Where to begin….I feel like I’ve told this story so many times but each time I can’t portray the full sadness and emptiness I felt. Or the joy and happiness of moving forward…or creating a new normal.
When I first laid eyes on Ricky, I was hooked! He was the one, his dashing smile, good looks, charm, it was easy for any girl to fall for him. I was a Freshman in High school while he was a Senior. I was told by my parents he was to old so forget about it but I couldn’t. We were together all through high school, a total of 4 years. He had gone off for boot camp to join the USMC 3 months after dating so I quickly became accustomed to letters and going to special events alone. Not long after bootcamp he was deployed in 2004. The war was at its prime and he was in an area known as the triangle of death. Rarely did I get a phone call during those 10 months but when I did they lasted for maybe 5 minutes and it kept me going a little longer.
When he came home from the deployment he was no longer a boy, now a man who had seen things and experienced things that no one at that age should. His company lost 5 men and Ricky really struggled for a long time after that. Through support and his faith in God he was able to re-enter civilian life. Not long after I graduated high school we were engaged! We chose to have an outdoor wedding in my parents backyard (a dream of mine since I was a little girl). Living in Illinois we knew it was risky with the weather but trusted God would take care of the little details. Two weeks before our wedding there was a blizzard and the day of on April 21, 2007 we were blessed with an 80 degree day!
We loved married life! We had barely any money but as long as we had each other that’s all that mattered. We knew he would be deployed a second time and after 5 months together it came true. They were deployed but this time the war had come to some what of a calm and it really didn’t feel like a deployment. I received a phone call from him almost every day and we were able to talk sometimes up to an hour. We would still wright letters to each other back and forth and every now and then we were able to Skype.
Sunday, April 13th I received a Skype from Ricky and it was the best time ever! We had never been able to Skype this long, two hours, seeing each other face to face, I felt like the luckiest girl. We ended the conversation with I love you’s and I started to cry cause I didn’t want to say goodbye. He encouraged me that everything was going to be ok. April 14th, 2008 I got home that day from work waiting to meet up with a friend to go work out. The buzzer in my apt rang and I let who I thought would be my friend in. A knock came to my door followed by another knock. Normally my friend just lets herself in so I thought it was odd she was knocking. I looked through my peep whole and saw 5 men in uniform standing outside my apt door. I instantly thought, Ricky must be injured seeing as how I had just talked to him 12 hours before and I was just reading his letters I had received that day. I opened the door and they told me to sit down. My mind new what was about to come but my heart couldn’t believe it. Then the words came out of the man’s mouth, “I’m sorry to inform you, but your husband was killed today”. Instant shock, tears, despair came all over my body like a flood.
It was one week before our first wedding anniversary, something we had so looked forward to spending together. I remember getting that care package sent back to me with all the chocolates and goodies I had packed in it to make that day special for him.
I was married at 19 and widowed at age 20….not even old enough to go to the bar to get a drink. Life has been so incredibly difficult yet also rewarding, learning about my grief and cherishing the time I had with Ricky. Almost three years later I’m just now feeling like my head is above water and I can breath a little deeper.