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The Club No One Wants To Join: Tragic Loss of a Military Member

On December 6, 2018, my husband burst through our front door much earlier than I was expecting him. He had been on duty all night, and I had not seen or heard from him since the day before. He ran upstairs and hollered down to me. I followed him in a hurry, but only to hush him, so he wouldn’t wake our kids.

I thought better of that though when I saw his eyes. There was a sense of urgency on his face, so I offered to help. He ordered me to grab his Alphas out of the closet. I stood baffled.

“What are Alphas?” I asked.

“The green uniform!” he said sharply. 

I hurried into the closet toward the uniform section and timidly replied that all of his uniforms were green. After a few seconds he said to me that they are like the dress blues, but green. Ah, that made a little more sense, but not really. I had so many questions running through my head.

Why do you need to wear this uniform at five in the morning? Why are you panicky and in such a rush? Why are none of the correct pins on this uniform? Do you want me to make breakfast? What do you want for dinner?

He wouldn’t answer any of my questions and darted out of the house. I was left standing in my pajamas, confused and slightly concerned. My neighbor messaged me a few minutes later asking if my husband was home. She knew he was working through the night but had no idea he had duty and wasn’t flying. Before I could answer, she showed up at my door.

“Why are you not at work?” I asked her.

She had stopped to check on me before heading to work and to see if I’d talked to my husband. I told her he had just been at the house but rushed out in his Alphas without saying anything.

The relief on her face was telling, and I knew in that moment something terrible had happened.

She came in the house and hugged me and said there was a crash a few hours earlier between an F/A-18D and a KC-130J.

That was all she knew. My heart sank. My husband is part of the F/A-18 squadron and her husband is in the KC-130 squadron.

There was relief knowing both of our spouses were alive, but the sickness of grief quickly consumed me as I realized someone else we knew was in peril. Who had been flying that night? Would it be better or worse if they were married? It didn’t matter. It would be worse no matter what.

Hours went by, and I still didn’t know anything.

I kept refreshing my Google search for recent plane crashes in Japan. I didn’t actually want to get a hit on my search. I was hoping it was a big misunderstanding, and everyone was fine. Then, as I was standing at the school bus stop waiting with my daughter, Google returned a hit on my search.

It was true. There was a crash. My eyes became too watery to read any further. My husband was alive. I just kept reminding myself of that and that the pain I was feeling could be a thousand times worse today.

Then it clicked in my brain that one of my friends was having a worse day. She got a knock on her door earlier in the morning from my husband dressed in his Alphas.

He and a few other Marines were there to inform her of the crash. At this point, there was one survivor from the crash and a lot of hope that her boyfriend, the pilot of the F/A-18, would be found alive.

When word finally spread through our spouses group of who was in the jet; we rallied together to show our support. We wanted nothing more than to help take away some of the pain our close-knit group was feeling, but we were helpless. Nobody knew anything and most of us had never had to go through this experience before.

We sat together, we waited, we cried, we prayed and then we started cooking. I began cooking enough food to feed the entire base. I didn’t know what else to do. I cooked all day until my husband came home and told me he did not have an appetite. I didn’t really have one either, but I knew we needed to eat.

The news finally broke that a second body had been found. There had been a tragic loss. It was the pilot from our squadron. We knew him well. He had been at our house many times. We had just taken a trip with him and his girlfriend a couple of weeks earlier.

He was my husband’s best friend and he did not survive the crash.  We stood in the kitchen holding each other, and I sobbed into his shirt. I’m not sure if it was relief that he was there holding me or grief that we just lost a friend. 

“Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, 28, of Miramar, Fla., was pronounced deceased after he was found during search and rescue operations off the coast of Kochi, Japan on Dec. 6.” Resilard was a pilot with “the Bats” of Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 (VMFA(AW)-242), stationed on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi, Japan.

The next day, I thought I was going to be OK. I thought I was going to be able to keep it together.

I woke feeling like I’d had a nightmare only to realize it was reality. I watched as my husband packed his travel bags before heading to work. He was taking an MV-22 Osprey out to meet Jahmar at the Japanese base where his body was taken then escort him on his final journey home.

I got word later that day that they were bringing him to Iwakuni first for a ramp ceremony and they wanted everyone on the flight line to pay respects and say goodbye. I rushed right over to the terminal to offer my support and my condolences.

I was going to be strong for my friend. This was the worst day of her life and I wanted to somehow take away all of the pain she was feeling. When I met with her earlier that morning I was levelheaded and calm. I wanted to be a rock she could lean on. I never imagined the emotions that were going to flood into my heart that day.

As I walked through the terminal, I saw hundreds of Marines waiting.

I realized that I knew most of them or had at least had some small interaction with them. Our base is so small and the aviation community even smaller. Through my tears, I saw someone approaching me. It was our friend from the Vikings, the squadron currently deployed here. She gave me the biggest hug, and I could not hold back my tears. In that moment I realized I was so relieved that she had not been flying that night as well. I scanned the room filled with flight suits and I cried harder because I was so thankful that all of the people in the room were alive, but also so incredibly sad that there were six missing from this group.

I then watched the lone survivor of the crash walk in and embrace Jahmar’s girlfriend. The pain in both of their eyes was too much to bear. I turned away.

I am so thankful for all of the U.S., Japanese and Australian forces who came together and conducted air and maritime search operations, covering more than 35,000 square miles of ocean. They did everything in their power to assist with the aftermath of the crash. My husband messaged me as they were leaving the Japanese base and said all of the Japanese soldiers were in their mid-service uniforms lining the drive into base and in front of the hangar to salute Jahmar as they departed.

It was a beautiful and touching tribute by our host nation. When the Osprey landed in Iwakuni, all of the Marines from our squadron and the aviators from all of the squadrons stationed here were waiting in a line off the runway, creating a path towards an ambulance.

In unison, the Marines raised their salute and I could see eight Marines approaching with the American flag draped over a casket in between them. My husband was one of them. I could feel the hot tears streaming down my face. I was in awe of the strength, courage, and discipline each of those Marines had to hold their salute and keep their composure as their fellow Marine was carried before them.

When the casket reached the end of the line, the Marine standing behind Jahmar’s girlfriend had to drop his salute to catch her and hold her up. I wanted to run down to her and hold her up myself and tell her it would all be OK, but I couldn’t move.

I don’t know if it will ever be OK again.

Instead, I grabbed the hand of the spouse standing next to me and we held each other as we shook in the cold wind and wept for our friend, for our husbands, and for ourselves.  

As the ambulance drove away, my husband turned to look for me and I ran to him. He broke down. My strong, emotionless husband showed more emotion than I have ever seen. He was hurting and I wanted nothing more than to take his pain away. 

We lost a friend that day. The squadron lost a pilot. His family lost a son. My friend lost her soulmate, her future, her everything. A few days later they called off the search and rescue mission for the other five Marines from the KC-130. My heart ripped open again and the pain I felt for my friend now spread to the other five families.

How do you move on after such a tragic loss? Maybe you don’t. 

We knew there would be risks with this job. We accepted them openly, but we never wanted to know firsthand what that really meant. This is the awful part about being in the military and being married to the military. But also, despite this absolute tragedy, our community is stronger than ever. The support I witnessed and the love I saw for our community validates the service and sacrifice of our military members and their families and helps us heal our broken hearts a little more each day.

All affected by this mishap have given The Wingman Foundation permission to launch fundraising support for their current and future needs. If you feel compelled to help, please visit their website: http://www.wingmanfoundation.org/mag12

One Response to The Club No One Wants To Join: Tragic Loss of a Military Member

  1. Avatar
    M March 19, 2019 at 8:11 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Mallory.

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