It was sometime in late June of 2004. My family was moving to MONTANA of all places and I was able to go to Newport Beach, CA with my youth group as one last “fun” thing before everything hit the fan and I was stuck in the middle of nowhere ( or so I thought). The name of the camp was Soul Survivor and all of my friends were going.. I was excited and torn that I was leaving so soon after I returned. I was to get home the 3rd of July and move one the 5th. What a life.
I remember the first time I saw him.. there were literally THOUSANDS of kids at this place and they were calling out countries. If you were from the country they yelled you were supposed to stand up. They called Jamaica, not two seconds later this goofy, smiley, black kid with dreads stood up… by himself… of course he was lying, but it was funny.
Later that night they were having karaoke in one of these huge tents that they set up and in that “Jamaican” kid came walking wearing a cowboy hat.. yes, a cowboy hat. As he walked by he cockily set it on my head… consequently it ended up on the floor. I can’t handle guys like that. I remember being so annoyed.
Anyways, my friend liked one of his friends that he was hanging out with so I found myself chasing them around with her. The only time we talked was when our friends forgot something at their tents and they left us at the other end of this bridge.. I told him minimal stuff about myself other than my upcoming move. He was really sweet and he actually listened to me when I talked.. which was nice because most men don’t.
The last day of camp finally arrived and I ran into him on my way to my bus. I asked for my number and my e-mail address so we could IM.. the popular thing at the time. I was shocked but I gave it to him. I have to admit, I did think he was cute but I didn’t think that he had any interest in me at all wether it be as a friend or anything other than a friend.
I returned home and began the moving process. My dad thought it would be a great idea to go on a six week camping trip….. I called it a suicide threat waiting to happen. So I was completely out of touch with reality. All I had was my portable CD player and two CDs, FML. By some miracle I got cell phone reception and called my friend who told me that Jake had called her thinking it was me and he e-mailed me trying to get ahold of me. I immediately went with my dad into a town to check my e-mail. He wrote to me to see how my move was going, how sweet of him. He remembered.
From then on it was daily e-mails which turned into nightly phone calls. We quickly began to tell each other everything. No secrets, no regrets. …. we slowly started to fall in love. The only issue was that we couldn’t be together; it was just stupid to even think of a long distance relationship when you are both 16 and 17. So we continued to live our lives with other people but always telling each other I love you good night. And in the morning I would ALWAYS wake up to a “good morning beautiful” text. It was weird but it was love. It still is.
Jake warned me his junior year that he wanted to join the Marine Corps. I told him to join the Air Force.. He just simply stated that he wanted to be a bad ass. I couldn’t argue with him.
One enlistment for him later he was about to leave for CAX. We both decided that heaven forbid if anything happened I needed to come out there and see him… even if it had been almost four years since we had last seen each other. He had a girlfriend at the time, but neither of us cared, no regrets. Needless to say they broke up right before I came down to visit.
I was so scared when I got off the plane. I kept thinking ” Amy, what the hell have you gotten yourself into. You haven’t seen this guy in almost four years, how the hell are you going to recognize him… not no mention its North Carolina and he is black ( I thought everyone was black here) … not to mention that he has been trained by the government to kill people… your going to get murdered.” .. honestly I didn’t care. And thank god there were mostly white people there… but that didn’t matter because as soon as we saw each other it was over.. it was like our hearts jumped out of out chest and collided. I will never be able to put it into words, but it was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever gone through…
After that trip to North Carolina we decided that he would spend his pre deployment leave with me at his home in Ohio. As soon as I got to Ohio he was begging me to make our relationship official… I was really happy and excited to call him my boyfriend.. I knew I was going to marry him one day.
Iraq wasn’t bad.. regular communication.. nothing too severe. We even decided that I was going to move to North Carolina when he got back.. some family members didn’t like the idea of us living together, but we didn’t care. We both decided that if we really were as serious as we felt we needed to live together for at least a short while beforehand. After we made that a 3,000 mile journey from Montana to North Carolina we spent our money on renting this really small apartment. We were broke; and we couldn’t be any happier. We decided we wanted to get married, so we ran off to the courthouse and tied the knot.
We were so happy. Content with our little life. Crazy in love. We cooked dinner together every night and made pancakes every saturday morning. We never had major fights, just a couple normal bickers, which usually ended with me telling him he was over it and him laughing. We NEVER raised our voices to each other, and we always said “I love you” before we went to bed. Every morning he would kiss me before he left, and that was after we got our second car back. Other than that I had to drive him on base at five every morning. We had the best times and our most serious talks happened then.
For some reason or another I got baby fever. We had only been married for two months. At least we had been dating for a year. But none the less he agreed immediately and I threw the pills away. By December I was pregnant. We were so excited, him more than I. But, two weeks after I found out about the baby, he found out that he was going to be deploying to afghanistan three one month before my due date… complete crap if you ask me. I was upset but I accepted it… I felt more upset for him than for myself. Eventually we found out we were having a boy and we were both so excited. Somehow we agreed on the name Jax Allen Tate. I wanted our son to at least have his middle name. (which he hated, but I didn’t care)
Deployment day finally came. It snuck up on us so quickly. It was really hard. The day before he left he told me ” I’m ok with it if i die, I’ve lived a good life and we have had a great relationship” Mind you i was 34 weeks pregnant.. I flipped out on him. I reminded him he wasn’t ok if he died because he had a son he didn’t even get to meet yet. All he did was shrug his shoulders.
After he left I looked out my front window waiting for them to come.. in a weird way I knew. I even told him in a letter that I felt like a messed up crack addict because of how much I was looking out my window… I never got the letter of reassurance that I hoped to receive in return. It was bad over there. we went through a 6 week stretch where we were strictly communication through letters. ( I am so thankful for those weeks now)
Jake was going to be home in 34 days and I had just talked to him and he sounded great, so I decided to finally order the banner. It had a picture of Jax on it and it said. Deployment- 7 months Pregnancy- 9 months Jax FINALLY being able to meet his daddy- PRICELESS. I ordered the banner 30 minutes before he died in Afghanistan.. 30 minutes.
The next morning woke up to the dreaded door bell ring at nine o’ six am.. Ill never forget it… for some reason I convinced myself that they rolled up to your house in Escalades.. the things you think of to distract you from the truth just in case it decides to confront you. All I remember is opening the door and then closing it… then opening it again… hoping they would disappear. They didn’t.
I kept telling myself that somehow Jake was going to surprise me and come home early… this was not the way I wanted to have him come home early. I always told my friends that if something were to happen to him period I would be broken… but I warned everyone how mad I would be if it happened days before he was to come home and look at me now.
So now I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that Jake is not coming home. That he is never going to meet Jax. That he is going to miss out on the rest of our lives. But, little signs every day let me know that he is here with me watching over us and guiding us to where we need to be.
I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to marry my best friend. So thankful that we have this beautiful baby boy. So thankful that we were able to be together for the last three years. But when the sadness boils down and the thankfulness fades, i’m mad. Everyone tells me “Oh he is in heaven and he is happy” .. How can anyone say he is happy. He was never able to meet his baby boy. It blows my mind that no one used to care about me or my husband and what we were doing, and now everyone wants to predict to me what he is doing in “heaven”..
I don’t know what I believe. But all I know is that if there is a god, he needs to send me where ever the hell my husband is, and where ever the hell he is, he better have a beer waiting for me. God knows i’m gonna need one.