It has been three years now….. I often look back and I can still see it all so clearly. I married my best friend. We had been through so much together. Never did I think when we got married the words “till death do you part” would come so soon after. Joe and I married in 2002 and 6 months later he joined the Army and went off to basic. We had two weeks to prepare ourselves for moving (Ft.Hood). Two weeks after getting there we got orders to deploy. I was in a new state, soon to be on my own with no friends. However, the deployment came and I learned to depend on myself, got a job, made friends and just did what I had to do to make it. The deployment ended and everything went back to normal and we were back together for a year before we got orders again. Well, I thought, I did it once I can do it again, and I did. I like to think our marriage grew because of it and we learned what it was to be strong, not only for ourselves but each other.
After almost five years stationed at Ft.Hood we decided to move closer to home so we could see our families more. Needless to say, we were there 6 months and wham here’s another order to deploy. This time things felt different. I don’t know how to put it into words. I had such a heavy heart compared to the other two deployments. Things seemed to keep going wrong up until the day he left. I was constantly worried and I hung on every phone call or online chat I could get. One day I was chatting with him via webcam and he was getting ready for a mission. I remember him saying don’t worry babe everything is going to be ok, it’s a big mission but we have lots of reinforcements and air support if things go wrong. So he says to me I need to go get some sleep but I will leave my webcam on so I can fall asleep feeling like you are here. So I watched him fall asleep, desperately wishing I was there, until the webcam timed out. My sister and her husband were visiting that day so we left to go to the mall and get out the house. I remember feeling a bit off and kept thinking I should have stayed home because when I returned I realized he’d woken up and tried calling me again online.
The next day my world shattered into a million pieces as I opened the door to two uniformed officers. All I can remember of our conversation is we’re sorry to inform you your husband was killed in action. I wanted to run out of my house and pretend none of it was happening. I didn’t want to speak to these men or have them in my house at all. I felt guilty afterwards for being so cold to them but I am sure they understand and it’s not easy for them either. I never in my life thought I’d have to bury my best friend and husband at 26 years old. But my strength came from him and I was able to put together all the arrangements and even write his obituary. I was told several times, you need to rest and let people help you, but I felt I needed to do these things to feel like I had some purpose other than the grieving widow. It kept my mind focused.
Standing there watching the plane land, knowing my husband was on it, broke my heart so much. I felt like I was dreaming. Unfortunately I wasn’t. I felt so scared and alone, even though I was surrounded by so many people. All I wanted was him. His service was beautiful and the amount of people that showed up was overwhelming. People we didn’t know just stopping in to pay their respects to a soldier, a hero. The line to get in wrapped outside the building for so long we had to start the rosary before everyone got the chance to pay their respects. My casualty officer talked to the funeral director and agreed to let him bring me in an hour before the scheduled time to be alone with my husband the day of the funeral. I remember lying next to him and crying, holding his hand wishing he’d wake up. An hour to myself wasn’t enough, I wanted to lay with him longer. I needed him to know how much I needed him, and how unfair this was. But after it was all said and done that hour passed and I had to open the doors to family and friends. Afterwards I knew that was the closure I needed to let out my feelings, to fuss at him for leaving me, to tell him how much I loved him, to cry with him and not have everyone huddled over me. I couldn’t have been blessed with a better casualty officer, he always had my best intentions at heart and I think of him often.
It has now been three years since I had to bury my husband and there isn’t a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t break for him, for the life he is missing. After our year angelversary I really started to hit a low point and considered finding a group or counseling to help me understand what I was feeling. I met a wonderful guy who I think was put into my life for a reason and Life has blessed me with happiness again. I never went out to meet guys or date because I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of it all. It’s like he just walked right in when I needed him the most. I know Joe had a hand in it and I am forever grateful to him for the love he gave me and strength I gained from our life together, as well as the blessing he has sent me from Heaven. After all this, I had to go through another deployment….yes another one. The guy I met is full time National Guard and our state was called up on orders to deploy. How am I supposed to do this, did I want to run away (yes), but I didn’t. I felt like it was a test and I knew I could do it. Hey…I am an army wife and widow!!! Can’t get any stronger than that. Things happen for a reason and maybe he needed my strength as much as i needed his. Before he deployed i found out i was pregnant and I had my son during this deployment. It was just him and I for seven months. It was a completely different scenario than I am used to. I was always by myself for deployments. But this little baby was my strength to get through it, and I did.
Three years now…..and I have a fiancé, a beautiful little boy and a step daughter. I honestly never thought I’d be able to experience these things. And my heart has slowly been pieced back together. He accepts me for who I am and never made me feel like I can’t still love Joe. It’s not an easy road though. I often find myself guilty of the life I am living and the life I am missing with my soldier, missing him gets harder year by year. Maybe because the more time goes by the more I have to let myself move on. But I will never lose his memory, or forget his smile. He lives in my heart. But I miss him and knowing the world will never see his smile again or hear his laughter, or that I’ll never know what would have been, hurts more than words can explain. I guess I could never write anything before or find the words to because my story was still unfolding.
Rest In peace my hero, I will love you forever.
SGT JOSEPH A. Richard III
Jan 6th 1981 – April 14th 2008