Image courtesy: Pfc. David Hauk, U.S. Army. Kandahar, Afghanistan, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Women of Courage

Image courtesy: Nick Rozanski Memorial Foundation

As I drove Jenny Rozanski to the airport in September, she said something that underscores the courage of a young generation of war widows.

"I want something good to come out of this," said the wife of fallen Ohio National Guard Capt. Nick Rozanski, who was killed on Apr. 4.

Like every grieving spouse I have spoken with, Jenny's pain is very real. Once a happily married "part-time military wife," as she jokingly called herself, she suddenly and tragically became a widowed mother of two young girls.

After losing her loved one to war, every day in Dublin, Ohio, is now a struggle for Jenny. Still, despite all the challenges she's faced since April, Jenny has spearheaded the creation of the Nick Rozanski Memorial Foundation, which will provide scholarships for children in the Buckeye State.

"I feel like it's my duty to continue on with his legacy," Capt. Rozanski's wife said.

Since the war in Afghanistan commenced after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, women all around America have made enormous sacrifices, both on and off the battlefield. Some are U.S. troops; some are military moms, sisters or wives.

The story of Christy Meador, with whom I recently spoke, tragically reminds us that America is still at war. Christy's husband, South Carolina National Guard Sgt. John David Meador II, was killed in Afghanistan on June 20. Christy, who lives in Columbia, S.C., has since gone back to work while raising the couple's little girl, Elana.

"Now I look back, and it was just so meant to be," Sgt. Meador's tearful widow said. "I don't know where I would be today had we not had (Elana)."

Image courtesy: Christy Meador

Linda Mills' story is different. I spoke to this energetic, enthusiastic U.S. Army wife shortly after her husband, Staff Sgt. Andrew Mills, deployed to Afghanistan in February. But in June, she received the worst phone call of her life.

"Your husband has been seriously wounded in Afghanistan," Linda was told.

Thankfully, Staff Sgt. Mills is recovering in Bethesda, Md., from the wounds he sustained to his legs and abdomen. But several others were injured on June 7, and one soldier, Pfc. Brandon Goodine, 20, was killed. Linda and Andrew, who regard themselves as lucky, still pray for the Goodine family.

Image courtesy: Linda Mills

Kelsey Mills (no relation to Linda or Andrew Mills) also considers herself fortunate. Her husband made it home from Afghanistan, even though he lost both arms and legs in an Apr. 10 terrorist attack.

"I can either curl up in a ball and cry or keep going," Kelsey said. "I choose the latter."

Kelsey's husband, Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, served in Afghanistan with Linda's husband, Staff Sgt. Andrew Mills, in the same unit. Today, Travis and Andrew are wounded Afghanistan war veterans who inspire us with their valor, as do their wives.

"I'm happy that my husband is still alive," Kelsey, who is raising a precious little girl with Travis, said. "He's still here."
Image courtesy: Travis Mills Fund

When Melissa Jarboe's husband, Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, was paralyzed by enemy sniper fire on Apr. 10, 2011, the Army wife was devastated. But like Linda and Kelsey, she was grateful her husband survived his Afghanistan deployment.

"I have an acceptance of a path that we're all chosen for," Melissa told me on Jan. 12.

Even as her husband lay in a hospital bed, Melissa did not think she was headed down the path of becoming an Afghanistan war widow. But tragically, on Mar. 21, Sgt. Jarboe died, leaving behind Melissa and her two daughters.

While Melissa surely grieves, her commitment to honoring her husband, as well as helping veterans through the Jamie Jarboe Foundation, is unflappable.

"By the grace of God we were given 11 more months to live life, and for that I can't be selfish or greedy," Melissa wrote shortly after Jamie's passing.
Image courtesy: Jamie Jarboe Foundation

As the war in Afghanistan enters its 12th year, every American has a choice. Citizens can either keep going about their daily lives while forgetting — or ignoring — military families that sacrifice so we can live in relative comfort. Or, we can heed the call of courageous women like Jenny Rozanski, who lost the love of her life and father of her children.

"I want something good to come out of this," she said.


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