Born and raised in Orange County, I always considered myself patriotic. Looking back I had no clue as to what that meant. I support our troops. I don't even know what they do. How could I really state that with a clear conscience.
Six years ago, after reconnecting with a high school acquaintance. He asked me out...The first words out of my mouth were "I have no interest in dating a Marine." Yes, I said that, yes I am embarrassed. I said it for several reasons, first of all it scared me. However, I said, I would really like to interview you for my magazine. I had these visions of asking him all these questions, things I just didn't get, things that just didn't make sense. He said yes, he would let me interview him and gave me his number. A couple of weeks went by with many emails/Facebook messages to each other.
One Saturday, I was out at a restaurant, had a couple of glasses of wine and decided to call him. No "Hi this Kristie," instead I said "We have nothing in common, this would never work." He said, "Who is this?" Lol, I am sure I wasn't the only female he had given his number to.
That night we talked on the phone, as he stood outside of a restaurant, he was at with his friends in the Gas Lamp District. We talked for two hours! We talked for the next 2 months before I actually agreed to go out with him. But during those two months of countless phone conversations, emails and text, I had already fallen in love with him.
After our first date, we were inseparable. He was stationed in San Diego and I lived in Fountain Valley. On a good day it was a two hour drive. He would come to see us after work several times a week. After a couple of weeks, he asked me and Chloe to come to San Diego, I think it was a Tuesday.
We drove down to see him, and he said, I want you to go some place with me. He took us to a little apartment deep in the heart of San Diego. There were four Marines living in this apartment, I am sure none of them were even 20 years old. They were little boys, no disrespect whatsoever. I had daughters their age. They were very kind and polite. They put on a Disney movie for Chloe. They were playing beer pong, which I had never heard of. I really wasn't sure why we were there. Joe (Gunny) introduced me to all of them. When he got to the last Marine, he said I came here to say goodbye to him because he is deploying tomorrow morning to Afghanistan.
Wow, like someone had just punched me in the stomach.
The tears started flowing, the realization, the reality that he was going to go to war and possibly not come back...not to mention all he would go through during that deployment, all that he would see, all that he would have to do, was more than I could even deal with. As the evening progressed, the Marine told me how thankful he was to have Joe as his GySgt. he said he was the only father figure he had ever had. That day will forever be in embedded in my mind. I was starting to know what it meant to support our troops.
I always say we became a military family over night. If you would have asked me one year before I would never in my life have expected such a wild chain of events. Soon before I started dating Joe, my oldest daughter, Tara married her best friend of 3 years. Right before they got married he joined the Navy, He was a Corpsman, attached to a Marine unit. He deployed to Afghanistan 6 months after they were married. It was a very hard deployment for my daughter and our family. During that deployment I was really starting to know what it meant to support our troops, their spouses, their families.
I don't know if I was blessed, spared, missed out or all of the above. However, I did not have to go through any of Joes deployments. He deployed 10 times, had 3 combat tours in Iraq. Received a medal of Valor, has a ribbon for 272 consecutive days of combat. I can not even fathom that. Every single day for 272 days, be shot at, or try not to step on or drive over an IED. To be a spouse, a parent, a sibling... worrying, hoping and praying they come home. To be one of our troops and being that strong, fighting and defending our country
After moving to San Diego, marrying Joe, living less than 5 minutes from the base. Our life was consumed with Military. We loved each and every Marine that came into our life, well most of them.
On October 16, 2010, My middle daughter, Brittney met a Marine, a Marine that stole all of our hearts. Joe was Hunter's GySgt. The day they got married was a very special day, we were so proud to have him be a part of our family. Nov. 2011 Gunny retired after 20+ years. We moved to North Carolina where Hunter was stationed, so we could be with our family.
Lance Corporal Hunter Hogan was killed on the 23 day of June, 2012 while conducting combat operations with the 1st Battalion 8th Marines in Helmand Province Afghanistan. He arrived home and was buried in York, NE on July 6th, 2012. We will never be the same without him.
I may not be happy with the direction our country has taken. I question how free we really are. However, I am without a doubt proud to be an American, Proud of what this country was founded on. I know what being patriotic is. And I now know what it means to support our troops.
To all those who have served, continue to serve and to those who paid the ultimate price.