Some people remember historical facts, who played what character in which movie, and the clothes people wore. I, instead, remember dates.
Today is February 7. It is my grandma’s and cousin’s birthdays. But there is another event that will forever firmly stick in my mind. It was one of the scariest and most nerve-wracking days of my life. It was the day of Mark’s rollover accident in Afghanistan. February 7, 2012.
I’ll never forget: I was running the logistics for a youth symphony concert. I was wearing my bright orange rain coat. I had just stepped off a yellow bus and checked in a school. I was walking back to stand with my colleague Carolyn to wait for another bus. I pulled my pink-encased iPhone from my coat pocket and saw a text message. It was from Mark’s twin brother Matt.
“Mark was just in a bad rollover accident. He was knocked unconscious. He came out of it but is going to be taken to Bagram for TBI evaluation.”
I read that text over and over again, trying to process. I stopped in my tracks, then slowly walked again. I tried explaining to Carolyn what had happened, but instead started crying. That was the ONLY time that anyone saw me cry during that deployment. I felt fear, worry, and grief for what could have happened. But a few seconds later, another yellow school bus pulled up and I said, “I’ll get this.” At no other time has the unofficial Army slogan “Embrace the Suck” been so real. I wiped away my tears and planted the most genuine-looking fake smile on my face. Life had to go on.
I later learned that they had been on patrol and the driver lost control of their vehicle due to ice, rolling almost 50 feet straight down the mountainside. Mark’s bullet-proof window was shattered, there was fuel everywhere, and he had been knocked out despite being buckled in AND wearing a Kevlar helmet. He didn’t remember most of the accident. Unfortunately, back then I didn’t realize that a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” (mTBI) was anything but “mild.” I read that mTBI’s healed after about 3 months and that most people didn’t have any residual effects. Wrong. Especially coupled with PTSD, dealing with any type of traumatic brain injury is not a piece of cake.
But, 2014 has a new story to be added to the date. Today, we are blessed to be nearing the end of Mark’s second Afghanistan deployment – which contained NO rollover accidents. Today is also 2 months until our wedding day! Today, February 7, could have been a very different anniversary – but instead will always be a day to celebrate being alive.