While I’m trying to keep my blog set aside as my “happy place,” I feel like I need/want to post on the realities of Veterans Day as a war widow and Army officer. As many of you know, I lost my husband, Dimitri, in Afghanistan when we were both deployed almost 2 and a half years ago. We buried him at West Point, and I have not had the chance to go back to visit him since the funeral (I lived in Hawaii until this past December, and it was just too far of a trip). This Veterans Day weekend though, I traveled to New York with his family and my mom. On Friday and Saturday we had lots of fun in the city eating at yummy restaurants, seeing Wicked on Broadway, and doing a little shopping (of course), then Sunday we went up to West Point to spend time with Dimitri. For the past few weeks I’ve had quite a bit of anxiety about the visit. I knew I was going to have a breakdown as soon as I was with him again, and the thought of that stressed me out because I tend to try to keep my emotions in check and maintain a strong front. I also wanted to make sure that the things I brought to leave with Dimitri were significant enough. After thinking long and hard I decided to bring the picture of our first “kiss” from the summer we met in 2006, the medal I received after finishing the Honolulu Marathon in 2011 (my first marathon and the race I ran in honor of him), Captain bars because he wasn’t able to pin on Captain with me, and a rock I picked up on Waikiki Beach as a symbol of happy times together in paradise.
Items I left with Dimitri.
With my mom and Dimitri on Veterans Day 2013.
The visit was emotional, therapeutic, and exhausting. Not only did I get to visit Dimitri, I also got to visit our dear friend Daren Hidalgo. He was the first West Pointer from my 2009 class that was killed in Afghanistan, and he is buried right next to Dimitri. We all met in the summer of 2006, and we were immediately inseparable. These two crazy boys always had me laughing, and I loved spending time with them. Below are pictures of us three together over the years (I was always in the middle), and me with them this Veterans Day.
Fall semester of our Yuk (Sophomore) Year at West Point in 2006.
West Point Christmas Dinner 2007.
Infantry Ball at West Point in 2009 a few months before graduation.
After Dimitri’s Ranger School Graduation. Daren had graduated the month before.
Me with my husband and my buddy Daren on Veterans Day 2013.
While I have managed to continue to move forward in my personal life and I am now dating an amazing man, the loss of Dimitri is with me every day, and sometimes the feeling of sadness hits so hard that it knocks the breath out of me. I miss Dimitri every single day, but days like Veterans Day, Memorial Day, birthdays and Christmas always tend to bring memories and emotions to the forefront. This Veterans Day, thank a Veteran as well as their family members, because families endured the hardship of service right there along with the Veteran. Please remember that even as time passes for families that have survived the loss of a loved one in battle, the scar of loss is ever present, and you word of thanks means more than you could even imagine. Thank you, Dimitri. Thank you for selflessly protecting our country, for making me a better person, and for loving me unconditionally. I miss you so much and I am so very proud of you.