It doesn't ever get easier

If you have been around this blog long, you will have already heard this story. For those of you who don't know, let me tell you a little story. I shared about it back in March.

I joined NJROTC when I was a Freshman in high school because my best friend Lindsay (who was a year ahead of me) had joined already and loved it. In this class I met some of the most amazing people, some of whom I still call friends to this day. In this class, there was a boy named Zack.

Zack and I became friends pretty quickly, it was pretty easy when the only people you hang out with are a select group of people with the same interests as you. We may not have always been best friends, but we were good friends. We went to plenty of drill meets, athletic days, bowling nights, and military balls together. We'd play airsoft together occasionally and were both in similar classes so we worked together.

After we graduated, both Zack and I joined the Army, me as an Air Traffic Controller, him as a Blackhawk mechanic and crew chief. I went to basic shortly after we graduated and he followed a couple of months later. We kind of fell out of touch after that, I was busy with my first unit and then a deployment, but we started talking again once I heard he had deployed to Afghanistan himself. His first unit was Korea, and then he moved on to Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, we had been pretty close together but never made the drive to see each other.

Then, on 11 March 2013, Zack's helicopter went down while he was in Afghanistan. There were no survivors. I found out through Facebook and it was a roller coaster couple of weeks that followed. My company commander knew what I was going through, he happened to know the pilots of that aircraft. I went home the week before his funeral for my brothers military ball, where I had a moment to honor him (since I couldn't attend his funeral). It hit me like a ton of bricks, all of us really, but it brought a bunch of us together that hadn't talked in quite a while. My mom and brother attended the ceremony the day they brought his body home, my brother saluted the hearse that drove past our high school, and my mom still visits his grave often. I couldn't visit for a few months, but the first time I did, it was hard.

This was his grave site. They were waiting on his headstone to arrive.

Zack was only a couple of days older then me, his birthday was 28 October 1991, and I was born 01 November 1991. He died so young and it breaks my heart again each time I think about it. He would have been 24 years old today. He loved the Army, he loved his country, and he died doing something that he absolutely loved. He is missed every day, always in the back of my mind, but today, he is a little more on the forefront.

Nothing like this every really happens in our small town, so like I said, it hit everyone kind of hard. To honor him, they renamed the VFW in our area in his name.

So here's a drink for you my friend! I know you're watching over us and I look forward to seeing you again some day!