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Anthony is a Corpsman second class with the United States Navy. He is stationed with the second batallion, seventh marine unit out of Twentynine Palms, CA. He was deployed for his second tour of combat duty on January 29, 2007. Anthony takes great pride in his job and in "his" marines.
Anthony was injured on April 20, 2007 when a SVBIED (suicide vehicle born improvised e device) was detonated under an overpass where they were standing post. He and 7 other marines were injured in the incident. Anthony sustained a head injury, an injury to his lower back, a punctured right lung and minor scrapes and scratches on his legs, hands, arms and face. He was medivaced to 3 different medical stations before finally being sent to Landstuhl Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. There he was cared for by loving hands of the ICU nurses and doctors for just shy of a week. On Friday, April 27, 2007, he was then medivaced to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
Would you ever think that the hardest day of your life would also be your happiest? I would have never thought that, but now I know how. This day 8 years ago was the absolute hardest day of my life; it was the day I got the phone call that would change everything. Here I was twenty weeks pregnant with our first child, teaching my high schoolers and looking forward to every single day because it was one day closer to Anthony coming home. Then this day, at 1030, I got a phone call that still chills me to the bone when I think of the first words that were spoken. “Is this Mrs.Thompson? I have information about your husband.” Words that seemed to roll off of his tongue like placing an order at restaurant. I immediately demanded that he tell me what happened. He repeatedly told me to calm down until I firmly told him, “don’t tell me to calm down and just tell me what happened to Anthony right now!” What transpired after those words were spoken quickly turned that day from “just one day closer” to the “hardest day of my life”. Anthony had been injured and we weren’t exactly sure how badly. That day turned into a whirlwind of emotions and happenings and as quickly as it went from good to bad, it went from bad to grateful...he was still alive and so were the other guys.
You know that moment that forever changed your life? You either finally got your dream job, met the person you are going to marry, had a baby or watched one be born or had to say goodbye to a precious loved one. Those are moments that are forever engraved in your mind, in your heart and in your soul. This day did that for me...the problem is, I can’t seem to escape this day. Everyday I wake and the overall outcome of life is the same. I grieve the man that he was every single day. I used to wait eagerly for Anthony to come home from work. Every day was the same; he’d come up the stairs and look through the kitchen window and see me there, he’d wink and smile and then plow through the door and come right up to me hug me tightly, give me a kiss and then say “hey babe, how was your day?” That man is my everything and has been since the moment we started dating. These days my eager waiting is for something slightly different. I wait for him to wake up and look me right in my eyes and blink in response to my questions or simply to acknowledge the sound of my voice. Yes life didn’t exactly turn out the way we planned, but at least we’re still living it right? He still very much is my everything; I don’t do anything or plan anything without thinking about him first. If it’s planning a trip, I think of him...wondering if he will be alright while I’m away, hoping he doesn’t get sick while I’m not there and inevitably wondering if he’ll even know I’m gone. Unfortunately with anything I do, I have to think about Anthony and his schedule first and foremost. I very much miss the days when Anthony would come home on Friday and say “let’s get outta here!” and we’d pack up and leave. Life just isn’t that easy anymore...everything has to be planned in advance. It’s like conducting an orchestra for me these days.
As I write this I stop every few sentences and contemplate about our life. We have a really good life...considering. We are all under the same roof, experiencing life as a family and making memories. What’s better than that? Having all of him here with us would be better than that! Here’s the thing...there are days that I resent Anthony and I hate that I do that. I resent him for putting himself in a position to have ended up the way he has and to deny us of having this amazing man in our life every single day. I resent him for denying us vacations as a family. I watch friends and family travel with their families making wonderful memories and our vacation pictures are always missing Anthony. I resent him for not teaching AJ the things that he always wanted to...the things I just can’t. And I resent him for not showing me the love that he said he felt for me; because he can’t. Isn’t it horrible; to resent a person for things that are completely out of his control? Yes it is, but I’m selfish and I want the things we promised each other. Then I stop and look at everything I resent him for and realize he didn’t let me down at all. He put himself in that position because he loved it! He loved what he did and he loved his Marines. He loved helping others and would drop anything and everything for his friends; that’s one of the things I love about him! I realize that the reason he isn’t on our vacations is because he had a passion. He had a passion to be part of something big and something important and unfortunately he just had an unlucky hand. And it’s the pictures that we take every day and the memories we make here at home that really matter. Watching AJ ride his bike for the first time, going to his baseball games, hunkering down in the living room to watch a movie or going out to the movie theaters are our little “vacations”. The things that he is teaching AJ are still things that I cannot teach. He’s teaching our son how to be strong, how to persevere, how to fight for what you want, how to be grateful for just being alive and how to put others ahead of yourself. And every time he opens his eyes and blinks in response to my questions or simply to the sound of my voice and then gives me a smirk; that’s the only way he can show me the love that he feels. And I’m grateful for all of the above.
Today, like every year on this day I look at my man and thank God that I can still kiss his face and tell him how much I love him. I look at the relationships I have acquired because of the injuries Anthony has sustained and am in awe of the amazing people I have met and that are now part of our lives. I look at the amazing boy that we are raising and imagine the man he will become. I look at the amazingly skilled nurses that we have to help me care for Anthony so I can still be the person that I am and the mother that I aim to be. I look at the on-goings of the other 5 men injured on this day that I will forever consider family and am so proud of all they have accomplished. I look at our military family that still has a place in our hearts even though they’re not close by. I find myself attempting to only focus on the positive of what life has to offer us and try to solve every problem or bad day with a shedding of tears followed by the roaring of laughter when I lean on a very empathetic heart. I crack jokes at my husband’s expense because if I didn’t find a way to laugh and poke fun at our extremely sucky situation I’d be a complete “Debbie Downer” or worse be the woman with a chip on her shoulder...I hate those women. I’m thankful for opportunities that I personally have been given; opportunities to tell my story, to help other caregivers and to share...everything with my “coma club”. These women (and men) are what keep me going in this very difficult life; they’re the ones that ‘get it’ and the ones that I never have to apologize to if I’m late, if plans change or if I simply want to be angry at God. I’m also very thankful to my friends that have been there for me since the beginning; the ones that care enough to make sure that I’m still a part of life. It’s these people that know I’m more than Anthony’s injuries and that allow me to continue to be me and presumably love me for it.
The Rolling Stones sang “you can’t always get what you want”...boy, ain’t that the truth? But like the song goes on to say “...But if you try sometime, you just might find...you get what you need.” We definitely have not gotten what we wanted (and it’s obvious because I keep repeating that thought), but I believe we have gotten what we (and by “we” I really mean “I”) need. We have an amazing support system that is always there for us. A support system that I NEED because without them, I would not be able to continue to do this life everyday. I have days that remind, when I NEED to be reminded, that I am capable, worthy, important and truly loved.
This day is still the hardest day of my life and I have come to loathe this day for how it completely flipped our life upside down. However today, like every day, I will focus on the positives of what life has to offer us today. I will let the other guys know that I’m thinking about them today (and always) and I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure that Anthony is healthy and happy and that he knows that I love him just as much today as I did the day I married him. I will assure him that he is still my everything and he will always be and that I am one lucky woman to still have him in my life. Happy Alive Day my sweet, sweet man!!!