Celebrating Life

First things first, time to announce my Vega Energizing Smoothing winner.  Congratulations JenniferLynn I will be contacting you shortly for shipping details.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about today.  Today used to be just plain ol’ November 16th, nothing fancy to it, no reason to pay it any special attention until 7 years ago.  On this day, November 16, 2005, my family found out that my brother had been killed in Iraq. Instantly, November 16th became a day that I would never forget.

I still remember every single detail about when and how I found out, what time of day it was, even what the weather was like outside.  It’s fascinating to me how our brains lock in certain details and keep them forever.  I will probably be able to recall the same vivid details when I’m 80.  Some day I’ll share them, but this post isn’t the right time.

Roger had been killed with several other Marines while searching farm houses for terrorists as part of Operation Steel Curtain.  They came under gunfire and a terribly fierce battle erupted that altered the lives of countless people.  My brother was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his heroism.  I encourage you to read the short citation from his Bronze Star; it gives you some idea of what happened that day.

This is from the memorial in Iraq. So many lives lost in a period of 3 days.

From Roger’s funeral; just a few days after Thanksgiving.

Each year on this day I stop by and visit my brother and say hi to him from my Mom and Dad since they live too far away and can’t.  I drop off flowers and give him an update on what’s going on.  I try not to play the ‘what if’ game but, inevitably, I’m going to lose and sometime today I’ll find myself wondering ‘what if’ he was still here or some variation of that scenario.

While this is a very sad day by all means, I try not to let the past dictate my happiness.  I choose to celebrate life instead of pine over death.  I choose to remember my brother and all the silly/dangerous/ridiculous things we did together as kids.  All the fights we got into.  All the advice he passed on to me.  His infectious grin.

And tomorrow, I choose to be a kid again.  I will run carefree through the streets of New Orleans in a tutu while strangers throw powdered paint at me.  (Sounds like fun, right?)  When I signed up for The Color Run last February I knew that it would fall this weekend and I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate life.  Roger was a fun guy and I can imagine him having a blast throwing paint at random people.

Everyone deals with grief differently.  It’s ok to be sad, angry, numb, confused, whatever.  But it’s important to remember that it’s also ok to be happy.  Nothing says that you’re bound to sadness; it’s a choice that’s made and I choose happiness.  I choose to cast my excess baggage on God and let him carry the burden for me.  After all, his shoulders are much more broad than mine.

The first year after Roger was killed I dreaded today like the plague.  I didn’t know what to expect or how I would  react.  Over the years, I’ve realized that if I make a conscious effort to address that this day (or other significant days like his birthday) are going to be emotionally charged, I have a much better chance of it not affecting me.  It’s the times I’m not prepared that really catch me off guard and knock me on my butt.  Trust me, I have plenty of spontaneous pity-parties during the year but today, and this weekend, will not be one of them.

To say I’m excited about The Color Run tomorrow would be an understatement.  I have been talking about this race since before I even knew it was coming to New Orleans.  There’s just something about finishing a race looking like an Oompa Loompa that really appeals to me.  I have all of my neon gear and I’m ready to go get pelted with paint! I know Roger would have liked that.

I miss my brother dearly and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, the other families that lost their hero, and also the men that were survived.  I honestly think today is much harder for those Marines that survived and I pray for peace of mind for them.

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33 thoughts on “Celebrating Life

  1. I’m very sorry for your loss! Even though it has been 7 years, I am sure that not a day goes by that you don’t think about your brother. I thank him (and your family) for serving our country to protect my, and others, freedom.

    Have a great time at the color run tomorrow, celebrating life!

  2. What a touching story. I appreciate you sharing this. My condolences to you and your family. That is such a great way to honor your brother. Good luck & God bless. Go get your paint on! 😊

  3. I cannot tell you how much this post touched me! I seriously wish that I could have a big ole’ fun girls day with you today! Celebrating his amazing life is the best way to honor him on this rough day!! I know he is looking at you from heaven saying every single day “man! My sister is making me proud and sure growing into an amazing woman!” thank you for your sacrifice and service to our country, Roger! Big hugs to you today, pretty girl!!!

    • Jenna, your comments always make my spirit so happy. I know I’ve said this before, but you are just such a wonderful and positive person. I hope that I’m making him proud. 🙂 Big hugs right back to you!

  4. Thanks for sharing girl. Wow, looks like your brother was a great guy and I truly appreciate his sacrifice. I really hope you have fun doing the color run in New Orleans! I am doing one this weekend as well — can’t wait. Best.

  5. Wow this is a seriously inspirational story and thank you for sharing. I am very intertwined with the military so hearing all the stories is both upsetting but amazing at the same time. My heart goes out to you.

    • Oh, Hollie, I’m sorry. I always feel terrible when military families/wives/girlfriends find out that he was KIA. My family is like the living embodiment of their worst fear. On a positive note, the percentage to service members that are KIA are very small compared to the ones that live nice, long, healthy lives.

  6. Such a beautiful and touching post, Gina. Roger would definitely be proud of everything you’ve accomplished and would love that you’re celebrating life this weekend. There is something to be said about running and ending up resembling an Oompa Loompa–very good for the soul. 🙂

  7. Anniversary days with loss are difficult no matter how many years it’s been. It’s a good time to pause and remember and do something in honor of that person. The color run sounds like a great way to honor your brother’s life and the love he had for it! This was a very touching post to read…

    • Thank you, Caroline, and you’re right; anniversary days are always difficult. Roger was such a fun guy that it’s not hard for me to imagine him on the side of the street throwing paint at people. 🙂

  8. I love your love for your brother, I even thought about you this morning when they were doing an American citizen ceremony on the today show, it was very Patriotic G. I heart you lady! Enjoy that Color Run!

  9. You are an amazing woman! This day still gets me along with his birthday. I remember exactly what happened when I found out. Mom and dad were both on the phone so I knew something was wrong. I tried to soldier through the day and only made it through one class before I had to leave campus.

    Tears still come to my eyes but it is getting better. One day I’ll make a pilgrimage to Biloxi (Google thinks Biloxi is spelled wrong and should be Bilbo, haha) and we’ll have a grand birthday celebration and celebrate his life. 🙂 I might have to learn how to make a cake look like a pizza (that’s the only cake that I can think of from our joint birthdays).

    Have a blast doing the color run tomorrow! I’ve decided that I want to run it when it’s in St. Paul come July. We’ll have to compare paint pictures.

    Stay strong my friend! Lots of love from Minnesota! ♥

    • His birthday and Memorial Day are the days that get me the most. I remembering being worried about how the family would take the news; specifically Andy since they were so close. Don’t feel bad about the tears, they are good and cleansing for the soul.

      I would love it if you are able to make it down here. Jody graduates with his Masters in February so I don’t know what will happen after that. Did Ed set your Google to Lord of the Rings or something…Bilbo?? 🙂

      Oh, and if you learn how to make a pizza cake, I’ll totally dig in with you. (But only if we have a princess castle cake for you.) Those cakes were spectacular!! xoxoxo

  10. I love when you post things to honor your brother.. I haven’t followed your blog for a long time but I feel like I know so much about him already. You’re such an awesome person, Gina, and I am sure he is looking down on you since you’re making him so proud! Sending tons of good thoughts your way!!

    (and yay for the giveaway 😉 !!)

    • Thank you for you amazing words, Jen! xoxo And my blog really hasn’t been around long to follow; my first post was at the end of May so you didn’t miss much. I’m so glad that you won the Vega – I hope you love it!

  11. This is a great post Gina!!! I’m proud of how you have handled such a big event in your life with grace and optimism. I too, lost someone very close 6 years ago Nov 18th and I completely agree with your outlook. Address it, embrace it, and cherish all the good and the bad. ❤

    Running the MCM is such an awesome memoir. And the Color Run will be a blast!! I am running it in Dec. here in Tampa 🙂

    • Oh, Beka, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. BIG hugs to you, my friend! I pray that you have a great day Sunday celebrating life and remembering the funny things that happened.

      I’m excited for you and Kat to do The Color Run in Dec., I know the two of you will have a blast!

  12. Ohhh Gina. Thank you for sharing such an honest and touching post. I am so sad and sorry to hear about your loss. I bet he was an amazing guy… look at that smile! I have 3 brothers who I love dearly and I could only imagine the pain. Last week my youngest brother headed over to Afghanistan and every day I just pray for him to return home safely. It is so beautiful how you honour him with celebrating life and I hope you have the most AMAZING colour run.

    lots of love for Oz girl! xxx

    • Thank you so much, Dawn. He was a pretty amazing guy, that’s for sure! What’s your brother’s name? I’d love to add him to my prayers. 🙂 You can never have too many people praying to keep you safe! I did have an amazing time at The Color Run and I think it would have been right up Roger’s alley. 🙂

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