July 9, 1988 was the happiest day of my life. I was marrying my best friend, Andy Burris. We joined hands and walked underneath the Arch of Sabers not knowing exactly what that whack on the hind end with a saber and shout of "Welcome to the Army, ma'am" meant but we knew we would face it together.
Our first duty station for me as a military wife was Ft. Bragg. It was there I figured out what that tap with the sword meant. Andy and I calculated we were together for a year and a half out of the first four years of marriage. Naturally, I worried about him jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. I worried about him during training exercises. I worried for over nine months while he served during Desert Storm. But then he came home and went to Command and General Staff College in Kansas and life slowed down. We had a little girl by then. He came home every night. We spent entire weekends together. Life was good. But as any paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne he was thrilled to be heading back to Ft. Bragg to do what he loved best. I began the cycle of worry yet again. I worried about another deployment so when he was tasked to evaluate a training exercise in Florida I was happy he would only be gone for 2 weeks and be safe in the United States.
I received the knock on the door that all military spouses fear. My husband of nine years, best friend, father of my child had been killed in a training accident. A fear that I hadn't considered. As a military spouse you brace yourself for many things. You prepare yourself for the obvious risks. People can say "you knew the risks"... but risks evolve too, and now, our soldiers are at risk on American soil. The Chattanooga shootings, on the heals of other stateside attacks targeting our service members, destroyed families and families-to-be. Military spouses suddenly no longer have the respite from fear if their husband/wife has a "safe job" simply because they are assigned stateside. The enemy is just as domestic as it has ever been foreign. Our soldiers and their families are warned to be aware and take precautions even at home now. I can assure you "Welcome to the Army, ma'am" did not translate to this, all this worry and added stress that the safe places are dwindling. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost a loved one in a manner they never expected - nor should they have had to - and whose fears were not only preyed upon but brought to a whole new level. My heart breaks for them and I pray they are surrounded by people who give them strength and love to maneuver through this new life forced upon them. If I could tell them anything, it would be to say simply, "You are not alone. I too have shared your journey and am here to listen and walk yours now with you."
And that’s what we need to never forget.