Brotherhood

 

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17

 

I’ve heard it said that you can never go back.  To be honest, I’ve experienced that.  In the summer of 2015 I went back to my first Air Force duty station, the former Hahn AB in Germany, now known as Frankfurt-Hahn Airport.  It wasn’t the same . . . not even close.  Sure, there were a few things I recognized, and a few things that elicited emotions and feelings, but overall it wasn’t what I remembered.  Things had changed.  This is how it is with places we’ve been.  Progress covers the memories we have leaving only vague hints of the past.  The portraits painted in my mind are only safe if left there, untouched.  This phenomenon is not restricted to places and things.  Occasionally I’ve run across people from my past and, while pleasant, the interaction was strained and awkward from the years of separation and the inevitable changes we have gone through.

So why, then, did I not have the anxiety associated with the potential for such a reunion with my brothers from Desert Storm?  Was it because social media had softened the blow of a long overdue reunion?  It might be easy to explain away with that, but I’ve reunited with others from my past after communicating through social media and while it certainly eased the awkwardness, there was still an obvious void created over the years.  I didn’t have that fear this time.  What about the “elephant in the room” that one of our brothers has been diagnosed with the devastating disease ALS?  (I’ll talk more about this later, but it really wasn’t an elephant in the room.) Nope. I have also been reunited with others in times of hardship or adversity and there was still an air of apprehension and the polite conversations held in check by the realization that we had little left in common with each other.  I’m no psychologist, but I do know that there was a bond formed in the adversity of war that was not broken, weakened, or strained.  Driving to Concan, TX, a place I had not visited since I was a small child, in a rented car on unfamiliar roads, I knew I was going home.  Not the physical home, but my emotional home.  Back to the brothers and sister with whom I share a lifelong bond.

When I pulled my rental car into the dusty parking area of the Frio Country Resort Store and Office, I saw two of my brothers standing on the sidewalk.  They were facing, “quartered”, away from me, but I knew their profiles immediately.  26 years had not passed.  Todd, Gordon, and I greeted each other immediately with hugs.  No hesitation, no awkwardness, just a happy reunion.

We made our way to the lodge we had rented and over the course of the next few hours, the rest of the family arrived.  Ben, Andy, and AJ, from Florida, Billy from La Vernia, TX, Lou from Colorado, Tom, Lara, and Trey from the Austin area, all arrived with hugs and seamless conversation.  Had it really been 26 years?  I would say no, not really.  I’ll make an attempt, albeit feeble, to explain.

Lou, Tom, Gordon, Todd and I had deployed to Desert Shield/Storm from Andersen AFB, Guam on December 26th, 1990.  Ben, his son Andy, Lara, and Billy were all back on Guam.  Steph would arrive in Guam after we had returned in 1991 and would endure further adversity with the rest of us in the late summer and onward in 1991.  When we deployed, with the exception of Tom and I, we really didn’t know each other very well.  We were, in a way, a new generation of warriors.  Lou explained it well when he said we were the first since Vietnam, really, to go to war.  Sure, there had been Panama and Grenada, but on a large scale, this was the re-emergence of full-scale war.  We were headed into the realm of the unknown for those of us who were post-Vietnam era military members.  It was the journey through that unknown that forged our brotherhood.

Brotherhood.  I don’t use that term flippantly.  There really is no other term to do justice to the relationship forged in the adversity of war and, later, more tragedy.  We returned to our support network back on Guam in the summer of 1991.  Stephanie had arrived on Guam by then.  It was to be a relief.  A breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally, after the smoke filled skies of Southwest Asia.  It was not to last.  We were soon tasked to facilitate the evacuation of the Philippines after Mount Pinatubo erupted.  We were also leading up to an exercise, Operation Midnight Trail.  It was that exercise that brought more tragedy, as one of our comrades, Amn Laurie Lucas, was killed and one of our brothers, Sgt Gerald Delp, was injured.  We grieved in our own ways, and had returned to a sense of normalcy when another tragedy happened on December 29th, 1991 when another member of our squadron, Sgt Stacy Levay, was killed during a robbery.  The bond that had been formed during the war had grown stronger, and had brought in more brothers and sisters who had now gone through more adversity and tragedy with us.  I don’t think most civilians have experienced, or can fully comprehend, these types of bonds.  Do I wish they could?  I’m just not sure.  Does one wish on someone the type of adversity required to forge it?  These bonds are forged through pain, stress, tragedy and reserved for those who have endured it.  Trey, Cade, Colton, and AJ got to witness it at the reunion. If they ever experience it, as parents we will simultaneously be heartbroken over the tragedy that forged it and rejoice over their new ‘forever’ family.

What the kids witnessed was a lot of laughter, reminiscing, gallows humor, and the love of family.  We talked, ate, drank, and played games.  We swam, sat in the hot tub, and did the ALS ice bucket challenge together.  We watched videos and looked at photos from before, during, and after our deployment.  We toured the USAF Security Police Museum on Lackland and made a video of conversations about the war and its impact on us.  Tom has been diagnosed with ALS and we talked about it.  Openly.  Honestly.  Without pity, which is not what he needed, but instead with support.  Likewise, with Ben and his diagnosis of COPD which requires him to bring oxygen with him everywhere he goes.  It really wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable.  Did I mention it was like how you would expect family to treat each other?  Yeah.  That.  Mostly, we enjoyed the therapeutic effects of reconnecting.

There will be more reunions.  We were unable to see many of the ‘family’ because this one was done on relatively short notice.  Life got in the way for some and prevented them from joining us this year.  It was short notice because of Tom’s diagnosis and we wanted to have this sooner rather than later to allow him the maximum physical enjoyment and comfort of the reunion before the disease limits his mobility.  We were able to make some phone calls to a few who couldn’t make it . . . Gerry Delp, who took the time to speak with us only hours after the birth of his new baby boy, Teddy Hampton, who I think we woke from a nap, and Zeke, who took the time to speak to us from work.  Hopefully there will be more next year.  Dan P., Dan D., Danny, John, Tony, Dinah, Bert, Michael, Mike K., and the list goes on.  Spouses and kids will hopefully get to meet their extended family too.

Some reunions will inevitably be for celebrations of life and mourning of loss. I can only speak for myself when I say that these brothers are the ones I want carrying me to my final resting place one day.  That will be the ultimate honor for me.  Like the biblical quote at the top of this post says, “A friend loves at all times . . . “, and death will not mark the end of that love.  The second half of the verse says, “. . . and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  Brothers, I truly believe that even before we knew it, we were destined, we were born, to become brothers in our time of adversity.  As long as I draw breath, I know there will be adversity for all of us, and through that adversity I will always be your brother, and you will be mine.

 

Daryl “Country” Sellers

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We Are Family

This past weekend we had the BIG DEPLOYMENT REUNION!  It was a much needed weekend. We have not seen most of the guys since 1992 but you would not know that if you were to see everyone together. It was as if no time had passed. The love (well they showed it in their own twisted way) was over flowing along with the bullshit! These guys are amazing. I am so happy we could do this. The big he smiled and laughed non-stop.

These people are our family. That is the only way to describe it. I have also been trying to think of a word to describe the weekend. I can only think of “unconditional” These folks came from all over to spend 2 days visiting with each other and it was all unconditional. On behalf of my big he and little he I want to thank Daryl &  Stephanie, Lou, Billy, Ben, Todd and  Gordon for taking the time to come to Texas. You just don’t know how theraputic this weekend was for the whole family.

We can’t wait to see even more of our military family next year. Love you all!!

 

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Where did the time go?

Wow, has it really been over a month since I last updated things. I hate how time just seems to fly by and as you know time is not our friend. So let me see if I can sum this past month up.

When we came back from the Toes In the Water cruise I had a week to just chill. I started a new job which I am really enjoying. It is downtown so it take a few minutes longer to get to in the morning and the afternoon ride home is a bit longer but I have a view of the State Capital so hey, its okay. The little he is doing nothing but playing video games, playing with friends and reading when I throw down the hammer of Thor on him to do something productive. The big he is still working and we are still fighting the Employee Retirement System for his retirement. We are now headed to a hearing because of all of this. NOT HAPPY ABOUT THIS. But, sometimes paving a path is rough and that is what we are hopefully going to do for those military veterans that work for the State.  Even if we fail at our hearing, we will continue the fight and take it up with the legislature. It is THAT important. We may not win for us, but we will ensure other’s don’t have to go through this.

On a much happier note, the big he and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversarwp-image-811625517jpg.jpgy on July 30th. He took me to dinner and we stayed downtown for the night with a view of the city. We have had the same meal every year for 26 years. For those that don’t know, we eloped on Guam. I was supposed to come back to the states to finish my college degree but we were in LOVE. So I stayed and we went to the JP. The day we got married was probably not what most folks dream of…he was negative $80 in the bank the morning we got married. We had no money, didn’t have a car and had to get a ride to the JP.  On the way back to base, the guy driving was pulled over for speeding then a mile or so after we got back on the rode, he had a blowout! Well, a tow truck was called and my love and my man-of-honor took off with the tow truck leaving me with two of their friends. A patrol car was supposed to come get us but that car went the wrong way so we walked. Oh have I mentioned that on Guam there is a rainy season. Guess what happened as we walked to the base, it rained. Hard. By the time we got back to base I was hot, sweaty and soaked. When we finally got ready for dinner it was late and the only thing available at the NCO club (which he had a charge card or we would not have eaten) was steak, potatoes, salad and cheesecake. So that is our anniversary meal. Every year. So I guess the moral of the story is it does not matter how you get married, if you have a big wedding or sPatchmall. What matters are the people and their love and devotion for each other.

We are also getting ready to go to the big he’s deployment reunion. It has been almost 26 years since he left. Yes, if you were paying attention he left just 5 months after we married. We are very excited to see the big he’s brothers again.

 

All my love,

The She

The Big He’s update: His hands are still atrophying and he is losing his fine motor skills in his left hand. He still seems to have some strength in his right hand but it too is pretty atrophied. He is also getting tired much easier when he walks so we will talking with the VA next week when he goes for his first physical therapy appointment about getting a push wheelchair. Something light and easy for me to get in and out. We just need something so if he get’s tired we can continue doing what we want. If you want to throw out a SUCK IT ALPHA LIMA SIERRA about now, be my guest. We are also trying a new supplemental protocol. It is being evaluated but the trial is full. The Dr posted the protocol online so we are gonna try it. The sucky part is that since it is a supplement, insurance does not pay and apparently the company that makes it is taking full advantage of this. It is a bit costly.

One last thing, it is Ice Bucket Challenge time. So make those videos and post them. Challenge your family and friends and don’t forget to make a donation if  you can. There are some exciting discoveries being made but there is still a ways to go for a cure.  The Ice Bucket Challenge helped kick start the discoveries that have been made so let’s bring it home and get a cure!