Normally when you think of anniversaries you think of happy times…like happily married couples celebrating their wedding anniversaries. Or an anniversary of a child’s birth (birthday). And then there are sad anniversaries…days that mark the anniversary of a tragedy. Like today.
I always remember dates and seem to attach every memory (good or bad) to a date. So, I have quite a few “anniversary” dates burned in my brain, some wonderful and some horrible. I always dread the bad anniversary dates because it’s like you relive that day and the events around that day every year. You see that date coming up on the calendar weeks in advance and just try to ignore it, but you know it’s going to come, no matter what you do.
July 7, 2011 was the day that a friend of my husband, SSGT TJ Dudley, was killed in action in Afghanistan. I went to school with him and he was only a grade younger than me, but I don’t think I ever spoke to him (or much anybody else for that matter). But when I came home from work on July 7th and learned what happened and saw my husband broken down, something changed in me…and I’ll admit that it wasn’t for the better.
I still don’t know exactly what it was that triggered it…the emotions, the funeral, the traumatic way in which he died…I’m not sure. Whatever it was, I know that I don’t want to experience those emotions ever again. Everything that I had suppressed in my past had just boiled up to the top and I was forced to deal with it.
So, even though I (unfortunately) didn’t get to know TJ, he did have a huge (positive) impact on my life. I am so thankful for and appreciate the military so much more now because of him. Because of him, I sought out a therapist for my issues and realized that it wasn’t a sign of weakness to do that. I couldn’t handle it on my own and that was ok. Because of that, I had the courage to face my past and meet some wonderful people whom I was able to help, and in turn helped me.
I hope this helps ease some of the pain that his wife Mary and his kids have and are experiencing…to know that TJ has such an awesome influence on people that never really knew him. I know he has affected others this way, too. He is definitely one of my heroes!