When you join the military, especially within the last fourteen years, you know there is a possibility of going to the Middle East to go to war. Straight out of high school about 8 of us joined the military, one went to the Marine Corps and the rest of us joined the Army. We all went our separate ways from there, but we kept in touch through Facebook.
|our NJROTC unit at NAS Pensacola our freshman year of high school|
I spent my time in Afghanistan in a dust bowl surrounded by mountains. We were a small base, used mostly as a refuel point for aircraft on their ways to other missions. My tour was uneventful with the exception of Indirect Fire mortar rounds throughout the course of the year. Our unit set the record for the most IDF rounds within the year our brigade was there.
I spent 3 years in the Navel JROTC at my high school, from the time I was a Freshman until the end of my Junior year. In a program that small, you make friends for the rest of high school if not the rest of your life. We were a very close group. Aaron, Ryan, Zack, Hector, Mike, Matt, Rachel, Rosa, me... and a few others I am no longer close with. We always hung out together, at lunch we could be found in the ROTC hallway goofing off and making noise. After school we could be found out behind the building practicing drill team movements or just hanging out. Some of my best memories from high school were with that group of people. Even once I was no longer in that unit, due to difference of opinion with the commander over my broken ankle and my dedication to the team, they still thought of me as one of their own. We used to go bowling on Friday nights together, it was our way of partying just without getting in trouble.
I had been home from Afghanistan for a little over a year. I was house sitting for some friends with my then boyfriend in March of 2013 and I happened to be scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post that stopped my world for a while. My friend Minix had posted on Facebook his condolences of a dear friend of ours.
|Zack and I our senior year at Military Ball|
He was about halfway through his tour at Kandahar Air Base. It was completely heartbreaking to know that he was gone. We all know that it's a possibility that you or someone you know might die in Afghanistan, but it doesn't make it any easier when it is someone that you knew, someone you grew up with.
|A photo of the crew that died|
The amazing part was how our community came together in support of him and his family. Zack grew up with three older brothers, all of whom were in the military themselves. We lived in a small town, and the only thing that ever really happened there were hurricanes and being stung by sting rays at the beach. The news of his death rocked our whole town.
|There were signs placed all over town for Zack after he passed.|
Usually, that top sign was there to welcome service members home from deployment. There were many happy banners with names there the entire time I lived in that time. This was the first time that there were dates at the top.
I went home the week before his body arrived home for a Military Ball at our old high school. Zack was being honored and Jordan was giving special permission for me to attend since I am not a volunteer or a student. My mother bought me flowers to lay at the memorial table. Zack's picture was on that table that year and I won't lie, I bawled my eyes out.
The whole procession was set to travel from McDill AFB all the way to our town (over 45 minutes), through downtown and past our old school, and then on to the cemetery. They were led by the Patriot Riders. The firetrucks were set up in front of the school with the rest of the community. There were tons of pictures and it was beautiful. My mother and brother went for me, since I was back at work at Bragg.
This is his grave site. They are waiting on the headstone to be created. I visited in July while on leave. It was heart breaking to be visiting the grave of your friend and brother who was only 18 years old. It's not something that you easily get over. Several of us got tattoos in memorial of him. I'm still kind of at a loss for words. His birthday was in October, shortly before mine.