Growing up as a military brat, people and friends came and went, some sticking in my memory forever, others being washed away like seashells on a windy beach.
The last base my father was stationed at is where I remember people the most. It was like coming to an end of what felt like a neverending memory road. Had I remembered every name and kept every friendship close, I don’t think I would have survived those earlier years. Moving every year or having your friend move before you, made it hard to keep meaningful friendships. It hurt less to just not get too attached.
However my fathers last stationed base, I met my friend Kim (name changed). She lived with her father and her stepmother in the house 2 doors down from us. Kim’s father was stationed in Korea where he met her biological mother who then got pregnant and let him bring their daughter back to America to raise.
Kim was the first person I ever met who lived with her real dad and had little to no contact with her birth mother. For some reason, at the age of 9, this intrigued me and made me very protective of her. She didn’t need me to do any of that but as her friend, there was something in her that made me want to look out for her. To remember her.
Her father and her stepmother were also great people. They would invite me over for sleepovers and he would even play outside with us from time to time. He and my dad were really close as well and when his wife became pregnant with their first child after struggling for years we were excited. We held a mini block party in celebration !!
And then when Kim’s stepmother was 5 months pregnant her father got sent overseas. And while he was gone our 2 families became one. We spent more and more time together so help lessen the blow of his absence. We all missed him in our own ways.
Then one day we found out he was coming home, but first, he had to stop at a hospital. They said he had been distraught and was placed on medical leave.
Somewhere between the hospital and him coming home, he committed suicide.
(Many years later still haunted by this I googled his name to read the facts. He kept complaining of being haunted by an image of a deceased soldier. He had tried to overdose before they finally brought him back to the states where it then took 2 days to alert his family. Later it would come out that they didn’t know he was deceased for 2 days. )
It was the first time I had ever heard the word and as my parents explained it I realized it meant that 1, he had killed himself, and 2, it meant he was dead and not coming back.
All I remember next is running to the house to comfort Kim. They were not there as they went to where his body was and I sat on the porch and cried and cried. My friend now didn’t have her father and in the sense that I understood her mother. Who would she live with? Why did this happen?
I saw her one time after learning the news and it was very brief. Due to her father now being deceased, they no longer had a reason to be on the military base. They had to move. And to add insult to injury his death was not considered honorable so they had to fight the military to get any type of benefits or help after the fact.
From the age of 9, I learned an important life lesson about war and death. Some soldiers die during the battle and others die on the way home from the battle. Although this man had so much to live for, what he had endured and saw over their outweighed all of the good he had waiting for him at home. Kim’s little sister never got to meet her dad, she never got to see the father who rubbed her mom’s belly and took daily walks with her when he came home to help keep her active. She never got to see the father that played with his children and smiled bright enough to make us smile and laugh when we had hurt ourselves and tumbled off bikes. Or the father who would sit us down and make us hug when we would argue over barbie dolls or other stupid stuff that didn’t have the right to invade our friendship. War caused her to miss out on that.
War affected us all.