn’t say many words. I knew he wasn’t looking forward to leaving me, and again I tried my best to hold in my tears. I had to be strong for him. I didn’t want him to feel guilty for having to leave me again. It was time for final goodbyes, and my heart dropped to the floor. I didn’t want to say goodbye. He walked me out to the front door, and I kissed him, smiled then said “I’ll see you soon.” He yelled at me “I love you” and my tears began to poor, without turning around I said ”I Iove you too.” I knew if I turned around I’d become hysterical. So, I continued walking to my car to cry alone. I cried the entire way home, I cried myself to sleep, and throughout the entirety of that day. I felt really ill, but it was different this time.
February 3rd, 2011 the morning after my husband had deployed, I continued to feel really ill. I went to the bathroom and nearly vomited and thought to myself “there’s no way.” The pregnancy test was positive. I didn’t believe it. I called my Mom right away and in the middle of my confusion, Steve called. He called to let me know that he had made it safe to Kuwait, and that he would call me the next chance he had. I surprised him with a “guess what!” I told him then that we were expecting and that he would be a Father. He yelled out to the person standing next to him, “my wife is pregnant!” And on the other end of the phone I stood there smiling.
September 27th, 2011 I picked up Steve from SFO for R&R. I was so happy to finally see my husband. He was more handsome now than before he left. “How is this even possible?” I thought to myself. It must be the water! He would always talk about how great the filtered water was in Iraq. I thought he was crazy. Whatever it was, it did him good. I was more in love with him than ever before. And let’s just say our first night together was great.
September 29th, 2011 I was induced at St. Helena Hospital. My husband never left my side. Granted he did mostly sleep, but I have to give him credit for spending every waking moment with me. The following day at 3:54 PM, Steve and I welcomed our Son, Micah into this world. Aside from the medical staff, Steve was the first person to hold our son. While I recovered in the hospital, Steve stayed with me every night. Due to medical complications, our son and I were admitted additional days to the hospital. Which meant half my husbands R&R and his 29th birthday was spent in a hospital room. We made up for lost time, and went out everyday meeting with friends or spending time alone, together as a family. I cherished every moment.
October 13th, 2011 I drove my husband back to SFO. This time, I couldn’t be strong. I cried quietly in the car, hoping he wouldn’t notice. I’m not sure if he did, because he didn’t say much. I stopped at the terminal and cried even harder. This time, he saw me. He kissed me and said “goodbye. I’ll be home before you know it.” I told him I loved him and didn’t want to let go. I sat in the car and watched him walk away. He turned around to wave and I knew that was my signal to drive on. I cried all the way home. He called me a few times between flights and would text me, to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay with our family being torn apart. Only having two weeks together. It wasn’t fair. I wanted my husband home with us, so we could be a family. When Steve made it back to Iraq, he would call me several times a day to make sure I was doing okay. I couldn’t stop myself from crying this time. Every time I heard his voice, I felt my heart break. I couldn’t stand being away from him any longer. Then the following day, I received good news that Steve would be expected home from his deployment the first week of November. I remember thinking “he’ll be home for the holidays!” I immediately e-mailed Steve with the good news, and he was just as happy as I was. Every time Steve called, we would count down the days, making plans for my move back to Texas.
The early morning on October 21st, 2011 my husband called me. He answered with “I miss your voice.” I didn’t think much of it because I was half asleep and exhausted from caring for our son. Steve said that he’d let me rest and call me again in a few hours. And, he did. He kept his word and called me again later that morning. This time we were able to talk on video chat. I was able to see his handsome face. Looking back at it now, something in his voice sounded different that day. He said to me “I love you and Micah so much, you have no idea how much I love you.” Our conversation was brief and we said goodbye, blew our kisses, and then told each other “I love you.” I continued on with my day, sorting through our things, and packing boxing, preparing for our move.
The late evening on October 21st, 2011 we receive a knock at our front door. I assumed it was the neighbor kids, doorbell ditching again. My dogs wouldn’t stop barking. Whoever knocked on the door, didn’t run off, they were still standing there. My Father answered and I heard a mans voice say “is Mrs. Adela Shapiro home?” and my Father replied with “Why?” Just the tone in my Fathers voice alarmed me, I ran from my room and made my way to the front door, looking in the eyes of two men in Dress Blues.
Time stopped. My heart dropped. I knew.
“On behalf of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Army, we would regretfully like to inform you that your husband, Private First Class Steven Shapiro died in Tallil, Iraq on October 21, 2011.” I’ll always remember those words.
I remember screaming at the Chaplain “no, not my husband!” – “there’s got to be a mistake!” – “I just talked to him!”
I swear that I heard my husbands voice say, “I’m sorry.”
I became numb, my mind went fuzzy and some how I made it to my couch. I sat there as the two men approached me, then I asked “how?” There was a long pause, the Sergeant answered and said “ma’am, your husband was found in his room with a gunshot to his head.” I had to take a moment to take all of that in. “Suicide?” I asked. The Chaplain immediately answered, “the cause of death is under investigation.” I recall thinking to myself “my husband wouldn’t kill himself” – “he wouldn’t do that to me” – “he wouldn’t leave us.” But he did. Steve left us. He was gone.
After my husband’s funeral, I was informed that he had left a note. And in this note, Steve said he was sorry, that he felt like a failure, that he failed his unit and his family, and that he loved me. He never gave a reason for these feelings. Now I’m left with wanting to know why. Why did he choose to end his life, to leave behind our son and I? My husband had just one week left before he would return home to us.
Although my husband made a selfish decision, I’m not mad at him. I’m disappointed that our son won’t grow up with his father, that we didn’t get more time together. I feel robbed of the life I deserved with him. We had made plans for our future. I was looking forward to having more children, watching them grow, and growing old together. I never thought my husband would take his own life. There was a side to my husband that he didn’t share with me. He knew all of my deepest darkest secrets, and I thought I had known his. All this time, I did my best to be strong for him, but I wasn’t enough for the both of us.
Pfc. Steven Shapiro was more than a soldier. He was my best friend, my husband and the father of my son. I’m going to miss looking into his eyes, his smile, his laugh, the way he would pick at his fingers when he was nervous, waking up to him and kissing him goodnight. I never thought I’d love someone the way I loved him. I’m lucky to have had him in my life. Granted it was for a brief time. We spent many moments together that I’ll always cherish. I love my husband and will continue to always love him. I’m thankful for having the time we shared. I thank God everyday for giving me my gift, our son Micah. When I look at our son, I see my husband. I’ll always have a piece of him.
I am the proud Military Widow of Pfc. Steven Shapiro. Remember my husband for the man that he was and his service to this country.