*This hero spotlight is the first of what will hopefully be many from the RTG community. Jen first met Ashley through a homeschool group. When she heard Ashley's story, she asked Ashley to share it with the rest of you. We thought this would be fitting as we near the 4th of July.
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing this piece of your heart. Thank you, Damon, from all of us. That is a really inadequate thing to say, but we will make sure your story is not forgotten.*
Our first picture together.
My path collided with Damon’s when I was just a few weeks from turning 16. We worked together at the San Diego Family Fun Center. I remember the first time I saw him. His red hair, his contagious smile, and his beautiful blue eyes made my heart skip a beat. It was actually a little more electric than just a pitter patter. There was something about him other than his looks that drew people in. He was genuinely kind. He cared about you and you were sure to know it. He took the time to get to know you so that when he ran into you again he could tell if something was wrong, if you needed a hug or you just needed someone to talk to. I went on my very first date with Damon just a few months later. We had had time to build a friendship. I knew I could trust him. I knew that I could talk to him and that he actually cared. He was charming. He was handsome. He was a gentleman. He showed up at my doorstep with a bouquet of red roses. He led me to his car and opened the door for me. He drove me into the mountains of Julian where he found a place to pull over for a picnic that he packed himself.
Throughout the next 7 years our paths would collide again and again until we were both ready at the same time to do something about it. While I was growing up and figuring out what I really wanted in a companion, Damon was living his life. He served a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He worked multiple jobs to help support his family. He even ended up working for my dad’s removal service.
After Damon and I finally decided to get married and start our family he chose to enlist into the Army as a Military Policeman. Damon chose the military as a means to support our family, a way to travel the world, and as a stepping stone for his ultimate career choice. Damon loved to serve others and ultimately wanted to become an elected Sheriff. He was excited to learn and train and work with others of the same caliber.
Damon earned the nickname of “Pops” among his military peers. They too recognized that they could look up to him and rely on him. He worked his butt off and others took notice. But Damon did more than just work hard. He became friends with those he worked and lived with. They knew they could talk to him and get sound advice. He supported those he cared about even if he didn’t necessarily agree with their choices. They knew they could trust him and his instincts.
Damon deployed with his unit to Iraq in November 2006. I was 8 ½ months pregnant with our second girl at the time. Moira, our first daughter was just 2 years old. Before he deployed I asked Damon to make a recording for Moira so she would remember his voice. I took lots of pictures and started planning fun things to make and send to him while he was away. While Damon was deployed we were able to chat online and on the phone as long as there wasn’t a communications blackout. They didn’t have internet access in their rooms and they didn’t have access to webcams. I was able to send lots pictures though, and even a home movie I made of us girls.
Damon was very upset about missing so much time with his girls. He loved them so much! He was little Moira’s best friend. They would cuddle and fall asleep with each other while watching movies or reading books together. Damon was able to call from Iraq to hear the birth of his baby girl Kelsie Mae. I remember being so excited and yelling to him, “It’s red! She has red hair!” We had lots of plans for when he got home. We would take some time to travel. We would buy a house and make it our home. We would have lots of babies. We would move to Star Valley, Wyoming and have a farm with lots of animals. He would be a police officer and work his way up to being a sheriff. He would teach his children all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We would serve a mission together. We would grow old and wrinkly together and I wouldn’t be allowed to laugh at his wrinkles or big nose and ears.
We believe Damon is in the center.
Damon was killed in Iraq on June 12th, 2007 just 6 weeks before he was supposed to be home for R&R. He never met his baby girl.
The day after he was killed I received a bouquet of 12 red roses and 2 yellow roses for each girl. Damon had ordered them just before he left on his last mission.
It’s been nine years since Damon was killed.
It’s only been a couple days since I’ve seen him, though. Damon comes to me in my dreams now. He likes to stand across the room and smile at me. Or come to me and give me a kiss. He still likes to tease me and make me smile. He tells me to tell the girls how much he loves them. He tells me he’s proud of me.
Damon made a video of himself talking to me and the family a month before he was killed. It was hand delivered the day before his funeral by his battle buddy and friend who came home just for his funeral.
Now, even though I've remarried, Kelsie, Moira and I- along with their younger brothers- love to watch Daddy Damon’s video as he makes his silly faces and makes us laugh and cry. I recognize the blessing of having this video, even if it hurts my heart each time he says “Don’t worry about me! I’m fine. I’m safe. I’m always safe. You don’t have to worry. I’ll be home soon.”
Now I tell him, “I’ll be home soon My Love.”
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