This kind of news was no stranger to us, because Heath already had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. At the time of his first deployment in March of 2004, he was a Virginia Tech senior majoring in mechanical engineering. Heath had been dating a wonderful Virginia Tech graduate for seven years. Heath and Chelsea were married two weeks before he left for Afghanistan.
That Sunday, April 15th, 2007, my mind did an instant replay of many things that recently occurred. A few months before, in December of 2006, Heath, who had returned from Afghanistan, graduated from Virginia Tech with his mechanical engineering degree.
Shortly after he graduated, he landed a wonderful job. He and Chelsea bought a home. The news of April 15th, turned tranquility and happiness into feelings of dread. I was so angry! In less than three years of married life, Heath and Chelsea were separated again. I know it happens to many military families. When he enlisted in the Virginia National Guard in 2001, he didn’t expect to become in the “International Guard”, as we called it.
On Monday, April 16th, 2007, I got up feeling tired and emotional. I had a hard time concentrating on my way to work at 7:15 that morning. As the day developed, I heard as everyone did, about the horrible tragedy that occurred at Virginia Tech.
I called Heath as soon as I could. He was distraught, as he too, heard the Virginia Tech news. As the days unfolded, he found out that a few former classmates as well as one of his favorite professors were listed among the dead. I realized that, had Heath decided to stay in college and get his master’s degree, he could have been in one of those classes.
I learned something from all of this. God reminded me that I am not here on the earth by myself and that I needed to stop being so self-centered. I learned that God uses tragedies like that of Virginia Tech to teach us to be mindful of others and to reach out to those who truly are in need of help.
God reminded me of the importance of prayer. He let me know that my bad news of April 15th was just a pebble on the road of life compared to the boulder that hit so many innocent lives that fateful April 16th. I soon began to realize that Heath didn’t have to go to Iraq to be killed.
Heath completed his National Guard commitment. Now he works at the same job and lives in the same house they bought before he was deployed. Heath and Chelsea are grateful he came back uninjured. They are very happy and have realized those experiences have made them stronger individuals and stronger as a couple. They try to live each day as best they can and savor the moments they have together. They don’t take what they have for granted.
A retired teacher, Judi attends Crossroad Community Church in Georgetown, Delaware. She is a member of the Delmarva Christian Writers’ Fellowship. She has written three children’s books; Bubba the Busy Beaver, Preposterous Pebbles, and the Bird Roller Coaster. She has been recently published in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotionals for Tough Times. I n addition, she is a contributor to a recently published book called: Fighting Fear Winning the War at Home (When your soldier Leaves for Battle) by Edie Melson.