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when we break

we’ve dreamed of this career for years

we have given up so many parts of us to be in this position today


but it’s not what we expected

it’s too heavy to carry

gravity- we can't fight gravity

it's pulling us apart


i’m breaking mentally, emotionally

i won’t speak up for help, i can’t

how?

how do you say i need help

who do you tell?

no one's listening


and that's when the universe saves you... in a strange way

it comes along side you and says i got you

when no one else does

and i no longer have to say i need a break

because i’m broken. physically.

i physically can’t go on


and that's when i found out

when we break

we will never be the same again

now starts our journey of healing



 

Context: *warning for sensitive content- this post contains references to blood, death, fire and survivors guilt


My husband and I had just moved to Travis AFB, CA May of 2021. We were so excited to start our career as pilots. After working 5 years to achieve this position- we were finally here (we applied to commission back in Oct 2016). Yet, in Aug of 2021 and just 2 months after we moved to Travis our lives changed forever.


Written directly from Brandon- [We were driving home on the freeway Aug 15, 2021 and we came up to stop-dead traffic with a big plume of smoke off in the distance. Something was wrong and I really felt I had to go help. I told Jen "wait here," and I ran through traffic directly to the truck where the smoke was coming from. It was a head on collision. The lady who was in the car was covered in blood, but alert and walking around. In the truck was a father and son returning home from a camping trip. The son was able to get out with some assistance. The father, however, was pinned in the drivers seat with the firewall against his knees, the steering wheel in his lap, and the door stuck closed against his side. Two bystanders (including a cop with a fire extinguisher) and I could not get the man out of the truck. What made the situation worse was the location of the truck. It was sitting on top of the notoriously dry California grass, which can quickly turn to flames from the heat of an engine. That is exactly what happened. First the engine, then his hair, then the entire truck. I sat there with the son, just a kid, as his father squirmed and screamed in the flames that overtook him. The firefighters showed up as the truck was completely smothered in flames which they easily put out with their water hose. The guy with the hose reached into the drivers side of the truck and casually pulled out a charred piece of meat with an outstretched left arm, and laid it on the ground by the truck. More cops and firefighters showed up and I slowly made my way back to the car.] Written by Jen: He got in the car-tears and screaming ensued. My heart broke for him. I didn't know what to do and I didn't know the long term effects that it was going to cause. At that moment I was driving our car, but in actuality- we were both very much along for the ride in what this next year would unfold.


Survivors guilt is very real. I watched the person I love the most start to fall apart- mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Nothing made sense to him anymore. I didn't know what to do or say. He told his supervisor at work he needed help. He needed a break from flying to go talk this through with a professional. They ignored him and they continued to fly him- back to back 3 week trips to Germany. Finally he said enough. I'm done flying and I'm getting help. Our lives were quickly unravelling before our eyes- everything we worked so hard for. It didn't matter anymore. The success, the careers- none of it mattered. We were in survival mode. There was nothing we could do or say to figure this out together. No amount of love I could share to ease his memories of this tragedy- he had to fight this alone.


I'm so proud of him for getting help, for growing through this painful journey. Watching him break at the hands of an institution that didn't care about how special he was broke me. A month after a suicide in our squadron and my husband went down for mental health and this is how he was treated... I couldn't believe it. The FaceTime calls I got from him while I was on the road and he was in tears, the tough conversations when I would get home from a work trip where he questioned everything- our marriage, existence of a deity, if this is the path he wanted for himself anymore. The year was filled with confusion for us both, processing such a delicate situation. I'll spare the rest of the nitty gritty details, but what a year. I couldn't keep up with my own life- it became too much for me, for us. I was watching him fall apart. I wanted a break, I wanted to be there for him more and be the spouse he desperately needed. Who could I trust? I was at the end of my rope and thats when I broke- physically. Almost a year to date, Aug 7, 2022. I broke my face and I was thankful. Thankful for time to just breathe and reset & that is when this poem was born. I could have never imagined this is how our first year at Travis would unfold and our first year in our dream careers; but at the end of the day, I'm so glad we are both still here, stronger, healthier and with a desire to share our stories with others.



If you are struggling with survivor’s guilt or any other mental health challenge, Centerstone is here to help. Call them at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visit centerstone.org/connect-with-us/ to get connected with care.




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hi friend, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Jen. My husband calls me Jenny Lou, that's where the blog name comes from:) I am a cargo pilot in the Air Force and in my free time I love to create, write and be with my girls & people.

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